U.S. Embassy Statement on International Human Rights Day

“Human Rights is part of American DNA. As the U.S. Ambassador to China, I am honored to mark International Human Rights Day in Beijing. It is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the progress each of our nations has made, and the road still ahead, to ensure freedoms for all.” -Ambassador Terry Branstad

On 10 December, the international community marks the anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Declaration, which the General Assembly adopted without dissenting votes, states, among other things, that each and every one of us has the right to freedom of thought, religion or belief, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Here in Beijing, each of us continues to witness first-hand the significant improvements in the Chinese people’s standard of living and in access to social services such as health and education. We also witness a continuing effort to combat and prevent domestic violence. We recognize the commitment by the Chinese authorities to ensure legal representation for greater numbers of criminal defendants, and we urge China to ensure that the new system that will replace the shuanggui system will guarantee basic rights, including the right to legal representation, for all civil servants.

However, we remain extremely concerned about China’s ongoing denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms. During the past year, we have been deeply troubled by the deterioration of the situation with respect to freedom of information and freedom of expression and association, including with respect to online activity. The arrest, detention and conviction of human rights defenders, lawyers and other citizens exercising human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of religion and belief, including in Xinjiang and Tibet, have continued. We deeply regret the death in detention of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and are also concerned about the recent conviction of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, and the detention of human rights defenders including Ilham Tohti, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Tashi Wangchuk, Li Yuhan and Huang Qi, each of whom was detained in connection with their promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We call for China to immediately end the detention and harassment of these and other human rights defenders and their family members. All criminal defendants should have access to lawyers of their own choosing and to their family members, and should not be subjected to forced and public confessions. Nor may any person be subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. While recognizing the modest progress made in registering foreign NGOs during 2017, we also call on China to make additional efforts to allow foreign and domestic NGOs to register and operate freely and effectively. Finally, we continue to be concerned about the lack of effective implementation of China’s Criminal Procedure Law, as well as the adoption of laws that are incompatible with China’s laws and international obligations and commitments.

All of us know from first-hand experience the difficult and never-ending work of promoting and protecting the full spectrum of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Chinese authorities have made commitments to promote some legal reforms and the creation of a modern and prosperous society. The respect and promotion of the full range of human rights is not only consistent with these aims, but necessary to fully achieve them. In the coming year, a core part of our engagement will include working with the government and people of China to promote human rights under the Universal Declaration.