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Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from the Canadian Coalition for Human Rights in China

    November 13, 2015

    Canadian Coalition on Human RIghts in China
    c/o Amnesty International
    312 Laurier Avenue East
    Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1H9


    The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
    Prime Minister of Canada
    80 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A2

    November 13, 2015

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We write this Open Letter to you as members of the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China,[1]  a coalition of 15 Canadian organizations dedicated to ensuring there is strong attention to human rights in Canada’s relationship with China.  We are writing in advance of your upcoming trips to the G20 Summit in Turkey and the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in the Philippines.  Those meetings offer you your first opportunity for engagement, as Prime Minister, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials   We understand you may have your first such opportunity to meet with President Xi Jinping in Turkey over the weekend.  Our Coalition urges you to use this occasion to signal a clear intention to put human rights at the center of Canada’s relationship with China.  

    Canada’s relationship with China is certainly one of the most crucial foreign policy priorities you will face as Prime Minister.  That relationship is a very important one for many reasons, including economic, security and geopolitical considerations.  So too, the many challenges and concerns about China’s human rights record require very serious and deliberate attention.   It is our hope therefore that a comprehensive strategy will be developed to ensure that advancing stronger human rights protection will be central to that relationship and will extend across the entire range of dealings between Canada and China. 

    We believe that this is a critical time for a renewed approach to human rights in the Canada/China relationship. Our organizations have documented increased human rights violations in China, including a very troubling campaign of intensified repression of democracy and human rights activists in recent years. 

    • The situation for Tibetans and Uighurs continues to be of grave concern. 
    • The crackdown against Falun Gong practitioners does not relent.  
    • Repression of dissent and human rights advocacy has been evident in the response to protests in Hong Kong and in a recent wave of arrests of human rights lawyers.
    • A new report from Amnesty International, ominously titled No End in Sight, makes it clear that torture continues to be widespread and systematic in the country. 
    • The number of prisoners of conscience held for their political and religious views, their ethnic background or their commitment to human rights does not abate. 
    • There are a worrying number of individuals wrongly or unjustly imprisoned in China with close Canadian connections, including Canadian citizen of Uighur origin, Huseyin Celil; Canadian citizens Kevin Garratt who is imprisoned and Julia Garratt who is currently under a form of house arrest; pro-democracy activist Wang Bingzhang, who has many immediate family members who are Canadian citizens; and a number of Falun Gong practitioners who are close relatives of Canadian citizens.

    Canada has pursued a variety of approaches to raising human rights with China over the years, including actively criticizing China at the UN, refraining from criticizing China at the UN, confining human rights discussions to closed door meetings, raising some human rights concerns publicly, and prioritizing trade and investment in the relationship. Despite that variety of approaches, unfortunately very serious concerns remain.  Notably, what has been missing is an approach that ensures human rights figure prominently in the full expanse of Canada’s relationship with China, beyond exchanges left to officials specifically tasked with human rights. It is our hope that will begin with your upcoming exchanges with President Xi Jinping. 



    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 Amnesty International Canada (English & Francophone Branches), ARC International, Canada-Hong Kong Link, Canada Tibet Committee, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canadian Labour Congress, Falun Dafa Association of Canada, Federation for a Democratic China, Movement for Democracy in China (Calgary), PEN Canada, 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.