China: Human Rights

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 11th June 2019.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what plans he has to make representations to the Chinese Government on the rights of the family members of the Tiananmen Square protesters.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

To mark the 30th anniversary of the tragic events in Tiananmen Square, the Foreign Secretary released a statement remembering those who lost their lives when protesting peacefully, and urging the Chinese Government to respect the rights and freedoms enshrined in China’s constitution and in international law.

The British Government raises human rights with the Chinese authorities at all levels and will continue to do so. I raised human rights concerns with State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during my last visit to China. We also raise issues publicly, for example, we registered our concerns about human rights in China in our national statements at recent sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council and through our activity at China’s last Universal Periodic Review in November 2018.

British diplomats in Beijing have reported increased censorship and surveillance of citizens in China in the weeks leading up to 4 June. This is a common pattern they observe in the run up to the 4 June anniversary. In recent years, the Chinese authorities have also focused on censoring discussion on the anniversary on social media in China, which has reportedly included some Western news websites being restricted more than usual within China around this period. The British Embassy in China experienced such censorship first hand this week; the Embassy posted my statement in English and Chinese through social media, which was then censored within a few minutes.

We remain concerned by all restrictions on freedom of expression in China and urge the authorities to safeguard citizens’ rights to freedom of speech and expression. It is crucial that governments allow their societies and citizens to remember, debate and discuss important historical events, even when this is uncomfortable for the governments concerned.

The British Government also remains committed to making representations to the Chinese Government on the rights of relatives of protestors. During the Foreign Secretary’s last visit to China, he met with family members of detained Chinese human rights lawyers who were arrested in the so-called “709 crackdown.”

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