How do human rights affect China?
Human Rights Committee meets on the situation in China
(Berlin) - The Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid in the German Bundestag met on November 18 for a public hearing on the human rights situation in China. Human Rights Watch was represented as an expert organization by Germany director Wenzel Michalski and commented on the questions of the MPs. In view of the persecution of human rights activists in China, the federal government must show solidarity and support them in Germany, according to Human Rights Watch. In addition, it must be ensured that German companies are not involved in human rights violations.
The full Human Rights Watch statement on the MPs' questions is set out below. The three subject areas were:
Human rights violations against minorities
Situation and development of the human rights situation
Responses to human rights violations and influence on bilateral and multilateral relationsn
Human rights violations against minorities
1. What are the goals of the current Chinese leadership with its brutal policy of persecution and "Sinization" against Tibetans, Uyghurs, Christians and other ethnic groups and what effects does this have on the rights of the groups concerned, especially with regard to the protection of language and religion , Way of life and traditions? (CDU / CSU)
The Chinese authorities started their “Sinization” campaign against religious groups in late 2017. As a result, religious texts and the administration of religious communities are increasingly controlled. It also intervenes in very personal decisions of daily life, such as clothing, education, language and name of the children. Recently, Human Rights Watch documented that Chinese officials warned Tibetans not to let their beliefs show up in everyday life or influence their behavior.
2. How do you assess the situation in the Chinese detention centers in Xinjiang and how are the claims by the Chinese government that the “re-education camps” have been closed? (SPD)
Since the end of 2016, the Chinese government has tightened its repressive policy against Muslims of Turkish origin in Xinjiang (“Strike Hard Campaign”). Arbitrary mass arrests, torture and mistreatment of Muslims of Turkish origin are on the agenda. In addition, everyday life is systematically monitored, for example through monitoring technology. There are credible reports that some prisoners have been released from "re-education" camps. However, it remains completely unclear how many people will continue to be held, as the Chinese government has not released details of prisoners and freedmen. Many Muslims of Turkic origin who live abroad have no further information about their families. Others say family members are still in custody. Also, the "re-education camps" are just one way in which the people of Xinjiang are deprived of their civil liberties. The number of inmates in prisons has also risen sharply since 2016. Many have received long prison sentences for non-crime behavior, such as praying or attending religious ceremonies. Beijing is using the debate over whether people have been released to deflect attention from the ongoing serious human rights violations and arbitrary punishments against an entire population.
3. What is the situation of Muslims of Turkish origin outside of the camps? Are there any restrictions or repression by the Chinese government, and if so, what kind? (SPD)
There are terrifying similarities in how Muslims of Turkish origin in Xinjiang are treated in and out of the camps. In the "re-education" camps, prisoners must learn Mandarin, sing praises of the Chinese Communist Party, and memorize rules that apply mainly to Muslims of Turkic origin. Outside the camps, they have to take part in the ceremonial raising of the Chinese flag, political indoctrination and Mandarin language courses every week or sometimes even every day. Detainees are not allowed to leave the camps until they have learned 1,000 Chinese characters or otherwise demonstrate that they are loyal Chinese citizens. Turkic Muslims outside the camps are restricted in their freedom of movement as they can be placed under house arrest or are forbidden from leaving their district or the country. In the camps, inmates are punished for peacefully practicing their religion; outside, the religious restrictions are so strict that Islam is ultimately forbidden. In the camps, prisoners are constantly monitored and are not allowed to contact family or friends; Outside, people in their homes are checked by neighbors, officials and surveillance technology and are not allowed to have any contact with other countries.
4. What knowledge do you have about the systematic detention of minorities in China and the prevailing detention conditions? What types of human rights violations are you aware of in this context? (FDP)
The Chinese authorities are usually unwilling to provide information about detainees who belong to an ethnic minority. Human Rights Watch has documented the cases of arbitrarily arrested Tibetans Choeying Khedrup and Choktrul Rinpoche, about whom there has been no new information since 1999 and 2000, respectively. The “Strike Hard” campaign in Xinjiang has resulted in significantly more Muslims of Turkic origin in the prisons there. Conditions in Chinese prisons are harsh - poor food, poor sanitary facilities, and poor medical care. Prisoners are forced to do hard labor in harsh conditions. Torture and ill-treatment are widespread. There are reports of ethnic minority inmates being treated particularly badly, especially in Xinjiang where they are considered terrorists because of their religion and origin. They are not even supposed to be granted basic rights, such as visiting rights, to which the Han Chinese are entitled.
