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  • Documents on Democracy


On September 9, a group of NGOs, including Amnesty International, the International Campaign for Tibet, the World Uyghur Congress, Human Rights in China, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, published an open letter to the UN Human Rights Council. They urged the Council to take action against systematic human-rights abuses by the People's Republic of China. The letter is excerpted below:

Across the People's Republic of China, human rights violations are a systemic reality. Over the past year, the UN has once again documented legal and policy frameworks that fail to protect against discrimination; stigmatise Islam and stifle freedom of religious belief; undermine a wide range of socioeconomic rights and those who defend them; and permit gross violations of due process, including secret trials and arbitrary and incommunicado detention. . . .

Chinese officials have stated, clearly and forcefully in public and in private, that "China is a country of rule of law" and "will not accept interference in its internal affairs." This is patently misleading.

The Communist Party of China uses China's laws to maintain state power, not to ensure justice. Overly broad charges that do not comply with the principle of legality are used to wrongfully detain, prosecute, and convict individuals for the peaceful exercise of internationally protected rights and participation in public affairs. In effect, any person who expresses views that differ from the Party narrative, or who seeks to highlight negative impacts of Party and government policies, can be caught in the crosshairs of criminalisation.

The Chinese government has refined and replicated a practice of characterizing all difference or dissent as terrorism, subversion, or a threat to national security. The tactics deployed in Hong Kong are regularly used against Uyghur and Tibetan peoples to justify a hard-line crackdown on the legitimate exercise of human rights. This is a dangerous departure from international human rights standards. [End Page 215]

Furthermore, the Chinese government's human rights record is no longer an issue limited by its borders. The government has actively used laws and practices to disappear and detain foreign nationals, restrict access to information overseas, conduct surveillance of Chinese nationals and other exile communities, embolden its law enforcement outside Chinese borders, and impede public participation, sustainable development and transparency in third countries where China has political and economic interests. . . .

The silence of the international community has not only allowed this to decimate civil society within China, but also to endanger civil society defenders and other individuals critical of the Chinese government wherever they may be, including in the halls of the UN.

The same laws that allow the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of lawyers, public interest advocates, housing rights activists, and Christians in China's wealthy eastern areas are further refined and weaponised against ethnic and religious minorities in the west of the country, including Tibet, where international access is a significant concern. The large-scale detention program in Xinjiang, which has detained Uyghurs and other minorities, may amount to crimes against humanity. . . .

We call on the international community, and specifically the UN Human Rights Council, to stand in solidarity with the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese government, wherever they may be. This includes using all available avenues to press the Chinese government to comply with its obligations to ensure human rights and provide access to effective remedies for violations, as outlined in the UN Charter and human rights treaties. . . .

The defence of human rights is not a criminal act. The peaceful expression of dissent is not extremism. Universal rights are not subject to arbitrary limits under the guise of countering terrorism.


Maia Sandu became prime minister of Moldova in June 2019, heading an unlikely coalition government between her own pro-EU electoral alliance and the pro-Russian Socialist Party. (Her government fell on November 12 following a vote of no-confidence.) On October 13, Sandu gave the keynote address at the Forum 2000 conference in Prague. Her speech, entitled "1989 Remains an Inspiration," is excerpted below:

The last decade has not been kind to democracy promoters around the world and the last few years have been particularly dire. Despite the historical legacy of 1989, Europe is not immune...


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