Human Rights with Chinese Characteristics?
On 7 December 2017, about three hundred participants from over fifty mostly developing countries gathered in Beijing for the ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’. In his opening address, President Xi Jinping reiterated that ‘human rights must and can only be promoted in light of specific national conditions and people’s needs.’ The initiative took place after another string of harrowing events. In early November, the police in Liaoning province formally arrested human rights lawyer Li Yuhan for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’. On 7 November, dissident writer Yang Tongyan, who had been in detention since 2006 and had nearly completed a twelve-year sentence for subversion, died from a brain tumour barely three months after having been released on medical parole. Later the same month, two more activists—lawyer Jiang Tianyong and Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che—were respectively sentenced to two and five years imprisonment on subversion charges. At that time, there was little reaction from the international community. In late October, foreign media reported that a human rights panel at the United Nations had called on China to release and compensate three prominent human rights activists—Christian church leader Hu Shigen (condemned to seven and half years in detention), and lawyers Zhou Shifeng (condemned to seven years in detention) and Xie Yang. On 10 December, international Human Rights Day, the European Union Delegation and United States Embassy to China both released statements expressing concern about ‘China’s ongoing denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms’. IF