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Urgent Interventions

16 NGOs Call on UN Member States to Hold China Accountable at Human Rights Council for Persecuting Rights Defenders

(September9, 2019) A group of non-governmental organizations have sent a letter to UN members statescalling for action at the 42nd Session of the Human Rights Council overthe Chinese government’s jailing of many human rights defendersprotecting economic, social and cultural rights, and closure of civil societyorganizations promoting equal protection of those rights.

The letter urges UN member states to takeaction to hold China accountable to its human rights obligations. Governmentsshould raise the cases of individual economic, social and cultural rightsdefenders who have been detained, the systematic human rights violations inXinjiang and Tibet, and defend the universal rights of the people of Hong Kongin speeches on the floor of the Human Rights Council, with the delegation ofthe People’s Republic of China, and in public statements.

The “China model” that champions economicdevelopment at the expense of equal protection of universal human rights,promoted by the Chinese government at the UN, has led to violations of alltypes of human rights in China. In the past year, The Chinese governmentdetained a number of human rights defenders working on environmental, housing,land, labor, public health, and disability rights, as well as those who fightfor equal protection against discrimination. Some of them have disappeared intopolice custody. Authorities also punished citizen journalists and NGO workerswho reported on and documented economic, social and cultural rights violations.The systemic violations of civil and political rights in Xinjiang and Tibethave posed an existential threat to the cultural rights, as well as economicand social rights of millions of ethnic minorities in these regions. This so-called “China model” also threatens the greaterfreedom the people in Hong Kong enjoy under “one country, two systems.”

Some of the individual cases raised in the letter include Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi and Wu Gejianxiong, staff of the anti-discrimination and health rights NGO ChangshaFuneng, who have been formally arrested on charges of “subversion of statepower” and held incommunicado since July 22. He Fangmei, the mother of a baby disabled by a faultyvaccine, has been indicted on charges of “picking quarrels” for campaigning forimproved regulations and protection for victims of one of the worst publichealth crises in China in recent years—defective vaccinations. Environmental rights defenders JiShulong andXue Renyi are in custody for speaking out aboutpollution and need for environmental protection.

Chen Jianfang, a land and housing rights activist, has been involuntarily disappearedsince March 19 after she penned a tribute to the late activist Cao Shunli. Labor rights advocates, including factory workers, activists, researchers, NGO staff, and social workers, have faced increased suppressionsince a July 2018 crackdown on striking workers at the Jasic Technology Factoryin Shenzhen. Citizen journalists reporting on economic,social and cultural rights abuses have faced the wrath of the Chinesegovernment, including the editors of the online independent media platform“iLabour,” KeChengbing, Wei Zhili, and Yang Zhengjun,and citizen journalists and NGO workers Huang Qi andLiuFeiyue are serving prison sentences for reporting onrights abuses.

Human rights are indivisible, interdependent,and interrelated. Deprivation of any human right negatively impacts theenjoyment of all other human rights. The Chinese government’s violation of therights of numerous defenders to civil and political rights of freedom ofexpression, peaceful assembly and association, the right to be free fromarbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearance, and the protection of dueprocess rights, guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, isdetrimental to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in China.

China has failed in providing equal protectionof economic, social and cultural rights to all Chinese citizens, as well as,and partly due to, its systematic deprivation of civil and political rights. Asa member of the Human Rights Council, China is expected to uphold the higheststandards of human rights. We are calling for UN member states to hold theChinese government to this standard.

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