Sunday, December 31, 2006

Peace to the world

Woke up this morning to this song on the radio.
There's no better way to bid farewell to the old year, and welcome the new.

May there be peace on earth.

Morgen zal het vrede zijn
(Marco Borsato)

Door kapotgeschoten straten,

zonder vader zonder land.

Loop je hulpeloos verlaten

aan je moeders warme hand.

Als een schaap tussen de wolven,

haar bestemming onbekend.

En niemand ziet hoe klein je bent,

niemand ziet hoe klein je bent.

Morgen zal het vrede zijn.

Zal de zon je strelen.

Zal de wereld weer een speeltuin zijn,

en kun je rustig spelen.

Na de winter komt de lente,

wordt de grijze lucht weer blauw.

Maar al ben je uit de oorlog,

gaat de oorlog ooit uit jou?

Mooie ogen zijn vergiftigd,

zijn aan het geweld gewend.

En niemand ziet hoe klein je bent,

niemand zien hoe klein je bent.

Tomorrow it shall be peace

Through bullet-ridden streets,

With no father, with no country,

You helplessly walk alone,

In your mother’s warm hand.

Like a sheep between the wolves,

Its destination unknown.

And no one sees how small you are,

No one sees how small you are.

Tomorrow it shall be peace,

The sun shall caress you.

The world shall be a playground again,

And you can calmly play.

After the winter comes the spring,

The gray sky becomes blue again.

But even if you were away from the war,

Is the war ever away from you?

Beautiful eyes are poisoned,

Are used to the violence.

And no one sees how small you are,

No one sees how small you are.]

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam no more...

He was hung this morning, at dawn. On one of the holiest days in the Muslim world, the Eid ul-Adha; ironically the day when the prophet Abraham proved his willingness to sacrifice his own son to God.

No doubt Saddam Hussein was a dictator, murderer and tyrant, but to some the execution stinks of hypocrisy, and is an affront to the Muslim faith. Perhaps some will even see his death as a 'sacrifice', and fuel their cause to wreak havoc and destruction in so-called democratic Iraq, and elsewhere. Nobody knows where his body is being taken to, out of fear of inciting pilgrimages to his grave.

He was convicted for the killing of 148 people in al-Dujail village, after an assination attempt some sixteen years. The original sentence was handed down back in November, and upon appeal reaffirmed on 26 December 2006. Four days later, the noose was strapped around his neck.

As much as Saddam deserved to be punished, the death penalty does not seem to serve any purpose. The charge of killing those people is trivial compared to the other crimes against humanity, political terror and perhaps even war crimes he has commited over the years. The families and relatives of those killed so many years ago may be glad, but what of the many torture and political victims, the countless Kurds, and those who died in the wars and purges under his tyranny? The trial is supposed to uncover the past and help in the reconciliation process, but instead, like many in the Arab world have suggested, it's a sham and show trial (see comments by Amnesty International).

The 'head' of the terror regime of Saddam's Iraq may have been removed, but the terror will continue. By convicting and punishing one person the causes of the current state of chaos and fighting between factions in Iraq are not removed. Instead, as the car bombs moments after Saddam's hanging spread in the news show, the bloodshed will continue. This is no way to build the democracy and promote peace and reconciliation the new Iraqi (puppet) government and US administration insist on.

-- -- --

O dear Iraqi people, you who have put up with the hardship for years and suffered from the injustice of tyrants and dictators throughout the era of the hateful dictatorship.

"Your generous and pure land has got rid - and for ever - of the filth of the dictator and a black page of Iraq's history has been turned and the tyrant has died."
Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki

-- -- --

Of course, Saddam has committed too many crimes. He deserves for those crimes capital punishment. But so quickly done, so quickly executed... and only in one case - it would leave the other cases and leave a lot of secrets without being known."
Iraqi Kurdish politician, Mahmoud Osman

-- -- --
Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops. Bringing [him] to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.
US president George W Bush
-- -- --
"He has been killed, but I believe he will be more dangerous to the forces of the occupiers and their allies after his death than when he was alive.
George Galloway, British MP
-- -- --

"Saddam Hussein was responsible for massive human rights violations, but that can't justify giving him the death penalty, which is a cruel and inhuman punishment...

"The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders...

"It defies imagination that the Appeals Chamber could have thoroughly reviewed the 300-page judgment and the defence's written arguments in less than three weeks' time... The appeals process appears even more flawed than the trial...
Human Rights Watch

-- -- --

"His trial should have been a major contribution towards establishing justice and ensuring truth and accountability for the massive human rights violations perpetrated when he was in power, but his trial was a deeply flawed affair" said Malcolm Smart of [Amnesty International]. "It will be seen by many as nothing more than 'victor's justice' and, sadly, will do nothing to stem the unrelenting tide of political killings."

The trial before the [Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal ] failed to satisfy international fair trial standards. Political interference undermined the independence and impartiality of the court, causing the first presiding judge to resign and blocking the appointment of another, and the court failed to take adequate measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were assassinated during the course of the trial. Saddam Hussein was also denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest, and complaints by his lawyers throughout the trial relating to the proceedings do not appear to have been adequately answered by the tribunal. The appeal process was obviously conducted in haste and failed to rectify any of the flaws of the first trial.
Amnesty International

-- -- --

The direct impact of these circumstances was felt inside the court, through the killing of three defence lawyers and one judge. In addition, the initial establishment of the tribunal under American occupation meant that it carried an inevitable taint of illegitimacy in the eyes of a sizeable number of Iraqis.

In retrospect it seems clear that this trial was held at the wrong time in the wrong place. Despite the genuine advantages of holding the trial in Baghdad, to bring it closer to the society from which Saddam Hussein's victims had come, it is now obvious that the pressures on the court were simply too great. But to consider the ideal forum for Saddam's trial in the abstract - to weigh impartially the pros and cons of different judicial approaches from the disembodied perspective of international justice - is to miss the actual context in which the decision was made.

The Iraqi political leaders involved in discussing the question of war-crimes trials with American and British representatives were adamant that the alleged "regime criminals" should be held to account in Iraq, with the death penalty as a possible sanction. The question then was not simply, "Would it be better for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen to be tried outside Iraq?" but more importantly, "Would it be right to override the Iraqis' own strongly-expressed desire to try their own former dictator, and impose an international solution by international fiat?"
Crimes of War

1 January 2007
My point exactly, and put in better words than I could:
This does not bode well for the coming year. No one imagined the madmen would actually do it during a religious holiday. It is religiously unacceptable and before, it was constitutionally illegal. We thought we'd at least get a few days of peace and some time to enjoy the Eid holiday, which coincides with the New Year this year. We've spent the first two days of a holy holiday watching bits and pieces of a sordid lynching.

America the savior… After nearly four years and Bush's biggest achievement in Iraq has been a lynching. Bravo Americans.

One of the most advanced countries in the world did not help to reconstruct Iraq, they didn't even help produce a decent constitution. They did, however, contribute nicely to a kangaroo court and a lynching. A lynching shall go down in history as America's biggest accomplishment in Iraq. So who's next? Who hangs for the hundreds of thousands who've died as a direct result of this war and occupation? Bush? Blair? Maliki? Jaffari? Allawi? Chalabi?

Baghdad Burning

UPDATE 21 January 2007

Mr Bush’s response:

"It basically says to people, 'Look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others. But then, when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing,'" the president said.

