HRW: France should press China on alleged crimes against humanity during Xi visit News, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
HRW: France should press China on alleged crimes against humanity during Xi visit

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday issued a statement urging French President Emmanuel Macron to speak out against the Chinese government’s alleged crimes against humanity and increasing human rights repression during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Paris, which is scheduled to take place between May 6-7. 

Maya Wang, acting China director at HRW argued that France’s silence and inaction would fuel the Chinese government’s repression of human rights. On this ground, HRW contended that French President Emmanuel Macron should make it clear to Xi Jinping that Beijing’s crimes against humanity come with consequences for the China-France relations. Wang added that demonstrating the French government’s commitment to addressing Xi’s assault on rights inside and outside China is crucial. 

HRW previously called upon Macron to speak out against China’s human rights violations when Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Beijing in April 2023. Encouraging the two politicians to establish a bilateral rights framework between the EU and China, HRW also demanded Macron and von der Leyen publicly call for the release of all political prisoners and detainees – including Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economist serving a life sentence in China on charges of separatism, as well as 7 of his students.

However, Macron and von der Leyen did not publicly address the human rights situation in the country during their visit last year. HRW maintained that Xi’s upcoming visit presents an unparalleled opportunity to course-correct last year’s inadvertence by laying out how human rights repression hinders trade and businesses between China and the EU, and the potential means France would use to hold China accountable such as pressing ahead toward a UN Human Rights Council-backed investigation in Xinjiang.

HRW highlighted that this approach to the conservation of human rights corresponds with Macron’s vision of European humanism – a model based on democracy and globally recognized human rights – which requires the continuous defense to evolve and remain existing. In his own words, Macron insisted that “this fight is one that we will take up at the international level.” 

Xi’s visit to Paris will mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between France and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and talks are expected to center largely around the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ongoing conflicts in the Middle East (including the Israel-Palestine war), and trade relations between the European Union (EU) and PRC, which have noticeably weakened after the EU adopted targeted financial sanctions against Chinese officials and entities they deemed responsible for certain human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, where many Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims reside. The PRC responded to the EU’s sanctions by adopting retaliatory counter-sanctions, which ultimately led to the suspension of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), a bilateral trade deal between the EU and China, by the European Parliament. 

The impending visit has been met with significant criticism by the international community, notably from human rights watchdogs such as HRW, which believe Macron has an overarching duty to change course from the intended agenda and focus on publicly addressing the human rights situation in the East-Asian country, which is rapidly deteriorating.