Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Ahead of Possible Meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2
June 20, 2019
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing this Open Letter to you, as members of the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China,1 in advance of the 2019 G20 Summit, to be held in Osaka, Japan on June 28-29. We are writing in response to media reports that you are seeking a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Summit and to share with you nine crucial human rights recommendations to press with President Xi if such a meeting does occur. More broadly, these are points that we urge you, your Ministers and all Canadian government officials to raise in meetings and other exchanges with Chinese counterparts, be it in connection with the G20 Summit or other opportunities over the coming weeks and months.
It is a particularly critical time for ensuring that concern for human rights is the top priority in the Canada/China relationship. While the tensions that have arisen due to the Meng Wanzhou extradition case have obviously had wider implications, including ramifications for trade between our countries, of gravest concern have been apparently retaliatory measures taken by Chinese officials that have led to serious human rights violations against Canadian citizens. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been imprisoned for more than six months, following their arbitrary arrests in December. They have endured harsh detention conditions and treatment and face the prospect of deeply unfair trials. Two other Canadians, Robert Schellenberg and Fan Wei, have both been sentenced to death in the past five months in separate cases involving drug-related charges.
There is as well considerable global attention to China’s human rights record at this time, Prime Minister, notably with respect to the mass incarceration and unrelenting human rights violations against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the west of the country, unprecedented protests in Hong Kong in response to proposed changes to Hong Kong’s extradition law and the recent 30th anniversary of the 1989 killings of student protesters in Tiananmen Square, the truth of which the Chinese government continues to conceal and deny. There continue as well to be serious concerns with respect to human rights violations against Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners, unrelenting crackdowns against human rights defenders, lawyers and democracy activists, repression of free expression, and widespread use of the death penalty and torture.
In this context, Prime Minister, any meeting or opportunity for exchanges with President Xi must put human rights first. We urge you in particular to make the following requests of the President:

Release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and commute the death sentences imposed against Robert Schellenberg and Fan Wei.

Release other Canadians and individuals with close Canadian connections who have been wrongfully imprisoned in China, in several cases for many years, including citizens Huseyin Celil (detained since 2006) and Sun Qian (detained since February 2017), as well as Wang Bingzhang (detained since 2002) and ten imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners, who are all close family members of Canadians.

Agree to an international fact-finding mission, under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, to investigate “re-education camps” in the Uyghur region of China.

Ensure that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government refrains from using excessive force against protesters, withdraws the extradition bill and commits to preserving the high degree of autonomy, rule of law and an independent judiciary in Hong Kong. 

Grant unrestricted access to Tibet for independent researchers, human rights experts, journalists, diplomats, and parliamentarians and allow officials from the Canadian Embassy in China to visit Tibet.

End the persecution of Falun Gong.

Establish an independent investigation into the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Respect and protect human rights defenders and lawyers in China.

Cooperate with Canadian investigations into harassment, intimidation and surveillance in Canada against activists campaigning on human rights concerns in China.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns and recommendations. We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you or your officials for further discussions before the Summit.
Alex Neve
Secretary General
Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
On behalf of the Canadian Coalition for Human Rights in China

1 The Canadian Coalition for Human Rights in China is made up of 15 Canadian organizations dedicated to ensuring there is strong attention to human rights in Canada’s relationship with China. This letter is endorsed by the following members of the Coalition: Amnesty International Canada (English & Francophone Branches), Canada-Hong Kong Link, Canada Tibet Committee, Falun Dafa Association of Canada, Federation for a Democratic China, Students for a Free Tibet Canada, Toronto Association for Democracy in China, the Uyghur Canadian Society and the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement in China.