Ottawa Press conference Thursday, Sept 8
OTTAWA – September 6, 2005 – Respect for human rights must be the overarching framework for Canada-China relations and should inform Canadian policy and practice in key areas such trade promotion, development assistance and security cooperation, says a coalition of civil society organizations.
The groups, representing Canadian labour, democracy and other human rights advocates, will state their positions on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s first visit to Canada this week. The visit takes place as Canada initiates an external evaluation of its human rights policy with China.
See below for background information.
PRESS CONFERENCE DETAILS:
10:30 am. September 8, 2005
Charles Lynch Room
130S Centre Block, Parliament Hill
Stephen Benedict, Canadian Labour Congress
Patrick Kavanagh, PEN Canada
Cheuk Kwan, Toronto Association for Democracy in China
Alex Neve, Amnesty International / Canada
Mohamed Tohti, Uighur Canadian Association
Other coalition members will also be present to answer questions.
Beth Berton-Hunter, 416-904-7158 (cell) or 416-363-9933, extn. 32
Since 1997, Canada has adopted a policy of “behind-the-scenes” bilateral diplomacy with China on the issue of human rights. Civil society organizations have pressed Canada for more transparency and public accountability within the bilateral process and have urged that it be coupled with multilateral pressure at the UN Commission on Human Rights. Canada’s recent decision to evaluate its bilateral human rights dialogue with China is a welcome initiative. However, plans to expand the dialogue – announced when Prime Minister Martin visited China in January 2005 – should be delayed until the evaluation is complete and its recommendations studied by a Parliamentary review committee.
For details about Canada’s bilateral human rights dialogue with China, see: /site/publications/index.php?lang=en&subsection=catalogue&id=1435
Human Rights Violations in China:
The Government of China has signed and ratified several important international human rights treaties, and yet systematically fails to comply with the obligations they impose. Areas of specific concern for Canadian civil society organizations include:
- Labour Rights and Freedom of Association:
China denies the right to form a free trade union and bargain collectively. The only legal union in China is the government-controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions. China continues to maintain a “reservation” to article 8 of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which protects basic labour rights. China maintains a network of “re-education through labour” camps in which an estimated 250,000 currently languish.
- Use of Torture:
Torture and ill-treatment are endemic in Chinese prisons and detention centres. An investigative mission by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has been delayed more than six years by Chinese authorities, who periodically announce that the visit will proceed without delay. The most recent announcement was made last month, stating that the mission would proceed in November 2005. The International Committee of the Red Cross continues to be denied access to Chinese prisons.
- Denial of Religious Freedoms /Persecution of the Falun Gong:
Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and other faith communities are subject to sanction and several religious leaders are imprisoned for the exercise of their religious rights. Falun Gong practitioners continue to be targeted by authorities for the non-violent practice of their beliefs. There are widespread reports of arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners and of torture and death while in detention. There are also increasing reports of intimidation of Falun Gong inside Canada.
- Denial of Judicial Rights and use of the Death Penalty:
There is no presumption of innocence in China’s judicial system. Access to lawyers is limited and judges are not independent. The death penalty can be applied to a wide-range of crimes and execution sometimes takes place within hours of conviction. Official sources have stated that China executes about 10,000 people every year. Incommunicado detention, without access to due process, is commonplace. Thousands of Chinese, arbitrarily assigned by officials to re-education through labour camps, have no opportunity for judicial review or access to detainee or prisoner rights.
- Denial of Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS
Thousands of people, living with HIV/AIDS as a result of participation in a government scheme to sell blood plasma, continue to be denied the right to treatment. There have been scores of reports of harassment, beating and incarceration of people living with HIV/AIDS who have tried to assert their right to health services and the need for care of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Discrimination and police abuse are obstacles to the provision of basic services to people at high risk of HIV/AIDS in China, including men who have sex with men, drug users and sex workers.
- Denial of Freedom of Opinion & Expression:
Journalists, democracy activists and Internet publishers face censorship and many have been arrested and charged with various crimes including revealing “state secrets.” More than 600 are still imprisoned under “counter-revolutionary” laws that are now repealed. In the absence of democratic checks and balances, authorities use a vast network of surveillance systems technology to monitor phone and Internet communication, often targeting democracy activists and human rights defenders.
- Denial of the right to self-determination and cultural rights:
“Strike hard” campaigns in Tibet and East Turkestan (ch: Xinjiang), have targeted the Tibetan and Uyghur cultural traditions and imposed discriminatory economic policies in order to consolidate control. China uses the “war on terror” to justify its actions against legitimate political dissent in “minority” regions.
- Denial of the right to an adequate standard of living:
Economic disparity has increased dramatically as economic reforms are introduced. Conversion of food producing land for industrial development threatens food security and has resulted in mass rural displacement and increased migration to urban areas ill-equipped to handle the influx. Under China’s “hukou” system, migrants are unable to obtain equal access to social services such as education and health care. Those seeking redress face persecution and there are reports of violent crackdowns by police on petitioners.
- Denial of refugee rights:
China has denied a request from the UN High Commission for Refugees to establish an office in China for the protection of North Korean refugees who face refoulement and possible execution in North Korea. China also pressures neighbouring states (Nepal, Kyrgyzstan) to return Uyghur and Tibetan refugees in violation of UN Convention Related to the Status of Refugees.
The Canadian Coalition on China:
Members of the Canadian Coalition on China work in international networks and with human rights defenders inside China to document human rights violations and to press the Government of Canada to raise their concerns in both its multilateral and bilateral activities. The members of the coalition are:
Amnesty International / Canada, Amnistie internationale, section canadienne francophone, Canada Tibet Committee, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canadian Labour Congress, Democracy China Ottawa, Falan Dafa / Canada, PEN Canada, Rights & Democracy, Students for a Free Tibet, Toronto Association for Democracy in China, Uyghur Canadian Association