EU urged to prioritise human rights in China

The 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen uprising highlights the EU's need to prioritise human rights in China, argues Madi Sharma.

By Madi Sharma

02 Jun 2014

Its 25 years since the Tiananmen student-led protests and the subsequent crackdown. Chinese citizens continue to be persecuted for trying to remember the events of 1989 when hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were killed or injured on 4 June in a massacre after the people's liberation army opened fire on unarmed civilians.

This year's anniversary, though, has been marked with an even more aggressive pursuit by the Chinese authorities against any potential threat to the so much desired 'harmony' and social 'peace'.

Amnesty International has compiled a list of nearly 50 people across the country that it says have been jailed, interrogated or placed under house arrest.

"According to a New York Times report in 2009, the Communist Party has established a top-level committee charged with ensuring social stability during the period of sensitive anniversaries"

This is not a new tactic. According to a New York Times report in 2009, the Communist Party has established a top-level committee charged with ensuring social stability during the period of sensitive anniversaries.

The committee is rumoured to be led by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party, and nicknamed the '6521 project' - supposedly in reference to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, and the 10th anniversary of the banning of the Falun Gong.

The project has established branches at every level of the government, and has been carried out in part through increased surveillance of potential dissidents. The main victims of this prosecution are once more dissenters and scholars.

After a private meeting held in early May, during which more than a dozen people met to discuss the events of 1989, the participants, including relatives of those killed during the crackdown, were summoned for questioning by the police.

But unlike a similar, much larger event in 2009, five of the attendees were formally arrested. Among them: Hao Jian, a professor at the Beijing film academy; Xu Youyu, a philosophy scholar at the Chinese academy of social sciences; and Pu Zhiqiang, a charismatic rights lawyer. All face charges of "creating a public disturbance".

China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported on 12 May 2014 that Gao Yu has been detained for allegedly leaking state secrets. Gao Yu is a 70 year old prominent Chinese journalist who while in prison in 1995 received the courage in journalism award from the international women's media foundation and in 1997 was awarded the Guillermo Cano world press freedom prize by Unesco.

Friends speculated that her outspoken commentaries and interviews with foreign reporters may have riled the authorities at this sensitive time.

"Tensions over territorial disputes have been escalating and this poses a great danger for peace and security in the area"

What is even more disturbing is that China's inner insecurity has been seeping outside its own borders in an aggressive manner towards its neighbours. Tensions over territorial disputes have been escalating and this poses a great danger for peace and security in the area.

The EU must consider issues beyond trade and investment and respect the Lisbon treaty, especially article 21, which requires the European Union to address human rights as a priority in its relations with any external state.

This is without doubt a sensitive issue and should be handled with diplomacy, but diplomacy which delivers change for those being oppressed.

Read the most recent articles written by Madi Sharma - Adopting a gender-sensitive lens in global security

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