EU-China Summit: release of new report on risks facing human rights activists in China

Embargo Date: Monday 6 December 2004 08:00 GMT (09.00 Brussels)


As Chinese and EU leaders prepare to meet in The Hague this week, Amnesty International is releasing a report highlighting the risks facing the growing numbers of human rights activists in China. (“People’s Republic of China: Human Rights Defenders at Risk” available see link at end).

“In talks with the Chinese leadership this week, EU leaders should take into account that while the number of human rights activists is growing, in the China of today they still may be at risk at any time of arrest or imprisonment,” Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office said.

“The EU has announced its intention to use this week’s summit to raise its relationship with China to a higher level. Amnesty International hopes this also means the EU will employ a higher level of scrutiny of China’s harsh treatment of those who dare to speak out, whether it is about HIV/Aids, housing rights, workers rights, freedom of religion, minority rights or the right to justice,” he said.

“The EU has laid down its own guidelines, adopted in June this year, on how to support human rights defenders around the world. The EU-China summit is the perfect occasion where those guidelines can be put to good use,” Dick Oosting said.

Amnesty International is calling on the international community, including the EU, to urge China to release all those imprisoned for their peaceful human rights activities and reform the laws used to imprison them.

Amnesty International’s report gives details of a number of activists whose cases should be brought up by the EU with the Chinese leadership this week.

Within the last 18 months, at least five activists have been imprisoned for vaguely defined “state secrets” offences after they collected information on alleged human rights issues and sent it abroad. They include:

  • Abdulghani Memetemin, a 40-year-old journalist and teacher, who reported on human rights violations against the ethnic Uighur community in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in north-west China.
  • Liu Fenggang, 45, who wrote a number of reports about the destruction of Protestant churches and the harsh treatment suffered by members of underground congregations.
  • Zheng Enchong, a 54-year-old lawyer, who represented families who had been forcibly evicted from their homes in Shanghai. He was accused of faxing documents to a human rights NGO in New York.

Chinese law contains sweeping definitions of crimes, such as ‘subversion’ and ‘stealing state secrets’, which can be used to detain and imprison people simply for engaging in legitimate human rights activities. Activists have also frequently been subject to arbitrary internment, harassment, and intimidation.

In March this year China amended its constitution to include the clause, “the state respects and protects human rights”. Amnesty International says the most powerful demonstration of this commitment would be an end to imprisonment, arbitrary detention and intimidation of activists.

The Constitution also guarantees citizens’ rights to petition the authorities, but a state institution, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, recently warned the Chinese government that an increasing number of people thought official state channels were no longer sufficient to sort out their complaints about local corruption and malpractice. It recognized that some local governments resorted to violence to stop petitioners making their case to central government, a practice it described as ‘appalling and outrageous’.

Amnesty International’s report also contains appeals on behalf of the following individuals:

  • Li Dan, 26, an activist working to defend the right to health of those suffering with HIV/AIDS in China.
  • Yao Fuxin, 54, and Xiao Yunliang, 58, both workers imprisoned for peacefully defending workers’ rights.
  • Zhang Shengqi, 30, and Xu Yonghai, 44, both members of the unofficial Protestant church working to protect the right to freedom of religion for fellow Christians in China.
  • The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives who campaign for justice for those who were killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.


  1. Summary (PDF)
  2. Main Text (PDF)

For further comment/background and interviews:
Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
Tel: 32-2-5021499
Fax: 32-2-5025686
[email protected]