As part of her visit to China for the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson raised human rights issues in China, particularly the plight of human rights lawyers.
In a meeting with leading members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms Anderson said: “The international community continues to hear disturbing reports of human rights abuses in both Tibet and Xinjiang province. In both provinces, peoples have been denied the right to self-determination.
“In Xinjiang province today the new ‘anti-terror’ law is being used as a cover for widespread abuses of the Uighur population by the Chinese security forces.“As well as discrimination and attacks on cultural, religious and language rights, I have heard credible reports of state violence, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and unfair trials of human rights activists.“We need to see China commit to improving the human rights situation in Xinjiang province and we urge you to ratify and apply the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
In a meeting with the NPC’s Judicial and Internal Affairs Committee, Ms Anderson questioned the Chinese members on the crackdown on human rights lawyers that has taken place this year.Speaking in the meeting, she said: “In Ireland we have experienced the persecution of human rights lawyers, up to the state actually colluding in the murder of Pat Finucane for no other reason than that he was doing his job and providing a legal defence for republicans.“In China the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but when activists have relied on this defence, their lawyers have been targeted and arrested. It is vital that China ensures the right of human rights lawyers to defend their clients free from harassment and persecution.”
During the delegation’s visit to China, MEPs also met with Chinese human rights lawyers who provided more information on the crackdown this year which has led to the arrests of hundreds of lawyers engaged in the defence of Uighurs from Xinjiang, Hong Kong student protestors, feminists and other activists. Ms Anderson said: “We heard that more than 300 human rights lawyers have been arrested and detained this year. State media has carried out a coordinated campaign to attempt to destroy the reputations of those who have been arrested. Ten members of the concern group established to raise awareness and report on the persecution of lawyers have themselves been arrested and detained.“Most concerning of all is the fact that more than 30 lawyers, or members of their families, have disappeared and remain missing. The authorities say they are detained but if that is the case, they have no contact with their families or lawyers, and no-one knows where they are being held.“
The Chinese authorities must address this abuse as an urgent priority. As a first step, the families of those who have disappeared need to be assured that their loved ones will not be tortured or abused, and informed of their whereabouts. Detainees must be given the right to receive family visits and see their lawyers in their sites of detention.“I intend to raise this issue, together with colleagues from other political groups, in the European Parliament.”