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EU asked to act, not hold meaningless talks, on human rights with China

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(, Feb17’23) – While it has long been routine for victims and critics of China’s human rights abuses to demand that Western governments take up the issue in their meetings with Chinese officials, it has now come to pass for them ask that such a dialogue be suspended due to lack of progress or result. On Feb 15, ten human rights groups have said the European Union should suspend its upcoming human rights dialogue with the Chinese government, given the magnitude of China’s rights crisis, including its potential responsibility for crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region.

In their joint letter, the ten human rights groups have urged the EU to continue to suspend the human rights dialogues with China until conditions are met for tangible outcomes and progress.

They have added that, instead, any forthcoming bilateral meeting should be used by the EU to commit to follow up the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on Xinjiang and set up an independent, international investigative mechanism into crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim communities and a wider, regular monitoring and reporting process at the UN Human Rights Council on Chinese government’s human rights violations.

Given the fact that one of China’s preconditions for holding bilateral human rights dialogues is its demand that the West refrain from any open criticism of its record, the letter wanted the EU to also publicly call for an end to China’s brutal repression in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and for the release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and activists, including some named in it.

Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to resume the human rights dialogue during European Council President Charles Michel’s visit to Beijing in Dec 2022.

“Having a human rights dialogue with China cannot seriously be an end in itself,” Vincent Metten of the International Campaign for Tibet has said. “The EU would disregard its own principles if it doesn’t tie its future relations with China with real human rights progress including in Xinjiang and Tibet.”

“The eagerness to resume these dialogues despite their proven ineffectiveness risks signaling that the EU is ready to sweep aside human rights to secure closer trade ties and cooperation with Beijing,” Philippe Dam, EU director at Human Rights Watch, has said. “Lacking any prospect for concrete progress, the EU should suspend the dialogues and double down on its efforts to secure UN action on China’s abysmal record and pursue accountability for international crimes committed in Xinjiang.”


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