ARTICLE 19 and 48 partners in civil society 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, press, 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 lockdown 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.
In this joint statement, we call on the Chinese government to immediately:
- Respect the rights to privacy and to freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression enshrined in the Constitution and international human rights law, and ensure all police responses are in line with international standards, including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
- Stop pursuing persons involved in peaceful protests, and ensure that anyone subject to violations of their rights can seek effective remedy;
- Stop surveilling, harassing, mistreating, searching and arbitrarily arresting journalists and press freedom defenders for independently reporting on the protests;
- Publish the number of persons detained for taking part in peaceful protests; provide details of their alleged crimes;
- Ensure that the family members of all those deprived of liberty are notified of their whereabouts and the charges made against them;
- Ensure the physical and psychological safety and well-being of all those currently deprived of liberty on grounds related to the recent protests, and guarantee their rights, including meeting with a lawyer of their own choice; and
- Stop interfering with, harassing and intimidating lawyers and legal professionals, human rights defenders, and others who openly express concern about the protesters or who defend the right to peaceful protest.