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Chinese President's tour must put substance before ceremony

October 19, 1999

Human Rights in China calls on President Jiang Zemin and his foreign counterparts to put human rights at the forefront of bilateral discussions during the Chinese leader’s six-nation tour. Jiang’s visit to the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia provides a valuable opportunity for countries to voice their concerns over China’s human rights situation, and for China to address such issues in an open manner.

Given the downward spiral that China’s human rights situation has experienced in the last year, substantive bilateral discussion is especially critical. China must be held accountable for its human rights abuses now, if it is to achieve sustainable development and true acceptance into the global community. This is both a moral imperative and a practical necessity.

Reports on Jiang’s trip have described it as a publicity tour to promote his image as an international statesman. Both Chinese officials and their foreign counterparts have stated that there will be no discussion of “detailed issues.” But substance must not be sacrificed for ceremony.

The Chinese government is currently conducting the most ruthless repression of dissent since the June 4, 1989 Beijing Massacre. The most visible examples of persecution include the crackdown on Falungong practitioners and the harsh sentencing of China Democracy Party members and other activists to up to 13 years in prison HRIC press alert. Hundreds of thousands of China’s most marginalized people, including migrants, homeless, street children and the mentally ill, are arbitrarily detained in ongoing “clean-up” campaigns to rid the streets of those deemed undesirable by urban authorities.

“Chinese authorities have become particularly brazen in punishing dissent largely because of a decrease in international concern regarding China’s human rights situation,” said Xiao Qiang, HRIC executive director. This is precisely the time when scrutiny must be heightened and pressure intensified. During Jiang’s tour, foreign governments must not turn a blind eye to China’s human rights problems. These are matters that require urgent and serious attention. This is no time for pomp and circumstance.”

Jiang is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on October 21. The Chinese leader will then travel to France, where he will have a private stay in Correze with French President Jacques Chirac on the weekend of October 23-24. Jiang’s state visit to France is scheduled for October 24-26.

* For more information on these “clean-up” campaigns, please see HRIC’s report: Not welcome at the party: behind the “clean-up” of China’s cities - A report on administrative detention under “Custody and Repatriation.”