Trudeau Must Raise Human Rights and Prisoner Cases during Visit to China
The Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China today released an Open Letter calling Prime Minister Trudeau to place human rights at the top of his agenda during his visit to China this week, including by rigorously pursuing human rights protections in discussions related to trade and by firmly calling for the release of prisoners of conscience – including 16 individuals with close Canadian connections - unjustly imprisoned in the country.
In the Open Letter, the 15-member Coalition calls on Trudeau to ensure focussed attention and top priority is given to the human rights impacts of any expanded trading relationship between the two countries, and repeats its demand that any future trade pact must be subjected to human rights assessments before finalization and at regular intervals thereafter. The group writes that it is “deeply disappointed” Canada has so far failed to accept this recommendation despite previous appeals, and that such a commitment is of “paramount importance” to ensure Canada’s economic relationship with China does not cause or contribute to human rights violations.
In addition, the Coalition has provided the Prime Minister with two lists of prisoners unjustly held in China, with a request that he press authorities for their release. One is a list of 16 prisoners who are Canadian citizens and people with strong Canadian connections, the second, a list of 13 individuals whose plight is emblematic of the persecution faced by minorities and human rights defenders in China. Among the cases highlighted are Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur Imam imprisoned since 2006, and Qian Sun, a Falun Gong practitioner imprisoned since February 2017, both of whom are Canadian citizens; as well as Wang Bingzhang, a democracy activist imprisoned since 2002, who was one of the first Chinese nationals to study at a Canadian university and whose daughter and several other close relatives are Canadian citizens. The Coalition urges Prime Minister Trudeau and senior government officials to make it clear that Canada expects these individuals and all other prisoners of conscience to be released.
These demands echo concerns raised by the Coalition in its May 2017 submission to Canada’s public consultations on a potential free trade agreement with China, in which the group expressed deep concerns related to the human rights situation and warned against accepting other related Chinese demands which would be harmful to the protection of human rights in both countries, such as China’s interest in pursuing an extradition treaty. Separately, Amnesty International also laid out a series of trade-related human rights recommendations in the course of those public consultations, including with respect to human rights and corporate accountability.
The Coalition previously urged the Prime Minister to ensure human rights are placed at the core of Canada’s dealings with China when he first visited the country in September 2016, at which time he signalled Canada’s intention to deepen economic engagement with China. At that time, the Coalition called for Canada to proactively ensure human rights would be made a central pillar of bilateral engagement with China, while warning of “a concerted, deepening clampdown on human rights lawyers and activists and intensified measures to curtail freedoms of expression, association and assembly” n China as well as “worrying indications of a deteriorating climate for human rights protection in the country.” In its Open Letter today, the group writes “sadly, fifteen months later, that assessment holds and, if anything, has only deepened,” increasing the urgency of a human right-based approach to Canada’s dealings with China.
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. The Open Letter is endorsed by: Amnesty International Canada (English & Francophone Branches), Canada-Hong Kong Link, Canada Tibet Committee, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, 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.
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