On 10 December the international community marks the anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Declaration, which all UN members including China have agreed to uphold, states that each and every one of us has the right to freedom of thought, freedom of religion and belief, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Here in Beijing, each of us continues to witness first-hand China’s success in improving the lives of its citizens. We witness, for example, the significant improvements in the Chinese people’s standard of living and in access to social services such as health and education. We also witness improvements in the sphere of some civil rights, such as a continuing effort to combat and prevent domestic violence. We welcome the commitment by the Chinese authorities to ensure legal representation for greater numbers of criminal defendants, and we hope that the new system that will replace the shuanggui system will ensure basic rights for all civil servants, including the right to legal representation.
However, we remain extremely concerned about China’s ongoing denial to its citizens of other fundamental human rights under the Declaration. During the past year, we have been deeply troubled by the deterioration of the situation with respect to freedom of information and freedom of expression and association, including with respect to online activity. The arrest, detention and conviction of human rights defenders, lawyers and other citizens exercising fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion and belief, including in Xinjiang and Tibet, has continued. We regret the death in detention of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and are also concerned about the recent conviction of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong and the detention of human rights defenders Ilham Tohti, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Tashi Wangchuk, Li Yuhan and Huang Qi, each of whom was detained in connection with their promotion of fundamental human rights. We call for China to immediately end the detention and harassment of these and other Chinese citizens and human rights defenders and their family members. All criminal defendants should have access to lawyers of their own choosing and to their family members, and should not be subjected to forced and public confessions, torture or other mistreatment. While recognising the progress made in registering foreign NGOs during 2017, we also call on China to make additional efforts to allow foreign and domestic NGOs to register and operate freely and effectively. Finally, we continue to be concerned about the lack of effective implementation of China’s Criminal Procedure Law, as well as the adoption of laws which are incompatible with China’s other obligations and international commitments.
All of us know from first-hand experience the difficult and never-ending work of promoting and protecting the full spectrum of human rights. The Chinese authorities have made commitments to promote law-based governance and the creation of a modern and prosperous society. The respect and promotion of the full range of human rights is not only consistent with these aims, but in our view necessary for their full achievement. In the coming year, a core part of our engagement will include working with China to promote human rights under the Universal Declaration.