Chairs Send Letter to UN Secretary-General Calling for Action to Address Gross Violations of Human Rights in China

July 1, 2021

(Washington)—Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), the Chair and Cochair, respectively, of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China released today a letter to United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres calling on him to take immediate measures to closely monitor and assess gross violations of human rights in the People’s Republic of China.  Citing a call made one year ago by over 50 UN Special Experts for decisive measures to address the deteriorating human rights situation in the People’s Republic of China, the Chairs asked the Secretary-General to report on what has been done to implement this request and what obstacles exist to taking urgent action.

The Chairs sent the letter in line with two July anniversaries that mark recent erosions to the fundamental freedoms of Chinese and Hong Kong citizens—the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) last year and the “709 Crackdown,” a coordinated campaign to dismantle China’s human rights lawyer’s network beginning on July 9, 2015. The Chairs cited the cases of lawyers Li Yuhan and Yu Wensheng who were both determined to be arbitrarily detained by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.  Additional case information on these and other cases can be found on the CECC’s searchable Political Prisoners Database.        

Text of the letter is here and below.

Dear Mr. Secretary-General:
As the chairs of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China, we write in reference to the June 26, 2020 statement in which 50 independent United Nations human rights experts called for “renewed attention on the human rights situation in [the People’s Republic of China], particularly in light of the moves against the people of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, minorities of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and human rights defenders across the country.” We request that your office advise whether there has been any progress in implementing the measures suggested by these experts and if so, provide a description and the status of such efforts. If no action has been taken in this regard, please provide a basis for the failure to act.
The experts, a group that includes the leading UN special rapporteurs responsible for monitoring a wide range of human rights issues, “urge[d] the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to act with a sense of urgency to take all appropriate measures to monitor Chinese human rights practices.” Possible measures identified by the experts include creating a special session to evaluate China’s human rights violations; establishing an impartial and independent mechanism to monitor, analyze, and report on China’s practices; and engaging in dialogues with China to demand that it  fulfill its human rights obligations.
Today is the anniversary of the enactment of the National Security Law (NSL), which has led to the rapid deterioration of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong. To date, more than a hundred people have been arrested under the NSL, many of whom were arrested for peacefully participating in marches, advocating democratic reforms, or engaging in civic activities. In addition, independent news reporting is being targeted, and educators are being disciplined for preparing teaching materials inconsistent with the government’s narrative.
Also of note is the upcoming anniversary of the “709 Crackdown,” a nationwide and coordinated campaign that began around July 9, 2015, affecting over 300 rights advocates and lawyers. Some of them were convicted of “endangering state security” charges, when in fact they were merely defending the rights of others. Four individuals remain in prison today, and lawyers who represented those detained during the crackdown became prisoners themselves. Specifically, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that the detentions of lawyers Li Yuhan and Yu Wensheng were arbitrary. We note that the persecution of lawyers and rights advocates is at odds with the Chinese government’s rhetorical promotion of rule-based governance.
Similarly, rights abuses across China have not abated. As the Commission has noted in its reports, Chinese authorities have implemented discriminatory policies against ethnic minorities and religious groups and have used “economic development” as a pretext to sinicize them. Forced relocation of herders, demolition of religious buildings, and mandatory Chinese language education are among the methods the Chinese government has employed to eradicate cultural diversity. Significantly, credible reports show that millions of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are being detained in numerous large-scale internment camps across Xinjiang or are transferred from the camps to the prison system elsewhere in China. Given the immense scale of the network of camps, the Chinese government’s initial denial of the camps’ existence and subsequent justifications that the camps constitute either an anti-extremism measure or voluntary vocational training are not credible.
With these gross human rights violations in mind, we echo the UN experts’ call for immediate measures to closely monitor and assess China’s behavior. We further encourage you to employ the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database ( as a resource for information on victims of persecution. We look forward to a prompt response from your office. Thank you.