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Human rights and governance

6 - Rule of law and human rights in China

Grade: C
Unity 3/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 2/10
Total 8/20
Scorecard 2010/11: C (8/20)

As human-rights violations continued against the background of the transition, Europeans were more vocal on human rights than they were in 2011.

Human-rights violations continued in China in 2012 against the background of the leadership transition. In June, the EU adopted a new human-rights strategy, which seeks to streamline the EU’s approach to human rights across countries and regions. High Representative Catherine Ashton’s spokesperson said it was “very clear” that the strategy applied to China. The EU was also more vocal on human rights in 2012 than it was in 2011. For example, it included human-rights defenders, including Ai Weiwei, at the EU Nobel Prize event in Beijing, where the Chinese foreign ministry responded by throwing an early New Year’s banquet the same evening to reduce the number of attendees to the EU event. The EU human-rights dialogue was also held in Brussels, although it stayed within its symbolic confines and China refused for a third year to host a second round of the dialogue in China. Finally, the EU institutions didn’t manage to counter China’s critical “press gag” at the EU–China summit in September and the end result was that no press conference was held at all. 

The slightly stronger push at EU level hasn’t reduced completely member states’ desire to follow up on the bilateral level, but either outsourcing to the EU or outright bilateral denial of interest remained a strategy for countries such as Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Romania. Others such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, and the UK reinforced the EU’s stance by taking the initiative on human rights in their bilateral dialogues with China. Meanwhile, human-rights violations continued in China in 2012, particularly as the regime sought stability during the political transition. Ai Weiwei went on trial and, although the authorities let blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng go to the US, they subsequently persecuted his nephew. In fairness, the new long-awaited criminal procedure law did provide certain improvements such as outlawing evidence through torture, but also guaranteed the legality of the infamous “black jails” in which detainees can be held without scrutiny for prolonged periods by the police.

Promoting human rights in China
Leaders: Czech Republic - Germany - Sweden
Slackers: Italy - Latvia - Malta - Portugal - Romania