Human Rights Watch calls on European Union leaders to use the forthcoming EU-China summit to press for an end to Beijing’s grave and systemic human rights violations.
The 22nd EU-China summit is scheduled on June 22 and will be held virtually, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rights group said EU council president, Charles Michel and the commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen should urge the Chinese government to withdraw its controversial national security law for Hong Kong
China should also allow United Nations rights experts to investigate the situation for Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.
“The EU has many tools at its disposal to respond to the Chinese government’s brutal human rights violations,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director. “But will they make use of them or just continue to tick the box marked ‘raised concerns’?”
In recent weeks, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, has publicly expressed concerns over Beijing’s plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong in violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which guarantees Hong Kong full autonomy except in foreign affairs and defence.
But following talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in preparation for the summit, Borrell reported that there had been no progress on this or other human rights issues discussed.
Referencing his own remarks from a few weeks earlier, Borrell said at a news conference that the EU had been “too naïve” with China and emphasized the importance of “mutual trust” for bilateral relations.
Since the last EU-China summit in April 2019, Beijing has escalated its assault on human rights inside China. The government has resisted efforts to allow independent international investigations into gross human rights violations in Xinjiang.
The authorities continue to arbitrarily detain over one million Uyghurs and other Muslims there under a policy that leaked documents show senior Chinese officials endorse. Journalists and researchers have also published credible allegations of forced labour implicating European companies working in the region.
In the early weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, Chinese authorities silenced whistleblowers and forcibly disappeared citizen journalists, facilitating the spread of the virus across China and beyond its borders. The EU has backed an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced that it would adopt national security legislation to be imposed immediately on Hong Kong. The law will prohibit overly broad offenses such as “sedition” and “subversion,” which will pose a serious threat to basic rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people.
The EU has repeatedly sought independent UN access to Xinjiang and publicly decried the enforced disappearance, detention, and imprisonment of human rights activists and lawyers, journalists, and other dissenters across China.
In a resolution adopted on June 19, the European Parliament said that the EU should take concrete action to counter Chinese government human rights violations.
EU Parliament members from 27 member states urged the EU to impose targeted sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes against Chinese officials responsible for the national security legislation in Hong Kong and mass arbitrary detentions in Xinjiang.
“EU leaders can’t just repeat the same lines and hope that they will somehow prompt different behaviour by Chinese authorities,” Leicht said. “Real change requires being willing to take concrete action in the face of China’s magnitude of rights abuses and its assault on international law and institutions.” (Source: HRW)