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Chinese Human Rights Defenders: Concerns in Chinese Civil Society Over 'Ineffective' US-China Human Rights Dialogue

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Chinese Human Rights Defenders
Aug 11, 2015
4:56 pm

Calls for Dialogue to Have Muscle to Improve Rapidly Deteriorating Rights Situation

Human rights lawyers and activists call for concrete measures to improve the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in China in advance of the annual US-China Human Rights Dialogue, which is taking place in Washington, D.C. on August 13-14. The dialogue will be held against the backdrop of a major crackdown on human rights lawyers that began in early July, with 23 individuals still held in police custody and over 300 lawyers and activists targeted to date. In an editorial, the NGO Rights Defense Network called on the US government to exert pressure on the Chinese government about emblematic individual cases and patterns of rights abuses. In addition, 26 lawyers and 10 activists have signed onto an open letter calling for the Dialogue to generate pressure for the immediate release of detained or disappeared lawyers, and for abolition or substantial revision of newly proposed or passed legislations that violates China’s constitution and international human rights standards.

August 10, 2015

Yet another Sino-US “human rights dialogue” is to take place on August 13-14. Although the bilateral human rights dialogues have happened many times over the years, they have had virtually no impact on improving human rights conditions in mainland China. This meeting, which should be inspiring huge hopes by people who long for progress on rights in China, is no longer drawing any attention. So we want to ask the question: What meaning do such “human rights dialogues” have, if they have done nothing to improve the severe and harsh human rights conditions in China, and if they have become pure formality and an empty exchange of diplomatic rhetoric?

In China, the government is escalating its crackdown on NGOs and will not consult with civil society groups, much less listen to our views. Before the dialogue, the US government should diligently gather insights from civil society organizations that are concerned about human rights in China. The US government also should prioritize the most serious individual cases and patterns of human rights violations as main topics in the dialogue with Chinese officials.

With these goals in mind, for this human rights dialogue, we suggest that the US side push for effective measures to improve human rights, especially with a focus on the following individual cases and violations:
  1. In the recent “7.10 Round-up of Lawyers,” authorities breached many of China’s own laws and disregarded human rights in detaining, interrogating, and intimidating hundreds of lawyers and human rights defenders, searching their homes or offices. To date, at least 320 lawyers and activists have been affected; at least 23 are known to be criminally detained, disappeared, or under “residential surveillance in unknown locations.” For individuals who have been disappeared, nothing is known of their situations, and all those remaining in police custody are at risk of torture.
  2. Prisoner of conscience Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been cut off from any communication in prison to the outside world. His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest for years and, under threat of having her visitation rights taken away, is barred from disclosing information about her husband’s conditions in prison.
  3. High-profile prisoners of conscience Gao Yu, Wang Bingzhang, Chen Xi, Zhu Yufu, and others are reportedly in poor health, but they have been denied proper medical treatment and requests for medical parole. Last year, activist Cao Shunli died in detention from deprived medical treatment after being denied requests for medical bail. It is urgent to gain the release of these ailing and aging prisoners of conscience.
  4. Many detainees have been subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention or have not been sentenced even long after their trials took place, including activist Guo Feixiong, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, and lawyer Tang Jingling. They have been subjected to torture or inhumane treatment, including round-the-clock interrogations and, in Guo’s case, solitary confinement for two years, which should be raised as a serious concern.
We do not expect that one “dialogue” would cover many topics, but the US side must at least exert significant pressure on Chinese officials on emblematic individual cases and emerging patterns of rights abuses, while also using the “dialogue” to push for concrete and effective measures for improving human rights. Only such an approach, along with results on the ground, would demonstrate to the world the value that the “US-China Human Rights Dialogue” can have, which would in turn show the necessity for the “dialogue” to go on.

The Rights Defense Network

Twitter: @weiquanwang

We have learned that the 2015 China-US Human Rights Dialogue will take place on August 13-14 in Washington, DC. We have some concerns that we want to raise, as we are lawyers and activists committed to safeguarding human rights.

