36 NGOs call for human rights protections in EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment

CSW and 35 other civil society organisations (CSOs) have written to the European Institutions calling for the inclusion of enforceable human rights clauses in the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) ahead of the upcoming Plenary session of the European Parliament.

The letter raises concerns regarding the omission of a human rights clause from the agreement, stating 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.”

Under Xi Jinping, the situation for human rights in China, including the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), has deteriorated rapidly and significantly. Widely reported examples of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s crackdown on human rights include the governments policies in Tibet, Hong Kong, and the Uyghur region, as well as towards religious adherents and human rights defenders across the country.

Signatories to the letter urge the EU and its institutions to ensure that China ratifies core human rights conventions, including the ICCPR and core ILO conventions, before entering into the agreement. They also call for the inclusion of a specific human rights clause in the agreement which would enable victims of human rights violations, as well as NGOs working on human rights, to report violations to the EU.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “The situation of human rights in China should be of utmost concern to every member of the international community. As such, it is deeply concerning that the EU has failed to include a human rights clause in the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. Such a clause would provide a means for increased monitoring of human rights in China, which remains essential. CSW therefore reiterates the calls made in this joint letter and urges the EU and its Institutions to take a firm stand on human rights by refusing to enter into the CAI until China has taken concrete steps to improve human rights, including by ratifying core human rights conventions.”

In a separate development, on 12 January the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced a package of measures “to help ensure that British organisations are not complicit in, nor profiting from, the human rights violations in Xinjiang.”

The measures include a review of export controls as they apply to the Uyghur region; fines for organisations which do not comply with the Modern Slavery Act; guidance to UK business on risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang; and guidance and support for public bodies to exclude suppliers where there is evidence of human rights violations in supply chains. However, there was no mention of the possible application of sanctions against Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for human rights violations in the Uyghur Region.

Mervyn Thomas added: “CSW welcomes the introduction of measures to help ensure that British organisations are not complicit in human rights violations in the Uyghur region. We also welcome steps taken to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act. However, it is important to note that these measures can only be effective if they are introduced as part of wider comprehensive measures in response to overwhelming evidence of wide-scale and egregious human rights violations. We encourage the UK to impose sanctions on individuals found to be responsible for severe violations of human rights, and to co-ordinate such measures with like-minded members of the international community. In addition, to ensure that no business is complicit in forced labour, we reiterate our call on businesses to sign the Call to Action put forward by the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, committing to cut all ties with suppliers implicated in forced labour and end all sourcing from the Region.”

CSW, csw.org.uk