Nov 26, 2009

Update: Condemnation by MEPs of Executions in China

After meetings between UNPO, World Uyghur Congress and MEPs, the European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling upon Beijing to “suspend all…death sentences” and “make every effort to develop a genuine Han-Uighur dialogue.”

The resolution, which was adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 26 November 2009, will be sent to the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and the twenty-seven Member States of the European Union.  It will also be conveyed to the Council of Europe, United Nations Human Rights Council and the Government of the People's Republic of China.

It comes after a series of meetings coordinated by UNPO that brought MEPs and representatives of the World Uyghur Congress together to candidly discuss the situation in East Turkestan.  These meetings included the appearance of Ms. Rebiya Kadeer before the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights in September 2009.  They also laid the groundwork for the European Parliament’s swift response following China’s execution in November 2009 of prisoners accused of involvement in the unrest in Tibet and East Turkestan.

First mooted in Berlin in a declaration issued by Mr. László Tokés MEP, Mr. Csaba Sógor MEP and Mr. Gyula Winkler MEP, the resolution subsequently won support from members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, its Subcommittee on Human Rights, and the European Parliament’s Delegation to the People’s Republic of China.   

Members of the European Parliament who had acted in November 2009 in support of the release from detention in South Korea of Mr. Dolkun Isa, Secretary General of the World Uyghur Congress also pledged their support to the resolution.  Their support joined that of Dr. Laima Liucija Andrikiene MEP, Mr. Jelko Kacin MEP and Mr. Leonidas Donskis MEP whose personal experience of life under communism cut across ideological differences.

Ms. Heidi Hautala, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, spoke in support of the resolution’s adoption and joined those members, such as Ms. Marietje Schaake MEP, Mr. Niccolo Rinaldi MEP and Dr. Helga Trüpel MEP who had had the opportunity to meet with Ms. Rebiya Kadeer during her visit to Brussels in September 2009.

Contributing to the debate, Mr. Joe Higgins MEP complained of the “very soft” criticisms leveled against Beijing for its actions against Uyghurs, Tibetans and Chinese citizens as whole.  Observing that the regime in Beijing was “increasing its repression”, Mr. Higgins noted that while economic development was muting criticism of Beijing, at the same time thousands of migrant workers were subsisting in a state of “appalling exploitation.”

Despite China’s undoubted progress in many fields and deepening cooperation between Europe and China in the fields of trade and environment, Dr. Andrikiene saw that Beijing was “clearly backsliding” on its human rights record.  In November 2009, Uyghurs had been “without mercy executed” by the authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region she noted.  In the wake of their deaths Dr. Andrikiene told fellow MEPs that it was their “duty to speak loudly and clearly” in condemning these actions.

Dr. Andrikiene’s calls were echoed in Strasbourg by the president of the Liberal International, Mr. Hans van Baalen MEP who spoke passionately of his belief that in the People’s Republic of China the death penalty was “used to oppress minorities.”  It fell upon MEPs, Mr. Van Baalen concluded, to “fight for our principles” in vociferously criticizing China’s human rights record and the rights of Uyghurs and Tibetans in particular.

Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Commissioner Karel van Gucht spoke of “legitimate concern” at the actions of the Chinese authorities.  The next major exchange between the European Union and China will take place in Nanjing on 30 November 2009.  Chairman of the Tibet Intergroup in the European Parliament, Mr. Thomas Mann MEP declared that condemning executions in China and calling for a renewed dialogue between China and representatives of the Dalai Lama both “have to be priority points on the agenda of the EU-China Dialogue.”

Instrumental to this success is the "UNPO Report: Repression in China-Roots and Repercussions of the Urumqi Unrest".  The report outlines the events that took place in Shaoguan and Urumqi this summer in which hundreds of people were killed and a series of recommendations for future action to assuage the resentment and mistrust that has been allowed to develop in East Turkestan over the past five decades as a result of policies pursued by the Chinese government.  Click the image below to read the report.