We hold the view that human rights are universal, and that such rights should not be replaced or ignored by any government citing “internal affairs,” nor substituted with subsistence rights and development rights. Nor shall human rights be suppressed under the pretense of anti-terrorism and stability maintenance. It is undeniable that previous China-US Human Rights Dialogues provided platforms for the two governments to exchange views and drew public attention through the media. Even so, these Dialogues did not substantially help improve China’s human rights situation, which, on the contrary, has deteriorated in the past two years.

What should not be ignored is that this round of the Human Rights Dialogue takes place in the backdrop of a massive police operations, since a raid on July 9 and even before, that has involved enforced involuntary disappearances, interrogation, and harassment of lawyers and other rights activists, and during a time when the government has successively put out a series of laws and amendments that aim to legalize human rights suppression. Under these circumstances, we have reasons to expect the Dialogue to play a positive role in improving human rights conditions in China.

We put forward several requests, as follows:
  1. The Chinese government should release all lawyers and activists who have been arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared (secretly imprisoned) since July 9, to show its sincerity to the Dialogue aimed at improving human rights. Both sides should put forth concrete and verifiable plans to avoid continued persecution of lawyers and activists after the Dialogue.
  2. The US government should pay close attention to the latest legislative trend and urge Chinese authorities to abolish or substantially amend the clauses and articles of laws and regulations that breach theConstitution of the People’s Republic of China or international standards of human rights by which China has already promised to abide, especially Article 36 of the Amendment (VIIII) to the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, and Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law, which has directly influenced the “7.10 Event” targeting human rights lawyers.
  3. The Chinese government should guarantee the personal safety of non-government activists (including lawyers) who have expressed views and made suggestions regarding the Dialogue.
  4. Both governments should openly and transparently report results of this Dialogue to their respective public and legislative institutions in order to allow for public monitoring.
As is known to all, the protection of human rights is set as a provision in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as both Constitutions of China and the United States; the idea that “human rights overrides sovereignty” has become widely recognized. We hope that the close relationship between China and the United States is not only embodied in economic ties but also in politics, culture, and other areas. Within comprehensive exchanges, the main efforts of both governments should focus on making the Dialogue to be regular, non-governmental, and effective. Only the participation of civic societies in both countries can guarantee the due progress of human rights dialogues and other ways of exchange and cooperation on human rights, and by so doing keep bilateral relations on the right track. We sincerely hope that this round of the Dialogue can play its due role in resolving current and future human rights problems of China.

Signed by 36 people:

Lawyer Chang Boyang
Lawyer Chen Keyan
Lawyer Han Qingfang
Lawyer Jiang Tianyong
Lawyer Jiang Yuanmin
Human Rights Defender Li Dongmei
Lawyer Lin Qilei
Lawyer Liu Shihui
Lawyer Liu Wei
Human Rights Defender Ma Yongtao
Human Rights Defender Wu Jinsheng
Lawyer Peng Yongfeng
Lawyer Tang Jitain
Lawyer Teng Biao
Lawyer Wang Jun
Lawyer Wang Quanping
Lawyer Wu Kuiming
Lawyer Xiao Guozhen
Human Rights Defender Ye Jingchun
Lawyer Zhang Chongshi
Lawyer Ren Quanniu
Lawyer Yu Wensheng
Lawyer Xia Jun
Lawyer Ge Wenxiu
Lawyer Liu Zhengqing
Lawyer Chen Bin
Lawyer Jin Guanghong
Human Rights Defender Wang Bin
Lawyer Shu Xiangxin
Lawyer Chen Zhiyong
Human Rights Defender Ge Jueping
Human Rights Defender Lu Guoying
Human Rights Defender Yu Yanhau
Human Rights Defender Zhang Youwei
Human Rights Defender Chen Ziliang

August 10, 2015

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