In view of the upcoming Plenary session of the European Parliament, today a coalition of 36 civil society organisations (CSOs) including the International Campaign for Tibet have launched a Joint Appeal to the European Institutions calling for the inclusion of enforceable human rights clauses in the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).
In the letter, the CSOs express “grave concern” at the omission of a human rights clause from the discussion about the agreement and its final text. They state that the omission: “sends a signal that the European Union will push for closer cooperation [with China] regardless of the scale and severity of human rights abuses carried out by the Chinese Communist Party, even when Beijing is in direct and open violation of international treaties and continues to refuse to allow international monitoring of the human rights situation.”
The letter is addressed to the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen; the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel; the Commissioner for Trade, Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis; the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mr. Josep Borrell; the President of the European Parliament, Mr. David Sassoli; and Members of the European Parliament.
Alluding to both the growing evidence of forced labour and various European Parliamentary Resolutions on the subject of forced labour in Tibet and Xinjiang, the CSOs conclude that:
“It is evident therefore the European Union has a Treaty obligation, as well as a moral duty, to stand by its founding principles of democracy, rules of law and the universality of human rights in its negotiations with the People’s Republic of China. This is an obligation not only to the people suffering oppression and gross human rights violations, but also to uphold the international rules-based order.”
They provide the following recommendations:
“We call upon the European Union and its Institutions to ensure China ratifies core Human Rights Conventions before entering in the Agreement, mainly the ICCPR, and core ILO Conventions.
“The agreement should also include a human rights clause. This should be introduced via a Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter that uses binding language and provides for effective enforcement mechanisms in case of violation, the creation of an EU Domestic Advisory Group and effective monitoring and complaint mechanisms on human rights that can been seized by the affected populations and NGOs defending human rights. This mechanism should contribute to ensure the agreement will be implemented in conformity with international human rights law.
As a matter of transparency and participatory process, we urgently press the European Institutions to adhere to maximum transparency in the further negotiating process to allow for proper and informed public and parliamentary debate.”
Anti-Slavery International – Campaign for Uyghurs – Centre for Labour Rights in Albania – China Aid Association – Chinese Human Rights Defenders – Christian Solidarity Worldwide – Clean Clothes Campaign European Coalition – ETUC European Trade Union Confederation/Confédération Européenne des Syndicats – European Values Center for Security Policy – Fair Action – Federazione italiana Diritti Umani – Gender Alliance for Development Center–Albania – Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella” – Hong Kong Global Connect – Hong Kong Watch – Human Rights Foundation – Human Rights in China – ICNA Council for Social Justice – Ilham Tohti Initiative – IndustriAll Europe – International Campaign for Tibet – International Federation for Human Rights – International Service for Human Rights – International Trade Union Confederation – Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies – No Business With Genocide – Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational Transparty – Safeguard Defenders – Society for Threatened Peoples – SÜDWIND–Institut für Ökonomie und Ökumene – The Rights Practice – Uyghur Association of Victoria, Australia – Uyghur Center for Human Rights and Democracy – Uyghur Human Rights Project – Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization – World Uyghur Congress
The EU’s trade and investment policies cannot be detached from the broader framework of upholding and promoting human rights, as the European Commission has sought to affirm recently. The founding treaties of the EU oblige it to design its policies in order to promote and consolidate human rights and the Rule of Law also in its relations with the wider world. Counter to what we have seen during the Christmas Holidays, this Agreement should not be concluded without an urgent transparent and public debate, starting from the European Parliament which has clearly and repeatedly expressed itself on the issue.
The mounting series of evidence of the use of forced labour within the People’s Republic of China, the denial of entry to independent international observers, and growing concerns within the business community on the possibility of effective due diligence procedures to ensure their respect of Corporate Social Responsibility standards, are clear indicators of a need to include strong and enforceable provisions in the Agreement, especially as the Sustainable Impact Assessment of November 2017, commissioned by the European Commission, itself testifies to the fact that respect for social, economic and human rights under the Agreement will be largely dependent on the national legal framework of partners.
Only last December, the European Parliament, with an overwhelming majority, reiterated its strong condemnation following new reports on the use of forced labour in its Resolution of 17 December 2020 on forced labour and the situation of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In October 2020, several Members of the European Parliament also raised concerns over a report revealing China’s large-scale programme of coercive labour in the Tibet Autonomous Region with already over half a million rural Tibetans forced off their land into military-style training centres
In this light, the wording to which the People’s Republic of China reportedly would have committed upon the Agreement in principle reached late December with regards to the ratification and implementation of International Labour standards cannot suffice. Its growing disregard for international standards and agreements has been demonstrated once again immediately following the agreement in principle with the EU, with the arrest of over 50 pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong under the National Security Law, imposed in a flagrant violation of the international agreements under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.