At the 38th round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue held on 17th February in Brussels, the European Union conveyed its serious concern at the persistent restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, use of forced labour, limits on due process rights and lack of judicial independence in China and the particularly vulnerable situation of Uyghurs and Tibetans.

The dialogue took place after more than three years of suspension following the adoption in March 2021 of EU sanctions against four Chinese government officials for their human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Beijing’s retaliatory sanctions against Members of the European Parliament and other individuals and entities. During his visit to Beijing in December 2022, European Council President Charles Michel announced that China had agreed to its resumption.

In a press release following the dialogue, the European External Action Service highlighted the issue of crackdown on human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in China, in particular in Xinjiang, in Tibet, in Inner Mongolia and in Hong Kong. The EU urged China to investigate and stop violations of human rights and international law, expressing concern for cases of unlawful detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment. The EU raised several individual cases and called upon China to immediately release those who are detained in disregard for due process requirements including Tibetan activists, writers and religious leaders, including Go Sherab Gyatso, Rinchen Tsultrim and Dorjee Tashi, a Tibetan businessman who is serving a life prison sentence in the Tibetan Autonomous Region Prison #2 (Drapchi) in Lhasa and whose health is deteriorating due to abuse, torture and mistreatment in prison.

“The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes the concerns raised by the EU on the human rights situation in Tibet and on the situation of several Tibetan prisoners. However, given the scale and severity of China’s human rights violations, this exercise cannot be seen as an end in itself, and we reiterate our call for the European Union to instead focus on ambitious and concrete action to advance human rights on the ground,” ICT’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten said.

In a February 15, 2023 letter, ten human rights groups including ICT had urged the EU to continue to suspend the human rights dialogues with China until conditions are met for tangible outcomes and progress. The letter notably calls on the EU to commit to the establishment of a regular monitoring and reporting process at the UN Human Rights Council on Chinese government human rights violations (as recommended by 50 UN human rights expert) and to map prospects for universal jurisdiction cases against Chinese officials suspected of responsibility for atrocity crime.

The Human Rights Dialogue was co-chaired by Ms Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific in the European External Action Service and by Mr Sun Lei, Deputy Director General for International Organisations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. EU Member States participated as observers to the Dialogue.