Letter to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Day

Prime Minister Theresa May
10 Downing Street

10 December 2017

Dear Prime Minister May,

Tibetan Uyghur & Chinese Solidarity UK is writing to you today on International Human Rights Day to express its deepest concern at the ongoing human rights violations being committed by the Chinese authorities in Tibet, East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and China.

As a group of organizations working together to campaign against human rights violations by the Chinese government, we are urging your Government to take immediate and bold action to address these human rights concerns. We are urging you to uphold your manifesto pledge and “champion British values around the globe: freedom, democracy, tolerance and the rule of law”.

Since President Xi Jinping took power, the human rights situation has deteriorated further, particularly the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Activists, writers and other perceived government opponents are frequently arrested and imprisoned solely for expressing views critical of the government, often on the grounds of national security. Many of those arrested are held in harsh conditions, are in poor health and have been subjected to abusive treatment in detention.

Dozens of prisoners of conscience have died while in prison or immediately following their release. Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo died in police custody on 13 July 2017 and freelance writer and democracy veteran, Yang Tongyan (a.k.a. Yang Tianshui) died on 7 November 2017, shortly after he was released on medical parole. Such deaths at the hands of the Chinese authorities should be an issue of deepest concern to UK officials.

This year, a number of laws came into effect in China which further regulate and undermine the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Law on the Management of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations’ Activities, which came into effect on 1 January 2017, allows the Chinese authorities to heavily restrict the activities of NGOs. The law bans foreign NGOs from undertaking activities deemed as ‘endangering national unity, national security or ethnic unity, subverting state power or harming China’s national interests and societal public interests’.

Similarly, China’s Cyber Security Law came into effect on 1 June 2017. The law contains broad and vague provisions which could be used to repress political opposition, human rights defenders and critical media reporting, and otherwise restrict the right to freedom of expression, association and religion.

Those detained and/or imprisoned in the recent crackdown include:

• Tashi Wangchuk, an advocate for greater Tibetan language education in schools in Tibet, has been charged with “inciting separatism” and could face up to 15 years in
prison if found guilty. His lawyers last visited him in March 2017 and have not heard from him since. In October 2016, he was awarded the Martin Ennals prize for human rights defenders.

• Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur academic, was sentenced to life imprisonment on 23 September 2014 on separatism-related charges. He is an advocate of autonomy for Uyghurs and worked to promote understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He has received the Barbara Goldsmith “Freedom to Write” Award from the PEN American Center in 2014, the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2016 and Liberal International’s Prize for Freedom in November 2017.

• Lee Ming-cheh, Taiwanese democracy activist, was subject to enforced disappearance while visiting China in March 2017 and on 28 November 2017, he was sentenced to five years in prison for “subverting state power”. His online discussions on democracy were used as evidence during his trial.

• Liu Xia is a Chinese artist, poet and human rights defender. She has been held under house arrest since October 2010, when her husband, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She has suffered from psychological stress, anxiety and depression as a result of her treatment at the hands of the authorities.

• Druklo (pen-name Shokjang) is a prominent Tibetan writer and blogger. On 17 February 2016, he was sentenced to three years in prison for his writings on the current situation in Tibet.

• Gulmira Imin is a Uighur and former website administrator for Salkin, a Uighur-language website. On 14 July 2009, she was arrested in Aksu after the authorities alleged she had organized a protest, posted an announcement on Salkin, and leaked state secrets by phone to her husband in Norway. In April 2010, she was sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘splittism, leaking state secrets, and organising an illegal demonstration’.

• Hu Shigen is a Chinese human rights defender and former lecturer who has spent over 19 years in prison on account of his pro-democracy activities. On 3 August 2016, he was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on charges of ‘subversion of state power’. He is reportedly in poor health after years of ill-treatment in detention.

Against this backdrop, TUCs UK calls on you as a matter of priority to urge President Xi Jinping to take immediate steps to:

• Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in 1998 and has repeatedly stated its intention to ratify;

• Release of all prisoners of conscience held by the Chinese government;

• Grant detainees access to adequate medical care, access to lawyers of their own choosing and family visits;

• Repeal legislation and administrative regulations that restrict freedom of expression;
• Respect the right to peaceful protest;

• Order prompt, independent and impartial investigations into any allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, bringing to justice anyone found responsible, in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty;

• Stop criminal prosecutions and the intimidation of individuals peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and religion and belief;

TUCs hopes that you and your government will give careful attention to the human rights concerns raised in this Open Letter, and positive consideration to our recommendations.
TUCs UK would welcome the opportunity to discuss the above issues with you or with representatives of your government.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,
Tibetan Uyghur & Chinese Solidarity UK
1. Chinese Solidarity Campaign
2. Federation for Democratic China
3. Free Tibet
4. Friends of Tiananmen Mothers
5. Students for a Free Tibet UK
6. Tibetan Community in Britain
7. Tibet Society
8. Uyghur Association and Uyghur Community UK