Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has said it will deliver a letter to David Cameron signed by 14 parliamentarians, urging him to raise the cases of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and the missing Christian human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, when he meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the G-20 Summit in Seoul on 11-12 November.
The letter, coordinated by CSW, aims to ensure that human rights are on the agenda during the G-20 meeting.
There are concerns that trade with the country may take priority as the British economy seeks to recover. After his visit to China earlier this year, the Foreign Secretary William Hague promised to inject a "new commercialism" into Britain's foreign policy. He also wrote to all Foreign Office staff at home and abroad instructing them to "miss no opportunity" to champion the British economy to secure overseas trade. Campaigners are concerned that this might be at the expense of human rights.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also came under fire this week. The New York Times, in an editorial on Tuesday, said Ban had been "shamefully silent" on rights issues in China and its imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo, who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for “subversion of state power”. He was arrested after he authored “Charter 08”, a document calling for reforms to China’s political system. His efforts to promote democracy and human rights were recognised in October 2010 when he was awarded the prestigious Peace Prize. His wife, Liu Xia, is currently under house arrest in Beijing.
Gao Zhisheng, an outspoken human rights lawyer whose work defending sensitive religious and political cases drew the attention of Chinese authorities, has been missing since April 2010. He first went missing in February 2009, before briefly reappearing in March 2010 in what was widely thought to be an act to quell international attention. Repeated requests for information about Gao Zhisheng’s whereabouts and condition have been met with silence. There are grave concerns for his wellbeing as he has been tortured during a detention.
On hearing of the letter, Gao Zhisheng’s wife Geng He said, "My family is so grateful to the parliamentarians who asked Prime Minister Cameron to raise my husband and Liu Xiaobo's cases. I am hopeful that this type of sustained international pressure will bring my husband home to me and my children."
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “As China’s influence on the world stage continues to increase, the British government should place improvements in human rights at the forefront of its relationship with the Chinese government. Mr Cameron has previously been outspoken regarding China’s human rights record and CSW requests that he express concerns to Hu Jintao regarding Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng, whose cases are representative of many others of ongoing repression.”