Statement by the Chairs on International Human Rights Day 2022

(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, issued the following statement for International Human Rights Day.

“On International Human Rights Day we celebrate the importance of human rights and the critical need to protect and promote those rights for everyone, everywhere. Human rights are inherent in every person, a principle enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 74 years ago.  

“China voted to adopt the UDHR. The government of the People’s Republic of China has obligations to uphold human rights through a host of international human rights instruments. In practice, however, the government of the People’s Republic of China actively and sometimes brutally denies these rights, choosing to see the people’s enjoyment of their rights as a challenge to the Chinese Communist Party’s exercise of power.   

“Over the past several years, the world has watched with horror and dismay at the genocide being waged against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Even as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics commenced, atrocities in the XUAR continued and PRC government suppressed with impunity press freedoms, the free flow of news and information, the freedom of assembly and religion, and the autonomy and rights guaranteed to the people of Hong Kong.

“The Commission’s 2022 Annual Report provides careful documentation about the PRC government’s efforts this year to censor, torture, and deny the rights enumerated in the UDHR. It also details the tools used by Chinese authorities to silence critics, to exert control over diaspora communities, to conduct surveillance, and to force the repatriation of targeted people. Within China, the report documents evidence that top leaders directed the genocide in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, including policies of forced labor, sexual violence, and family separation. It documents the continued erosion of the religious and linguistic heritage of the Tibetan people. This year’s reporting also shines a spotlight on the pervasive problem of violence against women, with high-profile cases showing the vulnerability of women across society, including the tennis star Peng Shuai, who remains disappeared and unable to travel freely.  Meanwhile, coercive population control policies directed at ethnic minority populations amount to eugenics, while the broader policies continue to intrude on families’ decisions about if, when, and how to have children.

“In commemoration of International Human Rights Day, we call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China and honor the bravery of activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and peaceful protestors who seek freedoms and justice despite sometimes terrible risks. We also call on PRC officials to address quickly and transparently the terrible consequences of the November 24 fire that killed Uyghurs locked in their apartment building and which sparked protests across China for an end to repressive “zero-COVID” policies. The people in the PRC have the fundamental right to the freedoms of expression and of assembly that the PRC government is obligated to respect--we urge them to do so and end efforts of intimidation and the arbitrary detention of those engaged in protests.    

“On this day we must never forget the fact that the world is a safer and more prosperous place when countries share a commitment to protect universal rights and freedoms.  Likewise, American foreign policy is at its best when putting human rights and human dignity at its center. This is particularly true as the world confronts atrocities and genocide and the advance of authoritarianism.  We reaffirm our commitment to stand with those seeking to build a world that protects human rights and to hold accountable those who abuse human rights.”