Respect Freedoms of Expression, Press and Assembly in China
Stop violent crackdown and arrests of peaceful protesters
(Taipei, 2022-12-07) We, the undersigned, call on the Chinese government to strictly abide by its obligations under the Chinese Constitution and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as its commitment as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and respect peoples’ basic rights to privacy, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The Chinese government should cease abusing the criminal code to detain peaceful protesters, harassing those who defend protesters’ rights, and immediately halt, investigate and prosecute any use of violence or extrajudicial measures by authorities against those who exercise their basic human rights and freedoms.
Over the past week, peaceful rallies and protests triggered by mourning the victims of the fatal fire in Urumqi have spread in a number of cities in China. People took to the streets to express their frustration with the severe lockdowns measures brought about by the zero-COVID policy. Some held white sheets of paper, expressed their discontent with the government or appealed for their human rights and fundamental freedoms. This set of protests is an example of people standing up to the repressive rule of an authoritarian regime.
Although some local governments have announced relaxed quarantine measures in an attempt to calm the protests, we understand that the Chinese authorities are at the same time cracking down on protesters across the country, and that some of those arrested have gone missing and are feared to have been forcibly disappeared. It has also come to our attention that the authorities are interfering with the protesters’ right to legal representation. Some lawyers have been warned by local authorities not to take up the cases, some others have had incoming calls to their mobile phones suddenly cut. Police have also stopped citizens on the street, inspected their electronic devices, and forced them to delete certain applications, content, and photos related to the protests on their phones. Given the lack of credible and transparent official information, we are extremely concerned about the possible magnitude and seriousness of the situation. We urge the international community to continue to monitor the situation and to condemn the ongoing rights abuses associated with the crackdown.
We would like to point out in particular that Article 35 of the People’s Republic of China Constitution guarantees citizens the freedom of "speech, press, assembly, association, procession, and demonstration,"; Article 40 protects citizens’ right to protection of and non-interference with their privacy of correspondence; and Article 41 stipulates that citizens have the right to criticize any state agency or staff and to make recommendations. China's Criminal Procedure Law also guarantees the basic rights for suspects and defendants in the criminal process, including but not limited to the right to timely notification of family members, the rights to be represented and seen by lawyers, and the right to fair trial. The UN Convention against Torture, which China ratified in 1988, forbids all forms of torture and ill treatment. Article 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights furthermore enshrine the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
In this regard, we call on the Chinese government to immediately:
Co-signatories (in alphabetical order)