"It makes it harder for me to make the case to the American people that this is a government that does want to unify the country and move forward," Bush said. "And it just goes to show that this is a government that has still got some maturation to do."
Bush says Iraq hangings show Baghdad government "still got some maturation to do"

Reactions from ordinary Iraqis. More reactions from fellow Bloggers:

Did our government wish a Happy Eid for Iraqis along with the New Year when the execution of Saddam took place? Or did they just take revenge and mock us by ornamenting these days with such horrific scenes?

Just like always, to make one step forward we end with three steps backward! Showing Saddam's execution as an act of Shia revenge will only deepen the gap we have now

First off, it's not only the Sunnis that were appalled by the date and the way the execution was carried out. Every Iraqi who is not a Moqtada follower or a supporter of the current government was outraged.
How do I know this you ask? Well, simple. I work with about 40 Iraqis, a mixture of Shias, Sunnis, Christians and Kurds.
Out of all those I spoke to, only two were exuberant about the whole thing.
Neurotic Iraqi wife

And that horrible decapitation incident of Saddam’s half brother just tops the gruesomeness of capital punishment:

Ibrahim [Saddam’s half brother] plunged through the trap door and was beheaded by the jerk of the thick rope at the end of his fall; the Iraqi government said the decapitation was an accident. Saddam's Dec. 30 execution drew international outrage after a clandestine video showed the former president being taunted on the gallows. A second leaked video showed Saddam's corpse with a gaping neck wound.

Hours after Ibrahim and al-Bandar were executed, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Italian Premier Romano Prodi condemned the hangings.

"Our position, born out of principle, is against the death penalty," Barroso said in Rome. "It's an issue of values. We consider that no man has the right to take the life of another man."
Botched executions in Iraq prompt renewed calls to abolish the death penalty worldwide

The Dalai Lama is against hanging too:

"Amnesty International has issued an appeal in general against death by hanging and I was a signatory to it," the 71-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader told reporters when asked to comment on the hanging on Dec. 30 of Saddam.

"I am opposed to hanging," he said. "Everybody needs peace, violence cannot achieve anything."

On a lighter note:
A village full of Saddam Husseins!

But there is one problem in having so many Saddam Husseins, says villager Mohammed Hassan Abbas.

"In the playground we have Saddam Hussein running after Saddam Hussein, behind Saddam Hussein who is ahead of Saddam Hussein but too far from Saddam Hussein... it can all get a little confusing," he said.

A cartoon which explains who was behind the hanging...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

And so this is Christmas...

And so this is Christmas

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The war is so long
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun

(John Lennon)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

EU-China Human Rights Dialogue

OK, due to 'popular' demand I'm posting the paper I just got back.

In short, it's a critical assessment of the rationale, means and effectiveness behind the Human Rights Dialogue conducted with China by the European Union. The conclusions drawn are disappointing, and perhaps expected. China's poor human rights situation has not improved in any way, if at all, despite ten years have passed since the twice-annual dialogue sessions began in 1995. Reasons cited are, inter alia, China's insistence on sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs, differing views on what human rights mean and divisions within the Union on how to engage China. The People's Republic's economic and political importance also makes human rights 'dialogue' difficult, if not unrealistic.

Note that the EU is not the only country that conducts such a human rights dialogue. Other countries, like the US, Australia, Brazil and even some Member States of the EU individually also engagement in such dialogue with China about its human rights situation. However, the conclusions and effectiveness are very similar.

Enjoy! : )

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own, and conclusions drawn from extensive research and use of official policy papers. Please respect my intellectual property rights and cite me if you intend to use any part of this paper.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Talking about Human Rights:

The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue

University of Leiden

International Relations



Introduction: EU-China relations

The People’s Republic of China’s economic rise and growing political importance since its ‘opening’ and reform in the late 1970s has made it a vital international player. Whereas relations between the European Union and were officially established in 1975, prior to the 1990s, the European Union’s relations with the People’s Republic of China were largely trade based, established by an agreement signed in 1985.[1] Today, after the United States, China is the largest trading partner of the EU, with trade reaching some €210billion in 2005.[2] Not only does China’s huge population offer a lucrative market for European countries, its permanent membership of the Security Council, as well as geopolitical influence in the Asia-Pacific region, and increasingly elsewhere, means that it is an up-and-coming power to be recognised.[3]

The EU and China both share an interest to build a “common zone of peace, prosperity and stability”.[4] This maybe due to the desire of both power blocs to act as counter-weights against the United States,[5] in building a multilateral system to meet the demands of economic globalisation, and other global security and environmental issues. In sum, the EU has identified the need for a “coherent, coordinated and long-term” strategy[6] to “respond effectively to China’s renewed strength”.[7]

Human rights and the EU’s external relations

Current EU policy toward China is enshrined in the 2003 document entitled A maturing partnership: shared interests and challenges in EU-China relations.[8] This builds on two previous policy documents from the European Commission, and as the title suggests is a consolidation of a ‘mature’ partnership.[9] The approach is “a strategy of comprehensive engagement”, uniting the common positions of all Member States of the Union, so as to integrate China’s increasingly important political and economic role into the international community and “to support its transition towards an open society based upon the rule of law”.[10]

It is this latter component of the Union’s policy toward China that deserves attention. That China’s human rights record is poor is beyond doubt, and of democracy, in the western sense of guarantees of fundamental freedoms and representative government, there is little to speak.[11] In contrast, the EU has identified human rights and democracy as “fundamental pillars of enhancing peace and security as well as promoting development objectives” in its external relations.[12] The presentation of a benign moral leadership of the Union is founded in the Common Foreign and Security Policy under Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union (Amsterdam), where the EU seeks to uphold the United Nations Charter, alongside developing and consolidating “democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” in its dealings with third states.[13] Express references to fundamental rights are made in association agreements with other states, in which the EU wields the possibility to even suspend development aid and financial assistance where grave violations occur.[14] This ambition to infuse the respect for human rights in external relations is evidence that the EU has progressively asserted its role in championing the very rights and duties of Article 6 not only within its borders, but the world over as well.[15]

These contrasting values between the EU and China led the Commission to admit that:

China is not always an easy partner for the EU […] China’s opening and joining the international community has always been fraught with difficulties and is likely to be so for many years.[16]

Even so, in contrast to the United States, which pursues a tougher approach of engagement coupled with containment,[17] the European Union, and its Member States, pursue a policy of dialogue.[18] For it is through dialogue that the EU aims to reach a “constructive resolution of differences” in perceptions about the scope and commitments to human rights.[19] As former External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten argued that despite a “legal, as well as a moral obligation to promote” human rights, “Europe cannot be 'holier than thou'”.[20]

Two objectives are addressed in the dialogue—the promotion of the rule of law, and the strengthening of civil society. An effective and independent legal system is seen by the EU as essential to develop a society based on the rule of law, and to better protect the rights of individuals.[21] Simultaneously, a strong civil society is necessary for the inclusion of social actors in political and social processes so as to ensure developments towards greater overall openness. It is thus the belief of the EU that economic development is only sustainable with greater “respect for human rights, democratic accountability and the rule of law, as well as a democratic participation of citizens in decision-making processes”.[22] As a result, the EU’s interaction with China is one of engagement, but based on human rights conditionalities.[23]

It is also necessary to establish a forum for dialogue to make the Chinese side aware the reasons why European governments are concerned, and why these concerns cannot simply be ignored. And to prevent individual complaints being ignored, it is necessary for the EU to adopt a common stand in engaging dialogue so that China cannot simply “play off one country against another”.[24] Dialogue is also better than confrontation, because it assures Beijing that contrary to its fears of western imperialism and intervention,[25] the EU is not trying to “sow discord inside China”, but rather trying to constructively bring about change and greater respect for universally accepted values.[26

Dialogue through the multilateral fora

China’s sustained high growth has indeed raised the economic welfare of the social and economic well-being of its immense population. But China’s rising standards of living has proven neo-liberals, who contend that increasing wealth and the development of a middle class will simultaneously lead to pressures for political and civil participation, wrong.[27] The violent quashing of the pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square in 1989 propelled serious concerns about the human rights situation in China into a core element of the EU’s and its respectively members’ dealings with the country.[28] China was strongly condemned, and various economic and arms sanctions were imposed.

