Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] issued a press release [text] today urging EU leaders to publicly raise concerns about the diminishing support for human rights issues in China under President Xi Jinping [BBC profile]. HRW has taken action by writing letters to EU top officials Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy asking them to use the European Union Stategic Framework [text, PDF] to help raise awareness of human rights issues under President Xi's administration. Specific rights HRW is looking for the EU to advocate to China are freedom of association, expression, and assembly [JURIST op-ed]. While advocating for these rights, HRW would also like the EU to ask Xi to release all the imprisoned citizens who have peacefully fought and addressed the human rights issues in China. Lotte Leicht, the EU director at Human Rights Watch, has responded to this issue by stating that "[t]he means of doing so are right there in the EU's own plans—but the EU's senior officials keep ducking this obligation with China, and in doing so, weakening their position." While top officials have not responded to the lack of support for human rights issues in China, HRW is optimistic of possible action by the EU with lower officials like High Representative Catherine Ashton speaking out against the death of China rights advocate Cao Shunli.
Human rights have been a controversial issue in China in recent years, along with accusations of corruption within the Chinese government. In December Human Rights Watch urged the Chinese government [JURIST report] to drop all politically motivated charges against human rights activist Xu Zhiyong and release him from prison. In August Chinese writer, lawyer and human rights advocate Yang Maodong became the second leader of the New Citizens movement to be arrested [JURIST report], following Xu, on suspicion of disrupting the peace. In June a Chinese court in Huairou sentenced [JURIST report] Liu Hui, brother-in-law of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, to 11 years in prison on charges of fraud. In May China's Nanjing Intermediate People's Court issued a life sentence [JURIST report] to Huang Sheng, the former provincial deputy governor of Shandong Province, for accepting almost $2 million in bribes form 21 organizations and numerous individuals between 1998 and 2011.