Parliamentary question by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Council and reply

Parliamentary questions
by Marco Pannella (TDI) to the Council
(15 October 1999)

Subject: Custody and repatriation detention practices in China

Each year in China hundreds of thousands of people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds including street children, the homeless, those suffering from mental illness and migrants, are arbitrarily arrested and held without specific charge or trial. This repressive practice, known as custody and repatriation, became even more widespread in the weeks leading up to the 50th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. People may be held for several months in appalling conditions. Prisoners are subject to constant physical violence, live in disgraceful sanitary conditions, work extremely long hours and are held in almost complete isolation. In addition, they must pay the costs of their detention in the custody and repatriation centres.

What measures has the Council taken or does it intend to take to ensure that the Chinese authorities put an immediate end to this form of administrative arrest which is contrary to the spirit and the letter of international conventions ratified by the People's Republic of China?

What action does the Council intend to take to ensure that, pending total abolition of this form of arbitrary imprisonment, the Chinese authorities guarantee freedom of access for international organisations to the custody and repatriation centres?

More generally, what measures will the Council take to ensure rigorous and verifiable compliance by China with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

(17 December 1999)

1. The EU has expressed its concern about Human Rights violations in China on several occasions, in multilateral fora as well as in bilateral contacts with the Chinese authorities, and in particular in the framework of the EU-China Human Rights dialogue. Through this dialogue, the EU regularly raises among other issues the questions of administrative detention and arbitrary arrests. The EU strongly urged the Chinese authorities to change their policy in this area and to comply with the provisions of the UN Covenants on political and civil rights and social, economic and cultural rights it has signed over the last two years. It also underlined the importance of giving follow-up to the recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention following its visit to China. The EU further encouraged China to pursue cooperation with the ICRC regarding access to detention centres. Finally, the EU proposed to China that technical assistance projects be developed to help the Chinese government to ratify and implement the UN Covenants mentioned above.

2. The last round of the EU-China Human Rights dialogue was held on 19 October in Beijing. On this occasion, the Chinese authorities briefed the EU on envisaged reforms in administrative detention. They also reported good cooperation with the ICRC concerning access to detention centres and their willingness to continue such cooperation. Finally, they expressed readiness to receive legal assistance and expertise from the EU with a view to the ratification and implementation of the UN Covenants.