BEIJING – The European Union said on Wednesday that the departure from China of Liu Xia, poet and widow of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was a positive move, although it added that the human rights situation in the Asian country was still a cause of concern.
On Tuesday, a European delegation concluded a fresh round of a two-day dialogue on human rights between China and the EU in the Chinese capital, ahead of the summit between Beijing and Brussels on Monday.
During the meetings, the EU broached Liu Xia’s case with the Chinese authorities, according to a statement released on Wednesday by the EU embassy in China, which stressed that the writer’s trip to Germany to receive medical treatment “is a long sought after positive development.”
After eight years under house arrest without being accused of any crime and with very little contact with the outside world, Liu Xia was allowed by the Chinese authorities to leave the country on Tuesday following a long and complicated European mediation process.
“The deteriorating situation of civil and political rights in China... has been accompanied by the detention and conviction of a significant number of Chinese human rights defenders,” the EU said, despite Liu Xia’s case.
It urged the Chinese authorities to release dozens of activists and human rights defenders in custody, such as Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who was arrested in January while traveling by train to Beijing to seek consular assistance for medical care at the Swedish embassy.
The EU stressed the need to investigate allegations of torturing detainees, and added that the Chinese authorities must allow detainees access to a lawyer, family visits and medical assistance.
Brussels also expressed concern over political reeducation camps in Xinjiang of western China, home to several Muslim minorities, and the human rights of Uyghurs and Tibetans.
Other issues addressed during the dialogue were capital punishment, arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of expression and association in China.
However, Beijing stressed that the Asian country has achieved a “breakthrough” in human rights over the last five years.
“It asked the European side to fully observe China’s human rights achievements and conduct human rights exchanges with China on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the meetings concluded.
This year, the dialogue between the EU and China coincided with the third anniversary of the onset of the “709 campaign” under which more than 300 people, including lawyers and their legal assistants were arrested in the Asian country that has been witnessing a series of crackdowns on prominent lawyers since 2017.
The EU organized a meeting with human rights defenders and relatives of detained lawyers and activists, and promised to continue working to achieve their release.