Scotland: 'No occurances of human rights were found in this document'

Amnesty International reacted with shock and disappointment at the Scottish Executive’s strategy for stronger engagement with China published today (29 August, 2006). At no point in the 31-page document does the Executive acknowledge the human rights abuses carried out by Chinese authorities or see them as an impediment to further economic relations.

The strategy maps out the Executive’s economic and financial objectives in its engagement with China until 2010 but does not count the human cost of this development. Indeed when Amnesty searched the document for references to human rights, it returned the message “No occurrences of human rights were found in this document.”

Amnesty International’s Programme Director for Scotland, Rosemary Burnett said:

“We are very worried that Scotland, in its drive towards closer economic and social engagement with China, will be increasingly implicated in abuses of human rights in China.”

“Governments have always justified greater co-operation with China on the basis that trade was a vehicle for encouraging international legal standards and norms. However, all mentions of human rights and labour standards have been omitted from this document.”

“We are asking the Scottish Executive to set some standards by which companies should engage with China and stand up to the Chinese authorities in solidarity with the people of China, Tibet and the Xinjiang Uighur region.”

On page 4 of the report, the Executive list some facts about China and its economy. Amnesty International offers an alternative list:

Box 1: Some Key Facts about China
In China during 2005:

  • Tens of thousands of people continued to be detained in violation of their human rights and were at risk of torture or ill-treatment.
  • At least 1,770 people were executed and 3,900 people were sentenced to death, although true figures are believed to be much bigger.
  • The authorities frequently resorted to the use of force against growing social unrest.
  • There was a renewed crackdown on the media and internet controls were tightened.
  • The Uighur community in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) continued to face severe repression as part of the authorities “war on terror”.
  • Freedom of expression and religion continued to be severely restricted in Tibet and other Tibetan areas.

During this year’s Edinburgh Festival, Amnesty International was encouraging audiences to take action on behalf of Shi Tao , a Chinese poet and journalist imprisoned for 10 years for sending an email to a pro-democracy website. On the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, the Chinese Communist Party issued instructions on how journalists should report any demonstrations or unrest. Shi Tao forwarded these instructions to an overseas website using his Yahoo! email account. He was arrested and convicted of leaking “state secrets”. Some of the evidence used in his trial was provided by Yahoo!.

Recent Amnesty reports on China include:

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