UNPO Report: Repression in China-Roots and Repercussions of the Urumqi Unrest


Below is a press release issued by UNPO in the wake of the resolution’s adoption:

The resolution passed by the European Parliament follows the execution of Uyghur and Tibetan prisoners after perfunctory trials.  The failure of the Chinese authorities to provide the defendants with basic legal assistance and advice, combined with prejudicial public statements and the inability of international observers to witness the trials, led to widespread international criticism of the judicial process.

General Secretary of the UNPO, Mr. Marino Busdachin, noted that the resolution represented “a milestone in support of implementing human rights in China”, adding that he hoped it would “provide a guideline for further relations and negotiations with China” as the European Union continues its rounds of dialogue with Beijing.

Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress, expressed her relief that “after many months, the international community has acted…Beijing must know that it cannot arrest, try, and execute people without giving them their basic rights of justice and defense.”

UNPO Presidency Member for Tibet, Mr. Ngawang Choephel, was grateful of the resolution for condemning the recent executions of Tibetans and Uyghurs and called upon China to invite Mr. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on executions of the UN Human Rights Council.  In May 2009 in a report submitted to the Council, Mr. Alston reiterated “his longstanding request for an invitation to visit China, including Tibet.”

UNPO remains seriously concerned for the lives of those who remain on China’s death row and the fate of political prisoners as the international observers remain unable to observe the conduct of trials in East Turkestan and Tibet.  Despite calls for dialogue, the Chinese authorities have responded with military crackdowns that will lead to a deterioration in the situation.


The full text of the European Parliament's resolution can be read below:

European Parliament Resolution on China


European Parliament resolution on China: minority rights and application of the death penalty

The European Parliament,

–    having regard to its resolutions of 1 February 2007  and 27 September 2007  in favour of a universal moratorium on the death penalty,

–    having regard to Resolutions 62/149  and 63/168  on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2007 and 18 December 2008 respectively,

–    having regard to the declarations by the Presidency of the Union of, respectively, 29 October 2009 regarding the executions of two Tibetans, Mr Lobsang Gyaltsen and Mr Loyak, and 12 November 2009 regarding the executions of nine persons of Uighur ethnicity following the riots of 5-7 July in Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR),

–    having regard to Articles 35, 36 and 37 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, which provide, respectively, that all citizens shall enjoy freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief, and deem the freedom of the person to be 'inviolable',

–    having regard to its previous resolutions on China and, in particular, to its resolution of 13 December 2007 on the EU-China Summit and the EU-China human rights dialogue,

–    having regard to the EU-China seminar of 18-19 November 2009 and the 20 November 2009 round of the EU-China human rights dialogue,

–    having regard to the round of the EU-China human rights dialogue held in Prague on 14 May 2009,

–    having regard to the forthcoming EU-China Summit to be held on 30 November 2009 in Nanjing,

–    having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the Union is based on adherence to the values of freedom, democracy and observance of human rights and to the rule of law, and it regards observance of those inalienable rights as an essential prerequisite for peaceful existence in a society,

B. whereas the new EU-China Strategic Partnership, currently being negotiated, is very important for relations between the Union and China in the future, and a true partnership must be based on shared common values,

C. whereas, on 8 May 2009, the Union called for commutation of all the death sentences handed down by Lhasa Intermediate People's Court following the riots in Tibet in March 2008,

D. whereas, during the first days of July 2009, the worst ethnic violence in decades broke out in XUAR after Uighur demonstrators took to the streets and attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi, causing casualties among them, in protest against attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in South China in June 2009; whereas, according to official figures, 197 people died and more than 1600 people were wounded,

E. whereas, in order to ensure that Tibetans and Uighurs, China's two major ethnic minorities, can coexist peacefully with the great majority of the Chinese population, who are of Han ethnicity, it is essential to begin a frank, ongoing and mutually respectful dialogue,

F. whereas there is growing dissatisfaction and resentment in the Uighur population – which is largely Muslim, shares linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia and accounts for almost half of Xinjiang's 20 million people – directed at the mainly Han Chinese authorities, the latter being accused of closely watching and containing religious activities in a context of employment discrimination and marginalisation of their own ethnic group in the region; whereas the call by human rights NGOs for the international community to send an independent investigative team to the site of the riots received no response,