5. What knowledge do you have about the expansion of the Chinese surveillance state with the aim of specifically suppressing Chinese minorities? What knowledge or experience do you have of various minority surveillance practices in China? (FDP)
As part of the campaign against Muslims of Turkic origin in Xinjiang, the authorities collected biometric data such as DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans and blood types from all residents of the region between the ages of 12 and 65. In addition, residents must submit a voice sample when applying for a passport. All of this data is entered into a centralized and searchable database. The government uses the collection of this biometric data to create a comprehensive biometric portrait of people and to have more information about their citizens. All of this data can be linked to a person's identification number in the police's databases. This in turn is linked to other biometric and personal information of the person. But the use of technology for mass surveillance goes beyond Xinjiang and also affects the Turkic Muslims from Xinjiang who live abroad. You will be asked by the Chinese authorities to provide detailed information about yourself, your address, phone number, school or place of work. The surveillance is visible everywhere in Xinjiang. In principle, however, similar techniques and models are used across China, including against other ethnic minorities.
Situation and development of the human rights situation
6. Do you think the Chinese Communist Party is capable of reforming to take a more liberal course with regard to human rights - freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and cultural self-determination? (AfD)
There is little evidence of the ability to reform; rather, all the signs point to intensified repression. Especially since President Xi came to power in 2012, the government has increased its control over the internet, the media, and religious, cultural and independent groups. There have been individual changes that at first glance look like improvements - for example, new rules in the area of privacy or gender-based discrimination have been presented or passed. But when this happens, it is only to suppress public debates about it and to exclude civil society groups from those discussions. There is no freedom of the media, the judiciary is supposed to secure the rule of the Communist Party, and political opposition will not be tolerated.
7. What is the situation of human rights defenders in mainland China and Hong Kong, how does the persecution of human rights defenders affect the possibilities of human rights work on China nationally, regionally and internationally, especially in regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet this persecution and the human rights situation in China in general civil society and legal developments in China itself? (ALLIANCE 90 / THE GREENS)
The situation for human rights defenders is catastrophic. As a result of their persecution, we are losing partners who could make our documentaries known to Chinese civil society. In addition, they can no longer inform us about human rights violations in China. Civil society in China has become less dynamic in recent years because of the intimidation and arrest of human rights defenders. The authorities passed a new law on the management of foreign NGOs in 2016. This and the new National Security Law in Hong Kong make contacts between local groups and international NGOs under the pretext of treason and incitement to be punishable. While the Chinese government officially adopts the rule of law, countless lawyers have been persecuted since 2017; their movement (“weiquan”) was severely weakened. However, despite the great risks, some lawyers continue to take on political cases. Many democracy activists have been arrested and persecuted in Hong Kong. Some have fled, but are still active - and the exile could become a new place for them to work. The Federal Government and the Bundestag should show solidarity with these activists and support them in Germany as well.
Reactions to human rights violations and influence on bilateral and multilateral relations
8. What information do you have on the quality and quantity of forced and re-education camps in the Chinese political and economic system, and what specific measures are required by the international community to end these serious human rights violations? (CDU / CSU)
The Chinese authorities continue to use forms of detention that are outside the legal system - re-education camps, arbitrary house arrest, informal detention centers. Human Rights Watch urges governments around the world to support at least an independent investigation into the serious crimes against Muslims of Turkic origin. In addition, a UN mandate is to be given at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, through which the human rights violations of the Chinese government can be observed - and then reported on. Chinese officials should also be held accountable for crimes: they should be punished with targeted sanctions when there is credible evidence that a government official is responsible for serious human rights violations. In addition, it must be ensured that German companies are not involved in human rights violations. Ultimately, all those affected, their families and independent civil society must be supported.
