Briefing: UK-China Human Rights Dialogue

April 2014

A joint briefing by the China NGO Network, London

On the occasion of the upcoming UK-China human rights dialogue, the China NGO Network wishes to draw attention to a number of key concerns.

 

Key concerns:

 

  • Crackdown on freedom of expression and civil society; criminalisation of people exercising their right to participate in public life through standing as independent Local People’s Congress candidates or engaging in public policy debates.

Example One: Liu Ping (刘萍) of Jiangxi province, and Li Biyun (李碧云) of Guangdong province, both attempted to stand as candidates in the 2011-12 local people’s congress elections. Both women experienced harassment from the local authorities including physical and verbal attacks, were prevented from standing, were detained and experienced ill treatment, likely amounting to torture, while they were in detention. The court also refused to file a case to investigate the allegation of torture brought by her lawyer. Li Biyun’s lawyer has reported that beatings by police have resulted in broken vertebrae and her losing consciousness.
Example Two: Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) (also known as Yang Maodong), a prominent human rights lawyer from Guangzhou, was criminally detained in August 2013 and formally arrested a month later in a nationwide crackdown on freedom of assembly, association, and expression. Police in Guangzhou accused Guo of organizing rallies in front of the Southern Weekly headquarters in January 2013, organizing a campaign calling on the government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and also leading an anti-corruption campaign. Guo was not allowed access to a lawyer until mid-November.

  • Civil society participation in UN Universal Periodic Review/other international human rights mechanisms blocked.

Example One: Cao Shunli (曹顺利) was detained several times after advocating for civil society participation in the UPR in late 2008. Originally detained in September 2013 at Beijing Capital International Airport while on her way to a training session on UN human rights in Geneva, Cao was held at Chaoyang District Detention Centre where her health seriously deteriorated. Her family’s requests for medical release were repeatedly denied, and she developed a number of serious illnesses, including tuberculosis, liver ascites, fibroid tumours and cysts. Cao was taken to the intensive-care unit of Beijing’s Qinghe Emergency Centre on 16 February 2014. The Chinese authorities’ role in disappearing, arbitrarily detaining, and denying Cao Shunli medical treatment in detention, directly led to her death.

  • Fresh “crackdown” on religious communities and other groups in civil society in course of crackdown on civil society and all forms of protest.

Example One: Khenpo Kartse is a popular senior religious figure and well respected for his social work and the promotion and protection of Tibetan language, culture and religion. He was arrested on 6 December 2013 and his health condition has taken a turn for the worse. He currently suffers from a sharp pain in his back and has begun ejecting sputum, a bloody mixture of mucus and saliva. The authorities denied his family's and his lawyer's appeal to release on medical parole while they refused to provide medicine for him.
Example Two: Protestant Pastor Zhang Shaojie (张少杰) and eight members of the state-registered Nanle Church remain in detention after petitioning the authorities about a land dispute. Their lawyers have been harassed, beaten and robbed, and at least two of the detainees have reportedly been tortured in detention. The remaining church members have been prevented from meeting together, and visitors to the church have been harassed, detained and physically attacked.

  • Use of unlawful and arbitrary detention including de facto house arrest, “black jails”, so-called legal education centres for petitioners and religious communities.

Example One: Liu Xia (刘霞), wife of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner and imprisoned dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, continues to be subject to mistreatment. She has been put under house arrest since October 2010.  She has been cut off from contact with her family and friends.  Pressure and isolation have driven her to the brink of mental break-down, according to a letter that she wrote and smuggled out.
Example Two: Yu Jinfeng, a Falun Gong practitioner from Hulin city, Heilongjiang province, was sent to a “brainwashing centre” set up in the former Jixi re-education through labour (RTL) camp. This is one of many reports of former RTL institutions continuing to be used to arbitrarily and unlawfully detain groups, particularly Falun Gong practitioners.

  • Limitations on defence rights including appointment of lawyer of choice, access to a lawyer, right to call witnesses, and so on.

Example One: Xu Zhiyong, a prominent law professor and founder of the organisation Gongmeng, was detained in August 2013 and subsequently convicted for his civic activism. While many of the issues on which Dr Xu spoke out have become government policy, including improved access to education for the children of migrants, Dr Xu is facing a four year prison sentence on charges of disrupting public order.
Example Two: Following Cao Shunli’s death on 14 March, the authorities prevented her lawyer, Wang Yu from viewing her client’s body. Lawyer Wang has faced considerable harassment from the authorities after this case gained public attention. 

  • Ethnic minority regions especially Tibet and Xinjiang; the current policy of brutal repression not only violates basic human rights, but also exacerbates frustration and provokes greater resistance which could lead to outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) and further unrest in Tibet.

 

  • Concerns about lack of benchmarks in the Human Rights Action Plan which would provide a roadmap for the implementation of the plan and ensure effective monitoring of progress towards full realisation.

We recommend that the UK delegation to the dialogue strongly urges the Chinese government to take the following actions:

 

  1. Set out a clear legislative timetable for ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in line with the UK’s recommendation at China’s Universal Periodic Review);
  2. Abolish all forms of arbitrary and extra-judicial detention (in line with the UK’s recommendation at China’s Universal Periodic Review);
  3. Establish a moratorium on the death penalty, take steps toward abolition of the death penalty, and publish the number of executions;
  4. In relation to the Human Rights Action Plan, include benchmarks for progress and measures for implementing the contents of the plans;
  5. In accordance with the international standards set out in Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, guarantee ethnic minorities the full exercise of their human rights, including their linguistic and cultural rights;
  6. Take immediate measures to implement the recommendations of the Committee against Torture in November 2008: in particular adopt a definition of torture in the Criminal Law compliant with international law. Promote awareness of the Istanbul Protocol and take concrete steps to ratify the Optional Protocol Against Torture. Introduce independent investigations into all deaths in custody or following police detention;
  7. Recognise the contribution of human rights defenders and civil society to the realisation of human rights. Release all human rights defenders who are detained as a result of exercising and advocating human rights, and end harassment and violence against human rights lawyers;
  8. Provide concrete statistics, disaggregated by provinces, on women who stood for grassroots People’s Congress elections in 2011-12 and village committee elections 2006-13, including the number of independent candidates; number of votes obtained; number of candidates who experienced physical attacks, restrictions or detention/imprisonment;
  9. Provide concrete statistics, disaggregated by provinces, on the number of investigations into cases of violence in connection with citizens’ exercise of their civil and political rights, the results of such investigations, punishment of the perpetrators, and what remedies and compensation citizens can avail themselves of;
  10. End coercive measures for implementing family planning policy, and take concrete measures to eradicate forced sterilization and forced abortion;
  11. Include a prohibition of discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity, religion, persons with disabilities, and infection with HIV, in labour and employment law in line with international standards;
  12. Provide open access to Tibet and Xinjiang (East Turkestan) including foreign media, diplomats and international observers;
  13. Take measures to protect Uyghurs, Tibetans and other ethnic minorities from discrimination in access to education and employment;
  14. Remove restrictions on the peaceful religious practices of Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and other ethnic minorities;
  15. Extend protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief to those outside the state-sanctioned religious bodies, and remove all legislation relating to “cults” and “illegal religious activities” not in line with international standards on freedom of religion or belief;
  16. Ensure that means of official registration for religious activities are non-discriminative, and are not used in any way as a means for curtailing the right to religious freedom of any individual or group.
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