G. whereas the People’s Republic of China has expressed a desire for harmonious ethnic relations in XUAR,

H. whereas the legitimacy of the sentences passed on the Tibetans condemned for crimes during the March 2008 riots has been called into question in a report by Human Rights Watch, which stated that some trial proceedings took place covertly on undisclosed dates and that the Tibetans were denied access to a meaningful defence with lawyers of their choice,

I. whereas religious observance in China is subject to restrictions and closely controlled by the State,

J. whereas the death penalty is applicable to 68 offences in China, including non-violent ones such as tax fraud and drug offences,

1. Reiterates its longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all cases and under all circumstances; recalls the EU's strong commitment to working towards abolition of the death penalty everywhere and emphasises once again that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights;

2. Recognises the positive move by the Supreme People's Court, in January 2007, to review death sentences but deplores the fact that it has not led to a significant decrease in the number of executions in China; remains concerned that China still carries out the greatest number of executions worldwide;

3. Therefore urges the Chinese Government to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty immediately and unconditionally, this being seen as a crucial step towards abolition of the death penalty; strongly condemns the executions of the two Tibetans, Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak, and of the nine persons of Uighur ethnicity following, respectively, the events in March 2008 in Lhasa and the riots of 5-7 July 2009 in Urumqi; calls on the Chinese authorities to suspend all the other death sentences passed by the Intermediate People's Courts of Lhasa and Urumqi and to commute those sentences, in the case of persons duly found guilty of acts of violence, to terms of imprisonment; condemns, too, the death sentences with two years' suspension imposed on Tenzin Phuntsok and Kangtsuk, following the March protests, and the imprisonment for life of Dawa Sangpo, and underlines its concern as to whether they received a fair trial;

4. Calls once again on China to ratify the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights; deplores the often discriminatory treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in China;

5. Highlights the fact that the Chinese Government published its first National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) in April 2009, aiming in particular to improve the protection of citizens’ rights throughout the law-enforcement and judicial processes, eliminate arbitrary detention, prohibit the extortion of confessions by torture and ensure fair and open trials; calls on the Chinese authorities to make public the numbers of executions carried out;

6. Calls on the Chinese authorities to make every effort to develop a genuine Han-Uighur dialogue, to adopt more inclusive and comprehensive economic policies in Xinjiang aimed at strengthening local ownership, and to protect the cultural identity of the Uighur population;

7. Stresses that China's human rights record remains a matter of serious concern; takes note of the previous rounds of the EU-China human rights dialogue and of the round of 20 November 2009; insists on the need for rigorous follow-up between all rounds of the dialogue, with a view to ensuring the application of the recommendations resulting from previous dialogues, which were mutually agreed on by both parties, and in the form of the EU-China legal seminars on human rights which used to precede the rounds of the dialogue and which involved academic and civil-society representatives; calls on the Commission and the Council to put the questions of abolition of the death penalty and observance of ethnic minorities' and religious rights on the agenda for the forthcoming EU-China Summit on 30 November 2009, and to continue to pursue inclusion in the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, currently in negotiation, of a clause concerning respect for human rights in China;

8. Calls on the Chinese authorities to end immediately the ‘Strike Hard’ campaign, which is repressing the rights of everyone in XUAR while ignoring the causes of unrest;

9. Calls for the reopening of sincere and results-orientated dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama's representatives, based on the 'Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People' and leading towards a positive, substantial and meaningful change in Tibet consistent with the principles outlined in the Constitution and laws of the People's Republic of China;

10. Reiterates its solidarity with all the victims of the events in Urumqi, XUAR, in July 2009; while recognising the duty of the State institutions to maintain public order, is concerned at reports alleging that disproportionate force was used against ethnic Uighurs and that large numbers of them were detained;

11. Calls on the Chinese authorities to ensure that those detained in connection with the above events are guaranteed humane treatment while in custody and fair trials in accordance with international law, including access to a lawyer of their choice, presumption of innocence and proportionate sentencing of those found guilty;

12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Member States, the Council of Europe, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Government of the People's Republic of China.

Note: To download a copy of the resolution, please click here. (PDF Format, 130kb)