However, it was not long before the suspended economic and high level contacts were re-established, and by the early 1990s all sanctions, except the arms embargo, had been lifted. Living up to its promise of “raising the issue of human rights in China in the appropriate international fora”,[29] and perhaps in order to deflect criticism that the EU was neglecting human rights issues in favour of economic interests, Member States within the Union began adopting a common position within the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 1992. Indeed, it is at the multilateral level, within the United Nations mechanism where states representing the west as well as developing countries are present, that can better dispel China’s criticisms that condemnations of its human rights situation is plagued by “selectivity, discrimination or targeting”.[30] For many years, the EU tabled or co-sponsored a series of resolutions raising concern about China’s human rights record.[31] The resolutions, however, were never successful, and after stringent lobbying by China, all were blocked by ‘no action’ resolutions.[32] The Portuguese representative, speaking on behalf of the EU, underlining the frustration of resolutions being blocked, argued that:

“[n]o country was immune to investigation by the Human Rights Commission. Procedural motions like this put in question the right of the Commission to deal with country situations at all. Despite positive steps in China, little progress had been made on the ground, particularly with regard to civil and political rights.”[33]

The 1995 resolution, tabled by France on behalf of the EU, was narrowly defeated by just one vote.[34] Then, in 1997, the EU’s common position broke as France,[35] joined by Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain stopped co-sponsoring the resolution at the CHR, due to commercial interests.[36] The promise of a significant number of Airbus orders, and attempts to curry China’s favour, proved to be more of a concern than human rights.[37] This came despite more ‘principled’ countries like Denmark and the Netherlands continued to table a strong condemnation of the human rights situation in China that year. Those who refused to vote for the resolution were rewarded, while those who insisted in supporting the resolution were sanctioned by China through the cancellation of official visits and business opportunities,[38] thus effectively signalled the end of the EU’s common position at the CHR. Afterwards, the EU began to reassess its use of the multilateral fora to induce China to improve its human rights situation.[39] It was clear that a confrontational approach of tabling resolution by Member States of the Union acting in unity “was rapidly being shown to be devoid of any value”, and that it had instead “been valuable in breaking up the EU consensus and in deflecting serious criticism in international fora”.[40]

All talk? The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue

It was China that proposed the commencement of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue,[41] perhaps “as a way of deflecting criticism and deterring the EU member states from co-sponsoring a resolution” at the multilateral level.[42] Starting in 1995, the Troika, composing of the Foreign Minister of the EU Presidency, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Union’s External Relations Commissioner, has twice a year conducted human rights talks with their Chinese counterparts. The Dialogue has continued till this day, except for an interruption after the insistence of Denmark and 9 other Member States of the Union to table a resolution at the CHR in 1997. The interruption does indeed suggest that China’s motivation to start human rights dialogue with the EU on a bilateral basis may be a means to dampen the pressure as compared to a multilateral arena.

There is little information about the substantive discussions that take place behind closed doors in the twice annual EU-China Human Rights Dialogue. Evidence of sessions taking place can only be gleamed from the press releases by either side, which tend emphasise the success of the meetings, yet no go into the substance of what progress has been made.[43] There is also the EU’s Annual Report on Human Rights, which does go into some detail about the issues of concern raised, and the response from the Chinese side. Then, there are also various publications by non-governmental organisations concerned with the human rights situation in China, which tend to be very critical of the lack of trasnparency, and lack of any substantial change in the human rights situation in China, despite the continuation of these Dialogues.

Thus the latest EU Annual Report on Human Rights, while acknowledging China’s progress in economic and social development in recent decades, expressed concern that:

[v]iolations of human rights continued to occur, these including restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and association, a lack of progress in respect for the rights of persons belonging to minorities, continued widespread application of the death penalty, and the persistence of torture.[44]

Further, as often is the case, Dialogue with China does not lead to much progress, and at times causes China to respond by pointing to the faults within the EU. The result generally is that hopes to conduct Dialogue in an “active, sustained and constructive way” [45] are frustrated:

Familiar replies were given on questions relating to freedom of expression, Internet, freedom of religion and belief including Falun Gong, and freedom of association and the role of NGOs. China raised concerns about racism and xenophobia in the EU. Discussion on the rights of persons belonging to minorities showed little common ground.[46]

Despite the criticisms, China does take note the EU’s concerns on the question of human rights, and:

[a]ppreciates the EU's persistent position for dialogue and against confrontation and stands ready to continue dialogue, exchange and cooperation on human rights with the EU on the basis of equality and mutual respect […][47]

From the language, one can see that China responds better to dialogue than conflict, and that it lays important on the idea of ‘equality’ and ‘respect’. China has constantly insisted that it attaches “importance to human rights and made unremitting efforts in this regard”[48] and often cites the high number of conventions it has joined as evidence of its willingness to live up to its international obligations.[49] Thus it has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2001, and signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1998. In 2004, the Constitution of the People’s Republic was amended to include that “the State respects and safeguards human rights”, and is thereby recognised as ushering “in a new chapter in the progress of China's human rights undertakings”.[50] In Beijing’s White Paper entitled China's Progress in Human Rights in 2004, China emphasised the achievements in civil and political rights, economic and social rights, rights of minorities and the disabled, and concludes that:

China will, as always, make persistent efforts in promoting continuous progress of human rights in China and healthy development of international human rights.[51]

Yet, to outside observers, China’s human rights record has not improved much, if at all. Criticisms of China’s suppression and jailing of political dissidents, poor freedom of press,[52] lack of an impartial judiciary system and the conditions of its detention system, as well as the crackdown on religious freedom and separatist movements are abound. Freedom House’s documentation of the political rights and civil liberties situation in China since 1996—the one year after the start of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue— and it is apparent that there has been little, or no, progress:

Ratings Timeline (Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)[53]





































Source: Adopted from Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2006, Freedom House, available at: . A country is rated on a seven-point scale for both political rights and civil liberties, 1 being most free, 7 being the least free, and assigned a broad category status. In China’s case this is NF, meaning ‘Not Free’.

