Procedure : 2019/2945(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0248/2019

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 18/12/2019 - 19
CRE 18/12/2019 - 19

Votes :

PV 19/12/2019 - 6.5
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


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<TitreSuite>to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission</TitreSuite>

<TitreRecueil>pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure</TitreRecueil>

<Titre>on the situation of the Uyghurs in China (China Cables)</Titre>


<RepeatBlock-By><Depute>Reinhard Bütikofer, Saskia Bricmont</Depute>

<Commission>{Verts/ALE}on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group</Commission>


See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0246/2019


European Parliament resolution on the situation of the Uyghurs in China (China Cables)


The European Parliament,

 having regard to its previous resolutions on China, and in particular to those of 18 April 2019 on China, notably the situation of religious and ethnic minorities[1], of 12 September 2018 on the state of EU-China relations[2] and of 4 October 2018 on mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region[3],

 having regard to the joint statement of the 21st EU-China summit of 9 April 2019,

 having regard to 37th EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in Brussels on 1 and 2 April 2019,

 having regard to the Commission/EEAS joint communication of 12 March 2019 entitled ‘EU-China – A strategic outlook’ (JOIN(2019)0005),

 having regard to Article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of religious belief, and to Article 4 thereof, which upholds the rights of minority nationalities,

 having further regard to the EU’s Item 4 oral statements at the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 18 September 2018, and to the Item 4 statements of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Finland and Canada, which expressed concern at the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs in ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang,

 having regard to the letter of 8 July 2019 signed by 22 nations and addressed to the president of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling on China to end its massive detention programme in Xinjiang,

 having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966,

 having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948,

 having regard to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011,

 having regard to the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s review of China,

 having regard to the ‘China Cables’, an investigation released on 24 November 2019 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ) into the surveillance and mass internment without charge or trial of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang province, based on leaked classified Chinese government documents,

 having regard to the announcement by the High Representative on Monday 9 December 2019 regarding the launch of preparatory work on a possible horizontal sanctions regime to address serious human rights violations; having regard to Parliament’s respective resolution of 14 March 2019 on a European human rights violations sanctions regime[4],

 having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the human rights situation in China has continued to deteriorate since President Xi Jinping assumed power in March 2013, with the government stepping up its hostility towards peaceful dissent, the freedoms of expression and religion, and the rule of law; whereas the Chinese authorities have detained and prosecuted hundreds of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists;

B. whereas the recently released ‘China Cables’ obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists include a classified list of guidelines, personally approved by the region’s top security chief, that effectively serves as a manual for operating the so-called ‘re-education’ camps for Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities; whereas the leak also features previously undisclosed intelligence briefings that reveal how Chinese policies are guided by a massive data collection and analysis system that uses artificial intelligence to select entire categories of Xinjiang residents for detention; whereas the ‘China Cables’ reveal how the system is able to amass vast amounts of intimate personal data through warrantless manual searches, facial recognition cameras and other means in order to identify candidates for detention; whereas they also detail explicit directives to arrest Uyghurs with foreign citizenship and to track Xinjiang Uyghurs living abroad with the cooperation of China’s diplomatic representations in third countries;

C. whereas one of the guidelines called ‘employment services’ suggests that inmates completing the vocational training are placed in a work facility; whereas researchers and journalists have uncovered a vast system of forced labour across the region concentrated in textiles and the manufacture of consumer goods;

D. whereas detainees are not officially charged with any crime, are denied their basic legal rights and are being held against their will for undetermined periods of time, all of which amounts to arbitrary detention; whereas, according to first-hand testimony, detainees are being held in poor conditions and are being subjected to physical and psychological torture, forced labour and political indoctrination aimed at eroding religious belief;

E. whereas the Chinese Government has passed a set of new laws – in particular, the National Security Law of 1 July 2015, the Counterterrorism Law, the Cybersecurity Law and the Foreign NGO Management Law – that cast public activism and peaceful criticism of the government as state security threats, strengthen censorship and the surveillance and control of individuals and social groups, and deter individuals from campaigning for human rights; whereas the regulations on religious affairs that entered into force in February 2018 restrict the activities of religious groups and force them to act more closely in line with party policies; whereas the new rules threaten persons associated with religious communities that do not have legal status in the country; whereas religious communities have been facing increasing repression in China;

F. whereas China has set up a sprawling state architecture of digital surveillance, ranging from predictive policing to the arbitrary, nationwide collection of biometric data in an environment devoid of privacy rights;

G. whereas the situation in Xinjiang, where 10 million Muslim Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs live, has rapidly deteriorated as an extremely repressive policy towards the Uyghur population in particular has been made a top priority by the Chinese authorities;

H. whereas Parliament has awarded its 2019 Sakharov price to Ilham Tohti, a renowned Uyghur human rights defender, economics professor and advocate of the rights of China’s Uyghur minority who has been sentenced to life in prison for his activism;

