Press Release: Dozens of Activists in Exile Call for Immediate Suspension of Extradition Treaties between European Member States and Mainland China

Press Release – For immediate release
20 May 2021
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
 www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

55 activists in exile – with the support of Safeguard Defenders, Hong Kong Watch and the World Uyghur Congress – have called for “urgent coordinated action to suspend all Bilateral Extradition Agreements between EU Member States and the People’s Republic of China.”

In a letter addressed to the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and other senior European leaders, the activists from Hong Kong, Tibet, the Uyghur Region, and mainland China said:

“Not only do the Bilateral Extradition Treaties with the PRC legitimize a judicial system that does not respect any of the due process standards prescribed by international law, they play a key role in the CCP’s effort to export its regime of political terror overseas.”

“As activists in exile, in the safe haven of Europe, these active extradition treaties are of great and immediate concern. Under current judicial review procedures for extradition requests they not only present a potential threat to our freedom of movement within the European Union, but to our freedom of association and freedom of expression, as Beijing may seek our extradition for statements we make in Europe.”

Signatories to the letter include former pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker Nathan Law; Chinese contemporary artist and activist, Ai Weiwei; Angela Gui, the daughter of abducted Hong Kong bookseller, Gui Minhai; Dolkun Isa, the President of the World Uyghur Congress; and Shao Jiang, a student leader during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

The letter underlines that reassurances from member states that political extraditions will not be permitted ring hollow in view of the Chinese Government’s increasingly common tactic of using seemingly inane financial charges to attempt to rendition fugitives:

“We take little comfort in guarantees from Member States that they will not permit the abuse of such extradition agreements to muzzle political opponents. Recent extradition cases in Sweden, Poland and Spain have shown a dangerous trend where the Chinese Government has sought to circumvent provisions to stop political persecution by demanding extradition for financial crimes, accusing activists and dissidents of financial fraud. Of equal concern is Beijing’s use of the One China policy as a backdoor to extradite Taiwanese citizens to be jailed on the mainland.

Even EU citizens are not exempt from the threat of extradition. Four Danish citizens, including two elected Members of Parliament, have been expressly warned by their own Intelligence Services to avoid travel to fellow EU Member States with outstanding extradition treaties with the PRC.”

10 EU member states have extradition treaties with China. They are Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, and Spain.

Commenting on the publication of the letter, Ray Wong, a Hong Kong activist who was granted asylum in Germany and one of the signatories, said:

“It is appalling that countries like Belgium, France and Spain still have extradition treaties with mainland China. In practice this means that if I decide to visit Brussels to speak to European parliamentarians or travel to Paris to address a rally, I could run the risk of being arrested and extradited to China to stand trial under the National Security Law. “

Reinhard Bütikofer, Chair of the European Parliament’s China Delegation, said:

“We cannot allow the long arm of the Chinese state to reach into the heart of our European democracy. Bilateral extradition treaties with China are an open invite for the Chinese government to exert pressure on European citizens who dare to criticize the actions of the Chinese Communist Party. Terminating these agreements must be a first step in strengthening the resilience of our democratic institutions.”

Samuel Cogolati, Member of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium and Co-Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said:

“It is unthinkable that while the Chinese government stands credibly accused of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, multiple European governments continue to maintain active extradition treaties with Beijing. Termination of these agreements would send a clear message to Beijing: any government that claims to uphold the rule of law must first guarantee the fundamental human rights of its citizens.”

Engin Eroglu, Member of the European Parliament, said:

“Europe has to be a safe haven for those who have fled the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal persecution. Yet so long as extradition treaties with the People’s Republic of China remain in force, hundreds of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese dissidents living in Europe are under threat. I strongly urge all EU Member States holding active extradition treaties with China to suspend these agreements. We do not accept that European citizens should live under fear of oppression from the Chinese government.”

Pavel Fischer, Member of the Czech Senate, said:

“The freedom to speak out without fear is fundamental to our democratic way of life. Yet for Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese residents in Europe, openly criticizing the Chinese government carries a very real risk of harm to themselves and their families. Only by terminating our extradition treaties with China will we be able to send a clear signal that we do not accept any attempts to intimidate our citizens into silence.”

The full letter can be found here.

Note to editors
Recent examples of extradition cases or prolonged detention after an extradition request in Europe include:

  • Poland: https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/blog/poland-blocks-extradition-china
  • Sweden: https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/analysis-verdict-sweden-concerning-extradition-china
  • Spain: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/07/asia/taiwan-extradition-beijing-
    intl/index.html – https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3724286