The lack of progress on China’s part has led Human Rights Watch to call the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue “largely […] an end in themselves, without relevance to on-the-ground changes in the human rights climate”. Further, in line with the criticism earlier that the Dialogue was a way to circumvent multilateral pressure at the Commission on Human Rights, the Dialogue is said to have been used by China to “marginalize human rights, delay making real progress, and keep individual dialogue partners busy pursuing separate agendas and issues.”[54] Indeed, this echoed the recognition by the European Commission itself, already in 2001, thatdialogue is an acceptable option only if progress is achieved on the ground”.[55]

Explanations for the ineffectiveness of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue

A number of explanations underline the difficulty of engaging in a human rights dialogue with China. First is the fact that either parties hold different ideas of what the concept human rights mean. Since China’s reforms since the 1970s, the emphasis has been to modernise the country and bring its masses out of poverty, and thus more attention is paid to economic and social rights than the civil and political variant. Development and growth requires stability, and the regime’s survival rests on the notion of “socialist political democracy” with Chinese characteristics which:

[puts] the people first and seeking an overall, coordinated and sustainable development, and strives to promote economic development and social progress to satisfy the people's multiple needs and realize their all-round development.[56]

Indeed, it must be recognised that to ordinary Chinese, these are freer times than they have ever before enjoyed, and in line with the Beijing’s prioritisation of stability before freedom, concerns of the West, or the EU, with regard to the repression of political and civil rights are not much shared.[57] To its defence, China insists it is still “a developing country, and its human rights conditions are in a process of sustained development and perfection”.[58] Further, in line with its attachment to sovereignty and China argues that:

[t]he history and reality of human political civilization have proved that there is no one single and absolute democratic mode in the world that is universally applicable.[59]

Such language thus reflects China’s sensitivity to criticisms from abroad, which is often perceived as “malicious and ill-intentioned”.[60] The constant lecturing of China on human rights “complicate[s] the practice of diplomacy”,[61] especially when China is less than receptive to the whole conception of human rights as seen from the perspective of the Union. This is especially poignant when China sees subsistence and stability as fundamental principles of its development and ‘peaceful rise’ based on state sovereignty and non-interference.[62] It should be noted that whenever China is under the spotlight for its poor human rights record, Beijing appeals to the debate whether human rights is universally valid as another means of undermining the criticisms of the EU.[63] China thus projects itself as a victim of European colonialism,[64] and a champion of the developing world,[65] effectively as way to deflect its own failings to pointing to the hypocrisy and pasts of the accusers.

On assuming membership of the newly established United Nations Human Rights Council, China said that the Council “should respect the historical, cultural and religious backgrounds” of different countries, and “attach equal importance to civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other”. Further, the People’s Republic called the Council to work in “an impartial and non-selective manner in order to avoid double standards and politicization, and promote genuine interactive dialogue and cooperation” and avoid the “recurrence of political confrontation prevalent” in its predecessor.[66] China argued that the body “should focus its attention on widespread and gross human rights violations”, as well as promote the right to development and economic, social and cultural rights.[67]

Indeed, one could question why other countries, like India or Russia, which are comparably just as influential economically and politically, are not criticised as harshly, whereas China seems to bear the brunt of the ‘West’s’ lecturing.[68] As fair as the criticisms by the EU are, is it not hypocritical to expect change by a country which has been experimenting with reform and opening for three decades at most, whereas European countries took to achieve in centuries? Given the size and complexity of China’s population and territory, the rights to economic and social development really are the primary concerns, whereas the West and EU unfairly have a bias towards the development of civil and political rights.[69] As China has pointed out, despite the frustratingly slow progress in the human rights situation, and though perhaps unsatisfactory to western, or even international standards, there is progress.[70]

As alluded to early, one motivation for Beijing to initiate the Dialogue was to deal with the EU on an individual basis, rather than multilaterally. This allows China more bargaining power and is able to play off one country within the EU against others—even more so when already at the multilateral level the divisions between Member States became apparent.[71] Indeed, the shift from the multilateral/UN level to the EU-China Dialogue “channelled criticism of China’s human rights record into a private forum”.[72] Baker calls the Dialogue “a superb weapon”, which works entirely to China’s advantage. The Dialogue appears to be more important to the EU and its constituent members, because it is evidence that they are raising concerns about China’s human rights situation, despite the apparent differences amongst states. However productive it is, the EU can no longer return to tabling human rights resolutions at the UN-level, for circumventing this was the very reason why China was enthusiastic about the Dialogue in the first place.[73]

Further, the lack of transparency in the EU-China Dialogue, as well as “diminished international pressure has resulted in the dialogues becoming less substantive”. [74] Most notably, the failure of human rights dialogues “to address structural systemic problems in China, such as the lack of an independent judiciary and the use of law for political control and to silence political dissent” and the lack of consultation and cooperation with non-governmental organisations “in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs” means that in effect there are no effective means of overseeing the dialogue and its intended outcomes.[75] It is simply unrealistic and ineffective, as many NGOs have noted, that the Dialogue is conducted without the participation of civil society groups, which are invariably have more expertise and are more attuned to the realities and difficulties of the human rights situation on the ground. Thus:

[t]he complexity of the challenges to end human rights abuses and promote greater protections for rights demands multiple levels of intervention by a range of actors in government, the private sector and NGOs.[76]

While the EU speaks of a united and comprehensive long-term strategy, with human rights, though sensitive, as a core component of its relations with China, without the participation and scrutiny of NGOs in the Dialogue, there is little pressure from the public or outside on the individual Member States to adopt a common stance toward China.

That the different states within the EU pursue their individual interests when it comes to relations with China is yet another reason the development of a coherent Dialogue toward China is undermined. For practical reasons, this may be confusing to Beijing. In certain areas the EU has full competence (such as trade), whereas in an issue such as the weapons embargo it is the Member States who have the final say.[77] The lack of a comprehensive and coherent policy with respects to the CFSP pillar, as well as divided approach and emphasis of different Member States in relations with China substantially plays to China’s advantage, especially concerning a thorny issue like human rights. China has not shied away from playing the differences in Member States to bypass scrutiny of its human rights situation.[78]

The fact that leading members of the Union, like the Germany and France, are less willing to directly address the issue of human rights when engaging China weakens overall international pressure. As Human Rights in China put it:

Policies on the human rights situation in China should be part of a consistent, principled approach in which all countries are subject to the same international human rights standards, regardless of such factors as their status in the United Nations or their potential as markets.[79]

Ideally this should be the common denominator of all Member States in their bilateral and common positions when acting in unison representing the Union. Acting in concert is “more helpful to promoting norms consensually rather than coercively”.[80] However important China is economically, one should not put the human rights issue to the background, like some big Member States have been all too willing to do.[81] In reality, it is well-known that some members of the EU:

have made little secret of the fact that dialogue is more conducive to the enhancement of commercial opportunities than what has been termed "confrontation" with China on human rights.[82]

And the bourgeoning trade relations between key members like France and Germany[83] with China means that it is unrealistic to expect those governments to adopt a tough stance on the human rights issue. As has been put elegantly:

[d]emocratic governments will be more reluctant to spend political capital in discouraging their citizens, and their press, from uncovering the less attractive sides of Chinese reality for the sake of maintaining good commercial relations with the PRC.[84]

In other words, that though the promotion of democracy and human rights “seems to be an important EU policy objective” in its external relations, it is only a part of a hierarchy of interest that is often trumped by “other interests and objectives”, such as security and commerce. Inevitably, as an aggregate foreign policy of two dozen member states, it is unlikely that EU’s approach to promoting human rights and democracy can be “completely consistently […] value based”.[85]

Nowhere is this division and trade off between commercial and human rights interest more apparent than in the issue of the embargo on arms and sale of dual use technology still in place.[86] Within the Union, spearheaded by Germany and France which both stand to gain from a lifting of the embargo, there are arguments that given China’s growing economic importance, it is an anachronistic to place China in the same category as Myanmar and Zimbabwe. Other countries, namely the Scandinavian ones, are not so convinced, thus underlining a clear inability to reach a comprehensive and coherent EU policy on the matter.[87] Even in the Union’s common approach to the arms embargo, it must be noted that the scope of the embargo, adopted under a Council Declaration is admittedly “not clearly defined”, whereby “different Member States interpret the embargo on sales of arms to China in different way”.[88] This does not suggest that there is an outright ban, and indeed exchanges in military or dual-use technology continue despite the ban.[89]

The EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports adopted in 1998 aimed to lay down criteria “against which Member States assess applications to export military equipment”, including the need to exercise “exercise special caution and vigilance” when aiming to export to “countries where serious violations of human rights have been established”.[90] From the language, there does not appear to be a complete ban on sale of military equipment; it merely stipulates a responsibility on Member States have self-restraint. There have been attempts to strengthen the code, for the sake of greater transparency and accountability of the exports of individual Member States, but little progress has been achieved.[91] A number of states, lead by the United Kingdom, want to license and regulate arms sales, and link it to human rights and regional stability.[92]

Indeed, the embargo has more symbolic value, and to China is a constant reminder that it is still not an equal partner.[93] Very recently, Prime Minister Wen Jia-Bao, in line with criticisms voiced by the Chinese side since trade and relations intensified with the EU, again rejected attempts to link “economic and trade issues with the so-called human rights issues.”[94] Amnesty International expressed concerns that despite the EU’s insistence that the arms embargo will only be lifted pending human rights reform, “[t]he Chinese government has yet to present a coherent plan of reform”.[95] Undoubtedly the embargo is also concerned with the overall security situation in East Asia, and most specifically the fears that China may acquire European armaments to realise the threats invading Taiwan.[96] There is strong opposition in the national and European parliaments to lifting the ban, due of course to the lack of clear improvement in human rights since 1989, but to the strong opposition from the United States as well.[97]

In a similar vein, given China’s economic position in the world today, it is unrealistic for one country to “set pre-requests or pre-conditions (such as the human rights issue) for its trade with China”, because China could easily find alternative trade partners who are more willing to turn a blind eye to the issue.[98] Closely related is the fear of China’s retaliation should a Member State of the EU adopt a too critical stance on the human rights issue. The temporary freezing of economic relations by China in the aftermaths of the French sale of fighters and frigates in 1992 to Taiwan is an example of how dependent members of the EU have become on China’s economy, and an illustration also of how China is able to take retaliatory measures against states that should trespass against it.[99]

Another explanation of the ineffectiveness of the EU’s human rights dialogue with China concerns the very subject matter discussed. As laudable as efforts to scrutinise and influence China’s human rights situation, compliance is purely voluntary,[100] and any violation can have little or no impact on the violator state. Especially in a country like China, sanctions hurt little unless adopted multilaterally and unanimously, and as already alluded to, the EU’s trade dependency is simply too great to restrict or sever economic ties with China completely. Resorting to public pronouncements of disapproval or shaming may have even less impact,[101] especially given the Chinese economic importance and open disapproval of any criticism of what it classifies as strictly internal affairs.[102] Whereas perhaps the universal standard of human rights and compliance to international guarantees and norms to protect those values are nowadays increasingly used as a yardstick by western countries to measure the standard of ‘civility’ or acceptance into the international community,[103] China does not seem to be concerned about its reputation.[104] Indeed, China’s economic and political weight means that it is easily able to bypass critics, for it is unrealistic, and perhaps even undesirable, to try to isolate the country with its immense market and influence in its immediate region, politically.[105]

The divide-and-rule approach and playing to the interests of individual Member States certainly works in China’s favour, to the detriment of the Union. Indeed, for the EU to have a credible and united stand, regardless of the commercial or other interests at stake, it should not be seen as having a double standard, while on the one hand including conditionality in trade agreements with third states, but on the other hand silencing itself when it comes to dealing with perhaps one of the gravest violators of human rights.[106]


In the latest paper entitled EU – China: Closer partners, growing responsibilities, the Commission noted that despite repeated commitments by the Chinese to reform, “progress on the ground has been limited”. It was reaffirmed that the EU “must consider how it can most effectively assist China’s reform process, making the case that better protection of human rights, a more open society, and more accountable government would be beneficial to China, and essential for continued economic growth”. To do this, the Commission noted that the Human Rights Dialogue should be:

• more focussed and results-oriented, with higher quality exchanges and concrete results;

• more flexible, taking on input from separate seminars and sub-groups;

• better co-ordinated with Member State dialogues.[107]

In fact, compared to the 2001 Council Communication, very much the same concerns were raised.[108] If anything, the lack of significant improvements since the start of the EU’s twice annual human rights dialogue with China in 1995 underlines the inability of the EU to effectively deal with an up-and-coming power which is also a flagrant abuser of human rights. However deeply engaged China is in the human rights dialogue, either with the European Union, or with other countries in the world, positive change in the human rights situation can only be ensured if Beijing is committed and willing to implement progress on the ground.[109]

Some states seem to believe that appeals to moral arguments and persuasion that if China wants to be fully recognised as a fully-fledged member of the international community, it should guarantee the rights of its citizens and develop a more open and democratic society that is receptive to free information and criticism.[110] Granting China entry into the WTO, or even the right to hold the Olympic Games in 2008 may be symbolic gestures to confirm China’s important status today. Yet critics argue that these rewarding gestures are premature in light of lack of significant improvements in China’s promises to live up to its international obligations.

Despite all the proclamations of successful of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue for the past decade, little substantive progress can be seen on the ground. This the European Union itself has come to admit, and even come to question the effectiveness of such twice annual Dialogues. As explained, these are due to differences between the EU and China on the conception of human rights, as well as difference between the Member States of the Union. These differences play to the advantage of China, in that it may simply shrug away criticism through appeals to value imperialism, or countries that are more willing to conduct relations with China and turn a blind eye to its human rights record at the same time.

The EU’s “[r]elations with China will be a major opportunity and challenge for the EU for years to come”, where success is possible if it is “based on two willing and committed partners”.[111] A balancing act is how to “encourage and promote gradual change” within China, in terms of respect for greater individual freedoms and reform of the government structure and improvements in the rule of law, but not to do so in an overtly aggressive or imperialistic way so as to provoke antagonism and greater disdain for the concerns of the international community.

The self-identification of the European Union as a liberal-democracy means that in its dealings with others, the Union will seek to “promote those values in their foreign policies as both a reflection and a reinforcement of their identities”.[112] It is through the EU’s self-perception, as well as perception by its partners in the world as a normative power in world politics that it “stakes its claim to being a legitimate and thus a more effective international actor”.[113] For the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy to be credible and coherent, it cannot allow internal division and the self-interests of certain member states to trump over the core values of human rights and democracy it so highly upholds. To third states, it would surely be hypocritical if only those small and less significant partners of the Union are preached to and chastised for failing to live up to the expectations of progress in human rights, whereas with regards to China, perhaps the clearest example of how such values are constantly being infringed upon, there is a resort to self-censorship in order to protect economic and geopolitical interests. As former Dutch Foreign Minister van Mierlo put it at the 1997, the year which symbolically marked the end of the EU’s common position at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights:

There is a risk of double standards by the EU towards big powerful countries and smaller, not powerful, countries.[114]

The incumbent External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner recently called for a “new, extended Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA)” with China along the lines of the current EU-US partnership in order to raise “this extremely important partnership to a higher level”. She explaining that this is because “EU-China relations political and security issues, trade and economic co-operation, science and technology, environment, and sensitive questions such as human rights”.[115]
Undoubtedly China’s importance in the world, and as a partner of the EU, will remain vital for the foreseeable future. However, it is on the “sensitive questions” of human rights that will be a test of the EU’s ability to live up to its proclaimed values, and of China’s ability to live up to responsibilities as a world power.


