Ten years after the June Fourth Massacre, China is experiencing another wave of severe repression of human rights and democracy activists. HRIC and FIDH urge the European Union to implement the resolution adopted today by the European Parliament calling on the E.U. to “make China a priority at the forthcoming session” of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and “to table a draft resolution on human rights in that country.”
HRIC and FIDH urge the European Union to put forward a resolution calling on China to take action in improving its human rights record and to respect the spirit of the two international covenants it has just signed (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.) In addition to sponsoring the resolution, the E.U. should actively seek support from the other Commission members in order to ensure passage of the resolution.
At the end of 1997, the European Union chose to replace multilateral pressure through the Commission on Human Rights with a quiet bilateral "dialogue on human rights" held behind closed doors. Described as a strategy more conducive to an improvement in China's human rights situation, this shift was, in fact, initiated by China as part of its effort to dodge U.N. scrutiny. After that year, in effect, China's continuing human rights violations disappeared altogether from the agenda of the world's highest human rights body.
European Union officials have repeated that the decision not to table a resolution would be re-examined every year, depending on the progress of the human rights situation in China. “Whether or not we table a resolution at next year’s Commission on Human Rights will depend upon China showing that it is willing to enter into the dialogue in good faith and produce results,” announced British Foreign Minister Robin Cook prior to the 1998 Commission session. “The current repression has reached a level unparalleled in the last decade. The European Union must respond. Silence is betrayal: now is the time to reassess China's rights record in the light of recent events,” said Xiao Qiang, HRIC Executive Director, two weeks before the European Union adopts its position on China at the Council of Ministers on March 22.
“The need to maintain a common European policy should not be an excuse for sinking to the lowest common denominator. On the contrary, it is an opportunity for the European Union to uphold its principles in practice,” said Antoine Bernard, FIDH Director. Failing to sponsor a resolution on China would bring discredit to the human rights policy of the European Union by demonstrating that the community does not consistently apply its principles on human rights, letting powerful countries escape scrutiny while focusing on the smaller, less intimidating cases. “There is a risk of double standard by the European Union towards big powerful countries and smaller, not powerful countries,” warned Dutch Foreigh Minister Hans van Mierlo at the 1997 Commission session. The practice of applying double standard would also further damage the image and the integrity of the Commission.
The June Fourth Massacre prompted the European Union's condemnation of China at the Commission. Ten years later, the European Union needs to send a strong, common message through a resolution at the Commission condemning the ongoing and systematic human rights violations in China and urging the Chinese government to fully cooperate with the international human rights regime.