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Letter to Prime Minister Harper from the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China

June 22, 2010

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2


By Fax: 613-941-6900
 
June 14, 2010
 
Dear Prime Minister,
 
As members of the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China,[1] we are writing to you at this time because of the upcoming G20 Summit to be held later this month in Toronto, in which Chinese President Hu Jintao will participate. 
 
In advance of the Summit we have two simple, but profoundly important, requests to make of you.
 
The first is that, as with all opportunities for high level interaction between Chinese and Canadian officials, we urge you to put human rights at the top of the agenda in any meetings or discussions you have with President Hu during the Summit. We urge the same for any similar meetings that may take place between Chinese and Canadian ministers and other officials. Our coalition has welcomed previous efforts by you and your ministers to further the cause of human rights in China. It plays an essential role in expressing solidarity with Chinese people and sending a clear message to Chinese leaders. 
 
We would hope therefore that, among other pressing human rights concerns, you would:
 
·        raise the cases outlined in the “prisoners list” that our coalition provided to you in advance of your December 2009 trip to China;
·        press for action on the case of Huseyin Celil, the Canadian citizen of Uyghur origin serving a life prison term in China, whose release and return to Canada has been repeatedly sought by you and your government; and
·        express Canada’s deep disquiet about the great difficulties currently faced by human rights lawyers and other human rights advocates in China, who have been imprisoned, subjected to tortured, harassed and intimidated simply because they have sought to defend human rights.
 
Secondly, we note that when you announced Huntsville as the site for the G8 Summit, you emphasized it “will be a tremendous opportunity to promote Canada’s values and interests on the world stage…and to champion freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.” As such we urge that you take advantage of Canada’s position and influence to send a clear message to China and all countries taking part in the G20 Summit that G20 membership must carry with it a clear and demonstrable commitment to international human rights standards. 
At a time when China is assuming increasingly important global leadership positions, including within the G20, it is wholly unacceptable that millions of people in every corner of the country continue to suffer grave human rights violations on a daily basis. Increased prosperity must not be mistaken for increased human rights protection. To the contrary, the range of violations and the range of groups and individuals who experience human rights violations throughout China are both vast, including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, democracy-activists, human rights lawyers and advocates, trade unionists and many others.
At the same time it is also essential for China to recognize that its foreign policy, trading relationships, and other decisions and positions taken with respect to global affairs have direct implications for the protection of human rights in other countries. In such diverse countries as North Korea, Burma, and Sudan, China has both the potential to shield and protect governments with dismal human rights records and the ability to exert meaningful pressure on those governments to change. Global leaders such as China must consistently seek to strengthen – not undermine or weaken – human rghts protection, worldwide.  
More is and must be expected of nations such as China which aspire to be among the leaders of the international community. The G20 will not develop and sustain the legitimacy it seeks if it is not seen to be a grouping that takes human rights seriously both among its own members and through the decisions and policies it sets for world economic and other affairs.
Prime Minister, these early days of the G20’s development are a vitally important time to establish expectations with respect to fundamental matters such as human rights. China needs to hear and understand that message very clearly. And China is not alone, there are many members of the G20 who have far to go in improving their human rights records.
We are heartened by your pledge to make these human rights issues a priority, and we respectfully request that you take these messages forward at the summit with all due urgency.
Sincerely,
Alex Neve
Secretary General
Amnesty International Canada
(English branch)
 
On behalf of:
 
Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
Canada Tibet Committee
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Falun Dafa Association of Canada
Federation for a Democratic China (Canada)
PEN Canada
Students for a Free Tibet Canada
Toronto Association for Democracy in China
Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement


[1] The Canadian Coalition for Human Rights in China is made up of Amnesty International Canada (English & Francophone Branches), ARC International, Canada Tibet Committee, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canadian Labour Congress, Falun Dafa Association of Canada, Federation for a Democratic China, PEN Canada, Rights & Democracy, Students for a Free Tibet Canada, Toronto Association for Democracy in China, the Uyghur Canadian Association and the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement in China.

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