I. whereas an extrajudicial detention programme under which hundreds of thousands of people are forced to undergo political ‘re-education’ has been established in Xinjiang, as well as a sophisticated network of invasive digital surveillance, including facial recognition technology and data collection, the mass deployment of police and strict restrictions on religious practices and the Uyghur language and customs;

J. whereas numerous credible reports from academics, media outlets and reputable sources have revealed that an estimated one million Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs are being arbitrarily detained by the Chinese government in a system of internment camps under this extrajudicial detention programme in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and these reports detail the scale and inner workings of the camps;

K. whereas, after repeatedly denying the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in internment camps, the Chinese Government admitted running ‘vocational education centres’, characterising these as social programmes where individuals receive ‘professional training’; whereas in an official white paper released in August 2019 the government proclaimed that the ‘vocational training centres’ were a resounding success, claiming that the absence of terror attacks in the region over the past three years was a result of this policy; whereas the ‘China Cables’ starkly contradict the government’s official characterisation of the camps as social programmes that provide ‘vocational training’ and reveal that the central goal of the campaign is general indoctrination;

L. whereas, the Chinese Government has refused numerous requests from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN Special Procedures mandates to send independent investigators to Xinjiang and, in particular, give them access to the camps in question;

M. whereas Xinjiang is a core region of the Belt and Road initiative, with ambitious future production targets for textiles and garment production and for other labour-intensive manufacturing products; whereas the government offers substantial subsidies to encourage major companies to establish factories in the region; whereas the pairing assistance scheme also encourages corporations from the eastern provinces to establish branches in Xinjiang; whereas minority workers are being sent to these corporations’ factories in the East, creating close linkages between products made with forced or involuntary labour performed by ethnic groups from Xinjiang and the entire domestic Chinese market;

N. whereas many large European companies have business ties in Xinjiang in different sectors such as the manufacturing, food and digital technology sectors; whereas there is little information on how the products of joint tech ventures are being used, creating uncertainty about the potential risk of misuse by the Chinese authorities for mass surveillance purposes;

O. whereas European companies operating in the region can be directly or indirectly complicit in the massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang; whereas enhanced human rights due diligence in supply chains involving this region should help avert any such risk of complicity; whereas Parliament has repeatedly called for mandatory human rights due diligence for European companies; whereas the EU has already developed due diligence legislation in the area of so-called ‘conflict minerals’ and the new Commission is considering taking similar legislative measures aimed at eliminating deforestation in our value chains;

P. whereas in its strategic framework on human rights and democracy the EU pledges that human rights, democracy and the rule of law will be promoted ‘in all areas of the EU’s external actions without exception’ and that the EU will ‘place human rights at the centre of its relations with all third countries, including strategic partners’;

Q. whereas in their joint communication entitled ‘EU-China – A strategic outlook’, the EEAS and the Commission have for the first time labelled China ‘a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance;

R. whereas the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights call on businesses to prevent and mitigate the actual and potential human rights abuses associated with their business practices;

1. Strongly condemns the human rights violations and extremely repressive policies unveiled by the ‘China Cables’; condemns in the strongest possible terms the sending of Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs to political ‘re-education’ camps on the basis of data harvested through a system of ‘predictive policing’, including on the grounds of having travelled abroad or being considered as too religiously devout; urges the Chinese authorities to free those reportedly detained for their beliefs or cultural practices and identities;

2. Stresses that imprisonment or any other severe deprivation of physical liberty, persecution against identifiable groups on ethnic, cultural or religious grounds, and other inhumane acts causing suffering amount to crimes against humanity when committed as part of a widespread attack directed against the civilian population; urges the Chinese Government to immediately close those camps, to put an end to all abuses against the civilian population in Xinjiang and to allow independent, international investigators full access to the region, as called for by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;

3. Reiterates its call on the Chinese Government to immediately and unconditionally release Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, the 2019 Sakharov Prize laureate, and all others detained solely for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression and, pending their release, to end the ongoing crackdown involving detention, judicial harassment and intimidation so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance; calls on China to ensure that they have regular, unrestricted access to their families and lawyers of their choice; calls, furthermore, for the release of Eli Mamut, Hailaite Niyazi, Memetjan Abdulla, Abduhelil Zunun and Abdukerim Abduweli as requested by the EU during the 36th and 37th rounds of the EU-China Human Rights dialogue; further calls for the immediate release of the book publisher Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish national, and two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig;

4. Calls on the Chinese Government to reveal the names, whereabouts and current status of all those who have effectively disappeared in Xinjiang;

5. Urges the Chinese Government to publicly acknowledge the scale and real nature of the detention of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in the internment camps, to amend the overly broad definition of what constitutes acts of terrorism in its current legislation such as the Counterterrorism Law of 2015 and the Regulation on De-extremification, and to clearly differentiate between peaceful dissent and violent extremism;

