Open Letter to EU against Lifting Arms Embargo on China ( Joint Statement)

Dec. 08, 2004

In the lead up to the seventh EU-China Summit on 8 December 2004 in The Hague, our organisations call on the EU to retain the weapons sales embargo on China. An end to the embargo cannot be justified without significant improvement of human rights in China.

We regret that some European Union leaders have seemingly dismissed the repeated concerns of the European Parliament, human rights groups and the citizens of Europe by indicating that they are “ready to give a positive signal to China” with regard to lifting its embargo on weapons sales.

The arms embargo was imposed as a direct response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989 and following the similarly brutal quelling of civil unrest by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Tibet in the same year. The international outrage over the killings and arrests of thousands of students and workers by the PLA prompted the European countries to react with firmness.

Any lifting of the arms embargo would potentially lead to European weapons technology being used to suppress peaceful resistance by the people of Tibet, East Turkistan (now known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region), Inner Mongolia, against Taiwan, or end up in the hands of the North Korean, Burmese and/or Sudanese military, who are privileged recipients of Chinese arms.

Last week the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining the embargo, arguing that China must take “concrete steps with a view to improving the human rights situation” (17 November). In addition, the Former European Commissioner, Mr. Chris Patten, said at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the lifting of the embargo should be linked to concrete improvements in the human rights in China (16 November).

The Coalition’s member organisations call on the European Union and its member states to maintain the embargo until significant improvement is made to the human rights situation in the People’s Republic of China. The Coalition calls upon China to:

1. Revise its position on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations, which are still described by the authorities as “counter-revolutionary” incidents, and stop harassing and imprisoning people who defend the memory of the Tiananmen Square students, including Huang Qi and Jiang Yanyong;

2. Free all prisoners of conscience, including those detained after the June 1989 events, and to exonerate the victims of the 4 June 1989 massacre by recognising the Tiananmen Mothers movement;

3. State that it will not use weapons against its own citizens, the people of Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia or Taiwan;

4. Demonstrate its commitment to non-violent resolutions of disputes by acknowledging the Dalai Lama’s significant concessions and engaging in formal dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to ensure a negotiated solution to the future status of Tibet;

5. Comply with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and ratifies the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Ottawa treaty on banned weapons, especially anti-personnel mines.

6. Adopt a moratorium on executions as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty as set forth in the EU Guidelines on the death penalty.

Europe showed leadership in imposing this sanction on China in 1989 for “acts of repression against those who legitimately claim their democratic rights.” Major human rights violations continue to take place.

The EU is attempting to shift public attention from the reasons the embargo was first imposed – the systematic human rights abuses in China, which continue today – to its own Code of Conduct on arms exports. The Coalition encourages the strengthening of the Code and reiterates the European Parliament’s calls for this to be “legally binding”, however, the European Parliament, Amnesty International and others have recently highlighted significant limitations to the EU’s Code of Conduct for Arms Exports, which some EU countries have erroneously claimed would serve as a safeguard in the event of the embargo on China being lifted.

Moreover China has identified the lifting of the arms embargo as a significant component of its EU China strategy published in October 2003. To remove the arms embargo before securing a significant and substantive improvement in human rights in China and Tibet would be an unparalleled error.

The Coalition holds that it is erroneous for the EU to allow the resumption of weapons sales to China solely on the basis of strengthening its own Code of Conduct and its bilateral human rights dialogues. China must first make significant improvements to its human rights situation before the arms embargo should be lifted. Maintaining the embargo also has a positive symbolic value for pro-democracy activists, political prisoners, ethnic minorities and all those who are not resigned to the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorship.

The European Coalition Against the Lifting the EU’s Embargo on Weapons Sales to China, consisting of:

– Reporters Without Borders

– International Society for Human Rights (IGFM/ISHR)

– International Campaign for Tibet

– Laogai Research Foundation – Harry Wu

– Chinese Democratic Party Overseas Exiles Headquaters – Xu Wenli

– Olympic Watch

– Solidarité Chine

– World Uyghur Congress

– Save Tibet, Austria

– Les Amis du Tibet, Belgium

– The Tibet Support Committee, Denmark

– Students for a Free Tibet, Denmark

– briançon05-urgence.tibet, France

– France-Tibet, France

– Tibet Support Group Ireland, Ireland

– Associazione Italia-Tibet, Italy

– Zida Cels, Latvia

– Les Amis du Tibet, Luxembourg

– Polish-Tibetan Friendship Association, Poland

– Comite de Apoyo al Tibet, Spain

– Swedish Tibet Committee, Sweden

– Free Tibet Campaign, UK

– Tibet Society, UK