Created 75 years ago, the United Nations today remains true to its founding principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms. In the last decades, the European Union and the UN have been working hand in hand to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind.
Human rights are a universal standard for all cultures, with no exception. The EU seizes the opportunity of International Human Rights Day to reaffirm the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights, which are inherent to all human beings, at all times and everywhere, with no exception. The rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to freedom of thought, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, are inalienable and universal rights. In recent years, China has made notable efforts in poverty alleviation, improved access to health, education and implemented other social improvements for its citizens. At the same time, civil and political rights are not being guaranteed and are in some cases being systematically violated. In China, the number of death sentences, also for non-violent offenses, and executions remain very high. The death penalty remains an inhuman and irrevocable punishment.
In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the National Security Law imposed on 30 June undermines fundamental rights and freedoms that China had committed to respect until at least 2047.
The EU also continues to be gravely concerned about the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. In addition to reports on continued large-scale extra-judicial detentions, severe and systemic restrictions on freedom of expression and association, and on freedom of religion or belief, there are growing concerns about the alleged use of forced labour, forced family separations and forced sterilisation. The EU continues to call for meaningful, unrestricted and unsupervised access by independent international experts, foreign journalists and diplomats to Xinjiang and Tibet. The EU also closely monitors the situation in Inner Mongolia.
The EU is gravely concerned about the arbitrary detentions, unfair trials and unjust sentencing of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals. Among many others Yu Wensheng, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, Huang Qi, Tashi Wangchuk, Tiyip Tashpolat, Li Yuhan, Wu Gan, Ge Jueping, Liu Feiyue, Wang Yi, Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, Wuge Jianxiong, Ding Jiaxi, Xu Zhiyong, Guo Quan, Chen Jianfang, Chang Weiping, as well as the EU citizen Gui Minhai have been unjustly convicted, arbitrarily detained, or forcibly disappeared. We call for the immediate release of these individuals, as well as many other prisoners of conscience.
The EU urges China to ensure respect for the rule of law, establish fair trial guarantees and to investigate thoroughly reported cases of arbitrary detention, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and harassment of human rights defenders and their families. The EU calls upon China to further reduce the number of criminal offenses punishable by death, and to establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition. Those detained should be guaranteed access to lawyers of their own choice, medical assistance and their family members. China should stop the practice of residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL) which has been condemned by the UN Special Procedures, as well as discontinue the use of torture inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detained persons to extract forced and public confessions.
The EU is gravely concerned about growing restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and about intimidation and surveillance of journalists and media workers. The cases of Chinese journalists or citizens who disappeared, were detained or harassed due to their reporting on COVID are of particular concern. We expect Zhang Zhan, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, among others, to be promptly released. The working environment for foreign journalists and media workers in China has also seriously deteriorated. They face harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention, visa restrictions and surveillance because of their professional activities. The European Union and its Member States emphasize the importance of freedom of expression and media freedom as vital to good governance.
The EU “2020 Rule of Law Report” unequivocally states that human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are the bedrock of our societies and common identity. Upon these bases, the European Union and its Member States stand ready to cooperate with China within the framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue and in multilateral fora, in achieving the highest standards of human rights and the rule of law.