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China visit is true test of EU human rights commitment says Amnesty

As European Commission President Barroso and nine other Commissioners head to China, Amnesty International warns that the success of their mission depends on real improvements in the human rights situation in the country. This is likely to be the last chance for the Commission to use its leverage at top level ahead of the Olympics to effect change on human rights - it must prove that it is serious about taking all opportunities to raise human rights concerns with third countries.

Natalia Alonso, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s EU office, said:

“Such a high level visit one hundred days before the start of the Olympics is a crucial opportunity to press the Chinese government to change its tactics.

“The EU’s commitment to include human rights concerns into all its policies is at stake.”

The results of President Barroso’s visit should also set the tone for a frank and meaningful discussion at the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue that takes place in three weeks’ time. More than 15 rounds of these dialogues have failed to bring China’s national human rights policies and practices in line with international law. The Chinese Government has also not delivered on its promises to improve the situation ahead of the Olympics: Amnesty International’s latest ‘Olympics Countdown’ report documents how the recent crackdown on activists has increased because of the Olympics. The situation in Tibet is the latest illustration of what is wrong with human rights in China.

Mr Barroso has said he will raise matters concerning human rights with the Chinese authorities. If this high level visit is to have a meaningful impact on human rights in China, Mr Barroso should obtain a commitment that the Chinese government will take concrete and immediate action with regard to key areas of concern. As a priority it should:

-Guarantee freedom of movement and reporting for both domestic and foreign journalists during and after the Olympics;
-End the crackdown on activists raising human rights concerns associated with the Olympics;
-Stop the use of ‘re-education through labour’ and other forms of detention without trial and improve transparency in the application of death penalty.

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