Philip Baker, ‘Human Rights, Europe and the People's Republic of China’, 169 The China Quarterly 45 (2002)

Barbara Brandtner and Allan Rosas, ‘Human Rights and the External Relations of the European Community: An Analysis of Doctrine and Practice’, 9 European Journal of International Law 468 (1998)

Elena Fierro, ‘Legal Basis and Scope of the Human Rights Clauses in EC Bilateral Agreements: Any Room for Positive Interpretation?’ 7 European Law Journal 41 (2001)

Rosemary Foot, Rights beyond borders : the global community and the struggle over human rights in China, Oxford University Press: New York, 2000

Richard L. Grant (ed.), The European Union and China: a European strategy for the twenty-first century, Royal Institute of International Affairs: London, 1995

Tom Grunfeld, `Human Rights and the People's Republic of China’, 9 Touro International Law Review 71 (2001)

Zeng Huaqun, ‘Promoting a New Bilateral Legal Framework for China-EU Economic Relations’, 3 Chinese Journal of International Law 189 (2004);

Jonathan Holslag, ‘The European Union and China: The Great Disillusion’, 11 European Foreign Affairs Review 555 (2006)

Anne Orford, ‘Beyond Harmonization: Trade, Human Rights and the Economy of Sacrifice’, 18 Leiden Journal of International Law 179 (2005)

Randall Peerenboom, ‘Assessing Human Rights in China: Why the Double Standard?’, 38 Cornell International Law Journal 71 (2005)

Marina Svensson, Debating human rights in China: a conceptual and political history, Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, 2002

Liu Xinsheng, ‘The People’s Republic of China and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’, pp221-238 in Errol P. Mendes and Anne-Marie Traeholt (ed.), Human rights : Chinese & Canadian perspectives, The Human Rights Research & Education Centre: Ottawa, 1997

From principle to pragmatism: can "dialogue" improve China’s human rights situation:a report, Human Rights in China, 1998

Policy Papers

European Policy Centre

EU-China Think Tank Roundtable, EPC Issue Paper No.21, 6-7 December 2004. Available at: .

EU-China Relations-Towards a Strategic Partnership, EPC Working Paper No.19, July 2005: Available at: <>.

European Union

Factsheet on the EU and China, [no date] available at: .

EU-China dialogue on human rights, 22-23 January 2001, available at:

European Union guidelines on Human rights dialogues, Council of the EU, 13 December 2001. Available at:

A maturing partnership: shared interests and challenges in EU-China relations, [COM(2003) 533], 10 September 2003, available at:

Building a Comprehensive Partnership with China, [COM(1998) 181], 25 March 1998, available at:

EU Strategy towards China: Implementation of the 1998 Communication and Future Steps for a more Effective EU Policy, [COM(2001) 265], 15 May 2001. Available at: < >

‘EU Annual Report on Human Rights 2005/2006’, (13522/1/06 REV 1), 6 October 2006. Available at:

EU-China: Closer partners, growing responsibilities, [COM(2006) 631], 24 October 2006. Available at: <>

People’s Republic of China

China's Independent Foreign Policy of Peace, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, 2003. Available at: .

China's EU Policy Paper, Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, 2003. Available at: <>.

China's Progress in Human Rights in 2004, Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, 2005. Available at: <>

Building of Political Democracy in China, Information Office of the State Council
of the People's Republic of China, 2005. Available at:


[1] Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between the European Economic Community and the People's Republic of China 1985. It is recognised that there was an earlier version of the Agreement in 1975.

[2] Information from the European Commission’s Bilateral Trade Relations with China website, available at: .

[3] See for example the EU’s recognition of China’s key position in, among others, the Six Party Talks on the crisis in the Korean Peninsula, in fostering development in Africa, and regional stability in Asia through ASEAN: in Press Release of the 2771st Council Meeting of General Affairs and External Relations meeting on 11-12 December 2006: [16291/06 (Presse 353)], pp6-7. See also Chris Patten, ‘For Europe and China, Good News Already and More to Come’, 19 May 2001, International Herald Tribune, available at: <>.

[4] EU-China Relations-Towards a Strategic Partnership, EPC Working Paper No.19 (2005), pg21

[5] Jing Men, ‘Chinese Perceptions of the European Union: A Review of Leading Chinese Journals’, 12 European Law Journal 788 (2001). The author explains that this may be related to the US’ vested strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region, whereas both China and the EU share a common interest in creating a more multi-polar world to balance the US’ almost unchallenged uni-polarity after the Cold War. See also

Zeng Huaqun, ‘Promoting a New Bilateral Legal Framework for China-EU Economic Relations’, 3 Chinese Journal of International Law 189 (2004), pg 205. See also Randall Peerenboom, ‘Assessing Human Rights in China: Why the Double Standard?’, 38 Cornell International Law Journal 71 (2005), pg74.

[6] Miguel Santos Neves, ‘Towards a common China policy for the EU: A Portuguese perspective’, pp75-88, in Richard L. Grant (ed.), The European Union and China: a European strategy for the twenty-first century, Royal Institute of International Affairs: London, 1995, pg 81. Cf. Jonathan Holslag, ‘The European Union and China: The Great Disillusion’, 11 European Foreign Affairs Review 555 (2006), suggests this strategy seems to be failing, and working in China’s favour, to the Union’s detriment.

[7] EU-China: Closer partners, growing responsibilities, [COM(2006) 631], 24 October 2006, pg2. See also current Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner’s statements in ‘EU-China relations: Commission sets out its strategy’, [IP/06/1454] Press Release, 24 October 2006.

[8] COM(2003) 533, 10 September 2003.

[9] The Commission policy papers are Building a Comprehensive Partnership with China, [COM(1998) 181], 25 March 1998 and EU Strategy towards China: Implementation of the 1998 Communication and Future Steps for a more Effective EU Policy, [COM(2001) 265], 15 May 2001. Interesting to note that within a matter of seven years EU-China partnership has shifted from ‘comprehensive’ to ‘mature’. Contrast this with the assessment of the European Policy Centre, which in 2004 later qualified EU-China relations as “warm and friendly, maturing but not yet fully mature”: EPC Issue Paper No.21 (2004), pg29.

[10] COM (1998) 181. Recently the establishment of the Europe-China School of Law’ has been approved, with the “overall objective of the action is to support the Chinese Government in its efforts to develop a society based on the rule of law”: see the website of EVD, the agency of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs responsible for stimulating international business and cooperation: .The school is modelled on the success of the ‘China-Europe International Business School’ established by the Commission and the Chinese Foreign Trade Ministry in 1994: see EPC Issue Paper No.21 ( 2004), pg34.

[11] Browse the website of Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in China, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and Freedom House and the poor human rights situation in China becomes apparent.

[12] EU Annual Report on Human Rights 2005/2006, [13522/1/06 REV 1], 6 October 2006, pg7.

[13] These values are also reflected in the planned Constitution of the European Union, specifically Articles 2 and 3(4).

[14] See Elena Fierro, ‘Legal Basis and Scope of the Human Rights Clauses in EC Bilateral Agreements: Any Room for Positive Interpretation?’ 7 European Law Journal 41 (2001); Barbara Brandtner and Allan Rosas, ‘Human Rights and the External Relations of the European Community: An Analysis of Doctrine and Practice’, 9 European Journal of International Law 468 (1998).

[15] Holslag (2006), on pg571, calls this the EU’s “moral superiority”, and that for China, adaptation to the EU’s external relations approach “is supposed to be not a question of choice but a question of necessity”.

[16] COM (2001) 265, pp6-7.

[17] Peerenboom (2005), pp157

[18] Huaqun says: “The EU believes in the merits of dialogue, in all appropriate fora, over confrontation; the EU and China should therefore tackle their differences in a frank, open and respectful manner”: (2004), pg205. This is phrase an exact copy of one used by the 1998 Commission policy paper [COM(1998) 181].