6. Underlines China’s responsibilities as a global power and calls on the Beijing authorities to ensure in all circumstances respect for international law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the UN Charter and Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international instruments signed or ratified by China; calls, therefore, on China to deliver on the commitment to respect international law and fundamental norms governing international relations with the United Nations at its core, as agreed at the 21st EU-China Summit; reiterates its call on China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to ensure its full implementation, including by ending all abusive practices and adapting its legislation as necessary;

7. Expresses its disappointment at the fact that the 37th round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue brought no substantial results; regrets, furthermore, that the Chinese delegation did not take part on 2 April in the continuation of the dialogue that provided for an exchange of views with civil society organisations; deplores that urgent human rights concerns once again played a marginal role at the EU-China summit of 9 April; further regrets that the EU-China interparliamentary meeting planned for November did not take place;

8. Regrets that the approach taken and tools used so far by the EU have not led to tangible progress in China’s human rights record, which has only deteriorated under the presidency of Xi Jinping; urges the new Commission to mainstream human rights concerns across all its components and to devise and implement a holistic EU strategy with a view to securing concrete human rights progress in China, with the closure of the Xinjiang camps, the release of political prisoners and the opening up of civil society space being treated as matters of absolute priority; reiterates its call for human rights concerns to be raised in a meaningful manner both privately and publicly at all high-level meetings with Chinese officials, rather than these discussions being relegated solely to the EU-China human rights dialogue;

9. Calls on the Council, the EEAS and the Commission to ensure that EU-China cooperation is grounded in the universality of human rights, the international human rights commitments undertaken by both sides and the commitment to progress towards achieving the highest standard of human rights protection;

10. Calls on the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the institutions of the European Union to publicly raise this issue with the Chinese Government in their bilateral meetings and in international fora and to publically condemn growing human rights violations in China;

11. Welcomes the European Council President’s declaration on the occasion of the latest EU-China Summit that human rights are – from the EU perspective – as important as economic interests, and calls on the Commission, the EEAS and the Council to consistently step up action to address human right issues in overall bilateral relations with China; reiterates its view that if and when EU-China summit language is weak on human rights, the Council, the EEAS and the Commission should decline to include such statements at all and should issue a separate communication on the topic that gives a meaningful assessment both of the situation and of why stronger language could not be agreed;

12. Reiterates its call for the EU and the Member States to take the lead during the next session of the UN Human Rights Council on a resolution establishing a fact-finding mission to Xinjiang, and to start by unanimously supporting joint statements with like-minded third countries and proactively using all diplomatic channels to rapidly build up support among HRC members;

13. Reiterates its call for the EU, its Member States and the international community to immediately halt all exports and technology transfers of goods and services that are being used by China to extend and improve its cyber surveillance and predictive profiling apparatus; is deeply concerned that China is systematically exporting high-end surveillance technologies to authoritarian states around the world and is providing regular training and technical assistance in the use of these technologies; calls on the Council, in this regard, to conclude a common position on reform of the Dual Use Regulation on the grounds of urgent national security and human rights considerations; stresses that Parliament has further developed and strengthened the Commission’s proposal on the inclusion of strict export controls for listed and non-listed cyber-surveillance technology;

14. Calls on all academic and research institutions cooperating with China to uphold fully the freedom of science and research;

15. Is deeply concerned about Xinjiang’s multi-layered schemes of forced and involuntary labour and their implications for global supply chains;

16. Calls on European companies operating in Xinjiang or engaged in activities which have direct repercussions in the province to publicly condemn the situation on the ground; calls on all EU companies operating in Xinjiang to temporarily suspend their activities on the ground if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are, through these activities, complicit in China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang; urges them to put in place a robust human rights due diligence system by means of processes to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for their impact on human rights throughout their supply chains and operations, as mandated by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; calls also for the EU to develop mandatory human rights due diligence legislation for all EU companies; asks the President of the European Parliament to consider the removal of European Parliament access badges from European companies which, over the next three months, take no action in this regard;

17. Is deeply concerned about reports of surveillance of and threats, including death threats, against ethnic Uyghur EU citizens and residents; calls on the Commission and on all EU Member States to urgently investigate these reports, to ensure the protection of members of the Xinjiang diaspora and expedite asylum requests from Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, and to invoke domestic law as appropriate; welcomes, in this regard, the decisions taken by Germany and Sweden to suspend the return of all ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs or other Turkic Muslims to China in view of the risks of arbitrary detention, torture or other ill-treatment they would face in the country;

18. Welcomes the High Representative’s recent announcement that work would start on an EU global human rights sanctions regime, and calls for the EU to speed up the process, to swiftly start work on such an instrument, as proposed by Parliament in its resolution of 14 March 2019, and to further involve the European Parliament;

19. Reiterates its call on the Council to adopt targeted sanctions against Chen Quanguo, secretary of the Communist Party of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and other officials responsible for the crackdown;

20. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and the Parliament of the People’s Republic of China.


[1] Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0422.

[2] Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0343.

[3] Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0377.

[4] Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0215.

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