9. Is the consistent and effective naming of human rights violations by the communist rulers of China the appropriate means to induce them to change their behavior? (AfD)
Without public criticism of the Chinese government's human rights violations, the situation would be much worse. On the other hand, criticism alone has not prevented Beijing from intensifying the repression, especially since President Xi came to power in 2012. The German government has continued measures such as the bilateral official human rights dialogue, and has occasionally taken extraordinary steps, such as the departure of Liu Xia to Berlin, the long-imprisoned widow of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xioabo, and has tried to support independent civil society. Yet few governments have made it clear to China that it has to pay a price for worsening human rights violations. If Germany and other governments do not act against the impunity that the Chinese government protects internationally, then any public criticism will not stop the downward spiral.
10. To what extent does German policy towards China reflect the tension between political, economic and technological interests on the one hand and human rights on the other, and to what extent does this lead to an unequal treatment of China in relation to other countries? (THE LEFT.)
Germany's policy towards the Chinese government's human rights violations is not unusual, apart from the German Chancellor's admonitions, which are relatively frequent by international standards. Like most governments, Germany has invested significantly more resources in trade relations with China. Behind this is probably the hope that opening up the economy will also lead to political liberalization. In addition, there is always the argument that addressing human rights issues also means that it is difficult to work with China on other issues of international politics, such as North Korea. The inequality of treatment becomes apparent when the Chinese government prevents international criticism because of its position of power. Few countries can imagine holding Beijing accountable for the human rights violations against Muslims of Turkic origin. At the same time, however, they support the sanctions against government officials from Myanmar for the crimes against the Rohingya.
11. How have the diplomatic and cultural relations between China and Germany developed in the last few years, which specific examples show a deterioration in relations and, in your opinion, can good diplomatic and cultural relations contribute to promoting compliance with human rights China afford? (THE LEFT.)
The Chinese government has recently refused visa applications from members of the Bundestag for criticizing human rights violations in China - a clear “reprimand” by the Chinese government. As a rule, Beijing is more tolerant of criticism from Germany than from other EU countries. President Xi's government's hostility to independent artists and intellectuals has made cultural relations with any government difficult. There are hardly any cultural exchange programs that take place without government control. The federal government should carefully ensure that the understandable interest in cultural exchange does not unnecessarily lead to the surveillance by the Chinese government being legitimized.
12. What image of international law and human rights does the Chinese government proclaim at regional and international level, which multilateral forums does the Chinese government use to develop and disseminate these views, and what role does the current crisis of multilateralism play in this? (ALLIANCE 90 / THE GREENS)
Although China has ratified most of the international human rights treaties (except for the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the country has only signed), the Chinese government has turned away from the principle of the universality of human rights. In the international forums she is now advocating the principle of “mutual beneficial cooperation” in order to replace the principle of state responsibility. Beijing is cracking down on activists who use the UN human rights mechanisms to protest serious human rights violations. Even attempts by activists to participate in the UPR process are being prevented by the Chinese government. The Chinese government is trying to undermine UN mechanisms, including the UN Human Rights Council, the special rapporteurs and the NGO committee. It also threatens academic freedom in countries like Germany: students and scientists from China and China experts are monitored; the spread of the Confucius Institute, whose work is heavily politicized, is supported. In view of the extent of human rights violations by Chinese government officials, the federal government should support a special session or an emergency debate in the UN Human Rights Council. In addition, a permanent UN mandate is to be established through which human rights violations by the Chinese government inside and outside China can be monitored and reported on.Germany should also help to form a coalition of states that will defend itself against Beijing's anti-human rights agenda at the United Nations.
Other invited experts from the committee were Kai Müller from the Campaign for Tibet association, Eva Pils, professor at the School of Law at King's College London, Sayragul Sauytbay, former civil servant of the People's Republic of China and whistleblower, Mechthild Leutner, emirated professor at the Free University of Berlin, Adrian Zenz, professor at the European School of Culture and Theology and the freelance journalist Lea Zhou.
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