[19] Ibid.

[20] Chris Patten, Speech at the 56th UN Human Rights Commission, 27 March 2000, available at: <>.

[21] See Holslag (2006), where the author outlines the individual approaches by certain Member States of the Union, and how they relate to the EU’s common position.

[22] COM(2003) 533, pg12.

[23] Holslag (2006), pp561-563.

[24] Peter Ferdinand, ‘Economic and diplomatic interactions between the EU and China’, pp26-40 in Grant (1995), pg38.

[25] Tom Grunfeld, ‘Human Rights and the People's Republic of China’, 9 Touro International Law Review 71 (2001), pg84.

[26] Ferdinand (1995), pg38.

[27] Romano Prodi, as the President of the European Commission then, delivered a speech entitled ‘Relations between the EU and China: more than just business’ in 2004, arguing: “Our own experience in Europe shows there is a strong link between human rights and advanced economic growth. Prosperity inevitably brings demands for greater individual freedom -- and not just in the economic sphere -- as incomes rise and a significant middle class emerges.” The lack of progress of the human rights situation in China can be contrasted with the situation in Taiwan, which many liberal scholars exemplify as a model of how increased prosperity spurred by economic development lead to the demands from the up-and-coming middle class for political and civil participation, which eventually resulted in the inevitable, in Taiwan’s case peaceful, transition from an authoritarian to a democratic polity: see for example Francis Fukuyama, ‘Liberal Democracy as a Global Phenomenon’, 24 PS: Political Science and Politics 659 (1991). Some go far as suggesting that Taiwan’s path of democratisation may be a model for China to follow: see for example, Yu Jie, ‘Taiwan’s democracy movements can be a precedent for the Mainland’ (2004), who also outlines the history of Taiwan’s peaceful political transition, available at: .

[28] Philip Baker, ‘Human Rights, Europe and the People's Republic of China’, 169 The China Quarterly 45 (2002), pp50-51.

[29] Factsheet on the EU and China, Annex I, ‘Declaration on China’, adopted 27 June 1989.

[30] Rosemary Foot, Rights beyond borders : the global community and the struggle over human rights in China, Oxford University Press: New York, 2000, pg171; Liu Xinsheng, ‘The People’s Republic of China and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’, pp221-238 in Errol P. Mendes and Anne-Marie Traeholt (ed.), Human rights : Chinese & Canadian perspectives, The Human Rights Research & Education Centre: Ottawa, 1997, pg235.

[31] Foot (2000), pp171, 188-189. As Peerenboom (2005) notes, 11 resolutions were tabled at the UN Commission on Human Rights since 1990, but none were successful: pg72.

[32] Baker (2002), pg52. One tactic by China was to appeal to the developing countries and label the tabled resolutions as an attack on the right to development of the South by supposed universal values of human rights imposed by the North: see Foot (2000), pp192, 206; Peerenboom (2005), pp151-152.

[33] ‘No action motion’ in Commission on Human Rights adopted in 18 April 2000, [HR/CN/00/51].

[34] Baker (2002), pp53-54; Foot (2000), pg177.

[35] One reason offered by the French was that as early as 1994, the United States had not refused China Most Favoured Nation Status despite the recentness of the Tiananmen Incident: see Foot (2000), pp159-160; 193-194.

[36] Ibid., pp197-198.Baker (2002), pp55-56 For the resolution itself, see E/CN.4/1997/L.91.

[37] From principle to pragmatism: can "dialogue" improve China’s human rights situation: a report, Human Rights in China, 1998, pg3; Baker (2002), pg56.

[38] Foot (2000), pp22, 204; Holslag (2006), pg559.

[39] Part of the reason is because it was felt that the commencement of the EU-China Human Rights dialogue meant that sponsoring a resolution at the UN level was unnecessary. Further, it was believed that it was better to adopt a common position within the CHR, rather than have some voting in favour, some not: see Baker (2002), pg57. See also Human Rights in China (1998), pg27.

[40] Baker (2002), pg63.

[41] EU-China Human Rights Dialogue Seminar, Beijing (June20+21) 2005, available at: . See also Foot (2000), pg166, who suggests that the call by China for human rights dialogue with other countries was more of a show-case significance.

[42] Baker (2002), pg58; Foot (2000), 23.

[43] Human Rights in China (1998), pg6.

[44] ‘EU Annual Report on Human Rights 2005/2006’, [13522/1/06 REV 1], 6 October 2006, pg36. Specific campaigns targeting priority concerns of the EU with regard to China include: freedom of expression, rights of women, promotion and protection of the integrity of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. On pg56, it is pointed out that “[t]he vast majority of all known executions occurred in China (at least 1 770 executions)”.

[45] Ibid., pg227.

[46] Ibid., pg38.

[47] China's EU Policy Paper, Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, 2003. [Emphasis mine]. See also Peerenboom (2005), pg81.

[48] China's Independent Foreign Policy of Peace, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, 2003.

[49] Building of Political Democracy in China, Information Office of the State Council
of the People's Republic of China, 2005, specifically ‘Section VII. Respecting and Safeguarding Human Rights’.

[50] Ibid. Holslag (2006) calls gestures like this, and the implementation of village level elections, merely “s just a political means, not an end”, in that they are ways for the Beijing regime “at maintaining the political monopoly of the Party, not yielding it”: pg575.

[51] China's Progress in Human Rights in 2004 (2005). See also Xinsheng (1997).

[52] Reporters Without Borders ranks China’s press freedom as 163 out of 168 countries in 2006. In the past four years, China’s ranking is similarly at the bottom of the league. See .

[53] Adopted from Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2006, Freedom House, available at: .

[54] Letter to the Prime Minister of Finland & EU

Members, 9 September 2006, Human Rights Watch, available at: . See also Amnesty International briefing on human rights concerns in China: EU-China Summit – 9 September 2006, Amnesty International EU Office, 9 September 2006, available at: <>.

[55] COM(2001) 265, pg11. Compare this with the statement of former External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten in 2000, questioning the effectiveness of human rights dialogue at the UN Commission on Human Right: “[…] if the public continues to read about closed churches and political arrests, about continuing capital punishment and censorship, they will rightly wonder what is being achieved by all those allegedly 'full and frank' exchanges of views”: Speech at the 56th UN Human Rights Commission, 27 March 2000, available at: <>.

[56] Building of Political Democracy in China (2005).

[57] Peerenboom (2005), pp75, 80.

[58] China's Progress in Human Rights in 2004.

[59] Building of Political Democracy in China (2005). See also Xinsheng (1997), pp229-230.

[60] Marina Svensson, Debating human rights in China: a conceptual and political history, Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, 2002, pg312.

[61] Rosemary Foot, Rights beyond borders : the global community and the struggle over human rights in China, : Oxford University Press: New York, 2000, pg1.

[62] In her lecture on ‘Chinese observations on International Law’ organised by the International Criminal Law Network on 1 November 2006, the Chinese Ambassador to the Netherlands Her Excellency Hanqin Xue repeatedly emphasised the concept of sovereignty and non-interference, which is also enshrined in the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy based on the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’. See also China's Independent Foreign Policy of Peace, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China: “China is ready to […] develop friendly relations of cooperation with all the countries on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.” See also Kay Moeller, ‘Chinese risks: nationalism versus integration in Beijing’s foreign relations’, pp9-25 in Grant (1995), pp13-14.; EPC Issue Paper No.21 (2004), pg5; Peerenboom (2005), pg81.

[63] Foot (2000), 12-14.

