On the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we, the undersigned representatives of academia, public life and civil society in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, feel compelled to express our concern with the growing violations of human rights in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The most obvious example is the increasing repression of Uyghurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. As undemocratic trends in other countries are also gaining prominence, we view the developments in Xinjiang and the overall authoritarian direction of the PRC under the leadership of the Secretary General of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping, as a serious global issue. They are in conflict with the universal values to which the PRC itself subscribed when it became a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and, therefore, also in conflict with the values upon which Czech and Slovak societies are based after overcoming past periods without freedom when universal human rights were violated. We are particularly concerned with the following:
1) Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, the PRC is striving to redefine the concept of human rights in order to normalize and universalize acceptance of the current state of human rights in the PRC as a full-fledged alternative to the values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld by the United Nations and other international bodies. A concept of human rights which would deny their universal validity and entitle governments to define them in accordance with their own needs would ultimately threaten the rights and freedoms of other countries’ citizens. We are also concerned about the CPC’s systematic efforts to establish its human rights concept and authoritarian order as a full-fledged alternative to universal human rights in the United Nations and other international organizations.
2) In the PRC, these efforts are resulting in growing violations of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, civil society, the academic and artistic communities, the media and other social groups. Technological progress is being misused in order to enhance social control and to violate human rights, and the authoritarian character of the PRC’s political system is being consolidated. We find it regrettable that under the CPC’s leadership China is increasingly distancing itself from the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory.
3) We are alarmed by the repression of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which has accelerated since Xi Jinping’s assumption of power and particularly since Chen Quanguo’s appointment to the position of regional Party Secretary. The authorities violate political, religious, and cultural rights guaranteed by the PRC Constitution, implement digital dictatorship methods characteristic of a police state, and politically indoctrinate the entire population. We particularly condemn the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people in political reeducation camps, where, according to credible accounts, besides the political indoctrination there have also been cases of torture and death. Leading Uyghur intellectuals are being systematically detained or imprisoned—for instance, Ilham Tohti, Rahile Dawut, Tashpolat Teyip, Abdurehim Heyit, Abduqadir Jalalidin, Perhat Tursun, Tahir Talip, and others. We believe that by these actions the PRC is gravely violating the interests of its citizens and the peaceful coexistence of its ethnic groups.
4) The repression in Xinjiang is being carried out on the pretext of an overestimated threat of religious extremism and ethnic separatism allegedly endangering the social stability of Xinjiang and the territorial integrity of the PRC. In fact, Beijing is consolidating its control over Xinjiang mostly in order to consolidate its power and due to its strategic location and indispensability for the PRC’s energy security, connectivity and foreign policy, e.g., the Belt and Road Initiative. We believe it is unacceptable for the PRC to drastically violate the rights of its citizens in Xinjiang and elsewhere on the pretext of international cooperation and in the name of ideals of mutual understanding and the free exchange of values.
5) We are concerned that under the leadership of Xi Jinping the PRC is using ever more assertive methods to forward its claims in disputed border areas and towards Taiwan, supporting other non-democratic regimes, and striving to weaken the political systems and societies of democratic countries. We believe that these efforts of the CPC compromise liberal values in international relations and pose a security threat to the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
In relation to today’s 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in reaction to other movements to close the political reeducation camps in Xinjiang and end the repression of Uyghurs and other minorities by, e.g. the European Parliament, US Congress lawmakers, a committee and experts of the United Nations, the ambassadors of fifteen democratic countries to Beijing, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, global academia, the Université libre de Bruxelles, French-speaking sinologists, and other engaged individuals, we call on:
1) the authorities of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the People’s Republic of China, particularly the regional party secretary Chen Quanguo and the CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping, to immediately release all persons detained in the political reeducation camps, to end the repressive policy in Xinjiang, Tibet, and other minority regions, and to uphold the political, religious, and cultural rights of PRC citizens of all nationalities,
2) the state authorities of Slovakia and the Czech Republic to join the efforts described in the above US Congressional bill and other initiatives, and to strive to adopt efficient domestic and international measures to restore basic rights and freedoms in Xinjiang, including potential sanctions against individuals and organizations in the PRC involved in the repression of Uyghurs or other PRC citizens, and against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity according to international law and international United Nations conventions,
3) the state authorities and economic entities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to terminate cooperation with state and non-state actors within and outside the PRC which are involved in the repression of Uyghurs and other PRC citizens—for instance, with the state-owned enterprises and technology companies taking part in the digital dictatorship in the PRC—and to participate in the PRC’s international initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, only on the condition that the PRC closes political reeducation camps in Xinjiang and upholds the human rights of PRC citizens of all nationalities,
4) the state authorities of Slovakia and the Czech Republic to unconditionally promote the universality of human rights in the United Nations and other international bodies, and to strive for the PRC’s immediate closure of the political re-education camps in Xinjiang and cessation of all other forms of repression of Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other PRC citizens,
5) the state authorities of the Czech Republic and Slovakia to build on the motion of the delegations of thirteen democratic countries, including that of the Czech Republic, which on 6 November 2018 during the Universal Periodic Review criticized the state of human rights in the PRC, and to include the promotion of universal human rights in Czech and Slovak foreign policy in the future,
6) the state authorities, economic entities, academic institutions, other actors and the general public of Slovakia and the Czech Republic to advocate the observance of universal human rights in their communication with state and non-state actors and institutions of the PRC,
7) the state authorities of the Czech Republic and Slovakia to simplify the process of granting political asylum to applicants from the PRC and to prevent their repatriation,
8) the state authorities and non-governmental organizations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic to strengthen support for and education in human rights, democracy, civil society and media literacy, and also to strengthen such support in their international development programs.
Prague and Bratislava, 10 December 2018
Ondřej Klimeš, Ph.D., Sinologist and Uyghurologist
Prof. Martin Slobodník, Ph.D., Sinologist and Tibetologist
Prof. PhDr. Olga Lomová, CSc., Sinologist
Martin Hála, Ph.D., Sinologist
Dr. Jarmila Ptáčková, Sinologist and Tibetologist