Interview: ‘A Rare Instance of a Tough Stance on Human Rights in China’

2017-07-07


Ailing Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (L) and detained Taiwan activist Lee Ming-cheh were raised by the European Parliament in a single human rights resolution that passed on July 6. AFP

On July 6, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the Chinese government to immediately release the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia, and to allow Liu Xiaobo to choose where to receive treatment for his advanced liver cancer. The resolution, which passed with an overwhelming majority at a special meeting, also called for the release of Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-cheh, who is currently detained in China, and for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to allow him to contact his family. Germany-based journalist and commentator Su Yutong, a contributor to RFA, spoke to RFA’s Mandarin Service about the move:

RFA: Why did the European Parliament pass this motion now?

Su Yutong: The background to this is that the resolution was tabled by the Green Party in the European Parliament, which has been following Liu Xiaobo’s case very closely, and recent changes in his circumstances. All MEPs have been paying very close attention to developments with Liu Xiaobo. Also, Liu Xiaobo’s case has been put together with the case of Taiwan’s Lee Ming-cheh in a single human rights resolution because both the Taiwan authorities and non-government organizations (NGOs) have stayed in close touch with the international community, hoping to increase pressure on the Chinese government, with some success. The very special circumstances in the Liu Xiaobo case led them to put the two cases together … Sources are telling me that there is a connection to the G20 leadership summit [in Hamburg]. The fact that they have passed this resolution now suggests that the EU leaders attending the G20 summit will be more likely to raise the issues of Liu Xiaobo and Lee Ming-cheh with President Xi Jinping at the summit.

RFA: So do you think that the passing of this resolution will succeed in putting pressure on China, to the extent that they release Liu Xiaobo to seek medical treatment overseas?

Su Yutong: Well I can’t say for sure … but I was watching the live broadcasts of the debate in the European Parliament, and the voting was done by a show of hands, and every MEP raised their hand to support the resolution, which is extremely rare for a human rights resolution in recent years, in this parliament. I think that the Chinese government must have taken note of this very strong message. A lot of people complain that big organizations like the European Parliament and the EU are pretty toothless when it comes to putting pressure on China [over human rights], but this was a rare instance of a tougher stance on the issue with this vote in the European Parliament.

RFA: Why did the resolution include the case of Lee Ming-cheh?

Su Yutong: The Taiwan presidential spokesman put out a statement … saying that the Lee Ming-cheh case may seem like just another individual human rights case in the wider context of China, but actually it’s a really big human rights story from Taiwan’s point of view, and from the point of view of the rest of the world, because it touches on so many different issues. For example, they have used the charge of “incitement to subvert state power” against Lee Ming-cheh. The international community should be concerned that such charges are being used by a dictatorship to target a citizen of a democratic society. Democratic values are being challenged by a dictatorship here.

Reported by Zhu Dan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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