[64] Svensson (2002), pg313. Such references to the past and associations with the current human rights criticism from the west is also a means to galvanise nationalism, and tied with the Chinese regime’s insistence on national sovereignty. See also Peerenboom (2005), pg74.

[65] Foot (2000), 19-20; Grunfeld (2001), pp84-85.

[66] Excerpt from the official meeting records of the General Assembly on 15 March 2006, available at: .

[67] Human Rights Council, Summary Record of the 5th Meeting, 20 June 2006 [A/HRC/1/SR.5].

[68] Peerenboom (2005), pp75-76, 148-151.

[69] Peerenboom (2005), pp151-152. These concerns are not just those of China, but of the developing world as a whole.

[70] Grunfeld (2001) argues that there is a bias in the Western media to focus on certain core issues like the lack of freedom of political expression, rule of law and free media, while unfairly ignoring progress in other areas, pp72-78. In short, “the positive aspects of Chinese society today dwarf the negative aspects” (pg84).

[71] Ferdinand (1995), pp35-36. Human Rights in China is also concerned by this increasing trend by countries to engage China on the human rights situation on a bilateral basis, because it is playing into China’s “objective of elminating multilateral pressure”: (1998) pg3 [emphasis in original].

[72] Baker (2002), pg59.

[73] Baker (2002), pg59.

[74] ‘Behind Closed Doors: Bilateral Dialogues on Human Rights’, 2 China Rights Forum 22 (2004), pg24. Available at: <>

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid., pg25.

[77] EPC Working Paper No.19 (2005), pp35-36.

[78] EPC Working Paper No.19, pg37 (2005): “The Member States of the EU must also recognise the critical importance of speaking with one voice on China. Their habit of focusing on short-term, often illusory, commercial interests has to be broken.” See also Baker (2002), pg47

[79] ‘Behind Closed Doors: Bilateral Dialogues on Human Rights’, 2 China Rights Forum 22 (2004), pg24.

[80] Foot (2000), pg7

[81] EPC Working Paper No.19 (2005), pg37: “The Member States of the EU must also recognise the critical importance of speaking with one voice on China. Their habit of focusing on short-term,

often illusory, commercial interests has to be broken.”

[82] ‘Behind Closed Doors: Bilateral Dialogues on Human Rights’, 2 China Rights Forum 22 (2004), pg23.

[83] Though Holslag (2006) notes that since Angela Merkel came to power, there has been a toughening of Germany’s stance on the issue: pg559.

[84] Ferdinand (1995), pg31.

[85] Karen Smith, The role of democracy assistance in future EU external relations, paper submitted at the conference on ‘Enhancing the European Profile in Democracy Assistance’, July 4-6, 2004, the Netherlands. Available at: . She further argues that because of the lack of a common European identity and the democratic deficit within the EU itself, it is hard to develop a coherent and consistent value-based foreign policy.

[86] See Factsheet on the EU and China, which outlines the current arms embargo, including excerpts from the original ban in 1989.

[87] See illustrating comments in ‘Merci, y'all’, The Economist, 26 February 2005: “In a way, on the Chinese embargo, the EU [has] been cacophonous about the justification and the likely consequences, but so far harmonious about the actual plan to remove the embargo. What it has failed to do is to convince its allies that it has thought seriously about the issue of security in East Asia.” See also EPC Working Paper No.19 (2005), pg35.

[88] Factsheet on the EU and China, para.2. See also Holslag (2006), pg563.

[89] One concern is China’s participation and investments in the European Satellite Navigation System, GALILEO: ‘EU China Summit concludes agreements on industrial policy, Galileo and Tourism’, 3 November 2003, available at: . ritics argue that the system has both civilian as well as military uses, and may strengthen China’s military capabilities.

[90] Criterion II of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, adopted by the Council on 8 June 1998: Annex II of the Factsheet on the EU and China. [Emphasis in original].

[91] Ibid., para.6.

[92] Judy Dempsey, ‘Britain wants to tighten rules on arms to China’, International Herald Tribune, 9 March 2005, available at:

[93] See also EU-China Think Tank Roundtable, EPC Issue Paper No.21,(2004), pp22-23, comments by President of China Institute of International Studies Ma Zhengang.

[94]China urges EU to lift arms sales ban’, 10 September 2006, International Herald Tribune, available at: . [Emphasis mine].

[95] EU-China Summit: EU must continue pressing for real progress on human rights in China, Amnesty International EU Office, 2 September 2006. Available at: .

[96] See ‘Old China, New China’ and ‘Merci, y'all’, The Economist, 26 February 2005.

[97] EPC Issue Paper No.21 (2004), pg32; EPC Working Paper No.19 (2005), pg16-17

[98] Huaqun (2004), pg 206.

[99] Ferdinand (1995), pp34-35; see also Foot (2000), pg176. For an idea of the lucrative business deals at stake for a country like France, see ‘Airbus deal with China opens Chirac visit’, International Herald Tribune, 1 November 2006, available at: . Note the issue of human rights is sidelined to a mere “joint statement [that both countries] were committed to the respect of universal human rights "whilst taking into account specific situations".”

[100] Foot (2000), pg9

[101] Ibid., pp10-11. See also EPC Issue Paper No.21 (2004), suggesting “[i]t is, therefore, essential that the Union treats the human rights dialogue as an ongoing priority, but using old-fashioned discreet diplomacy rather than the megaphone, media-driven version […]” and that “[i]t does not require much knowledge of the Chinese to know that ‘carrots’ are likely to succeed, whereas ‘sticks’ can be counterproductive”: pg34.

[102] The backfiring of open condemnation of China’s human rights record can be seen through the United States State Department’s annual publication of ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’. Starting in 1998, China also responds to the US report by publication its own tit-for-tat version, entitled ‘Human Rights Record of the United States’. See for example the US report on China in 2005, available at: , and the Chinese report on the US, available at: . For more on the fact that US finger-pointing to the poor human rights policy is seen as hypocrisy by the Chinese side, see Grunfeld (2001), pp84-85; Foot (2000), pp243; Svensson (2002), pg310; Peerenboom (2005), pg83.

[103] See for example the conditionality requirements, which emphasise the need to respect human rights, rule of law and good governance, that are placed on aspirant members of, among others, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the Organisation of American States.

[104] Foot (2000), pg11.

[105] Ibid., 191. Holslag (2006), pp569-570, argues that compared to other countries like the United States and Japan, the EU’s average export dependency is much higher, comprising some 49% of the GDP. This makes it unrealistic for the EU, or its individual Member States to try to restrict or cut off economic ties in favour of a moralistic human rights-oriented external policy toward China.

[106] EPC Working Paper No.19 (2005), pg22. See also Foot (2000), pp222-223.

[107] Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament, 24 October 2006, [COM(2006) 632 final], pp4-5.

[108] COM(2001) 265, pp10-12.

[109] Foot (2000), pg26, says “China is deeply engaged with the international discourse on human rights, but full implementations of the core norms is still to come”.

[110] Ibid., pg24.

[111] COM(2001) 265, pg 20.

[112] Foot (2000), pg6.

[113] Mary Farrell, ‘EU External Relations: Exporting the EU Model of Governance?’, 10 European Foreign Affairs Review 451 (2005), pg 453.

[114]Human Rights in China (1998), pg9. See also Peerenboom (2005), pg73.

[115] See the statement of the Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner in a press release on 8 September 2006 [IP/06/1161]. [Emphasis mine]. This was affirmed at the latest Council Meeting of General Affairs and External Relations meeting on 11-12 December 2006: 16291/06 (Presse 353), pg6.

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Previously I posted other related posts on the human rights situation in China...