20 May 2021

Exiled activists across Europe call for immediate suspension of all Extradition with China

55 Chinese human rights defenders and activists in exile across Europe - with the support of Safeguard Defenders, Hong Kong Watch, and the World Uyghur Congress - have called for “urgent coordinated action to suspend all Bilateral Extradition Agreements between EU Member States and the People’s Republic of China.” In a letter addressed to the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and other senior European leaders, the activists from Hong Kong, Tibet, the Uyghur Region, and mainland China said:

“Not only do the Bilateral Extradition Treaties with the PRC legitimize a judicial system that does not respect any of the due process standards prescribed by international law, they play a key role in the CCP’s effort to export its regime of political terror overseas.”

“As activists in exile, in the safe haven of Europe, these extradition treaties are of great and immediate concern. Under current judicial review procedures for extradition requests they not only present a potential threat to our freedom of movement within the European Union, but to our freedom of association and freedom of expression, as Beijing may seek our extradition for statements we make in Europe.”

Signatories to the letter include former pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker Nathan Law; artist and activist Ai Weiwei; Angela Gui, the daughter of abducted Hong Kong bookseller, Gui Minhai; Dolkun Isa, the President of the World Uyghur Congress; and Shao Jiang, a student leader during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

The letter underlines that reassurances from member states that political extraditions will not be permitted ring hollow in view of the Chinese Government’s increasingly common tactic of using seemingly inane financial charges to attempt to rendition fugitives:

“We take little comfort in guarantees from Member States that they will not permit the abuse of such extradition agreements to muzzle political opponents. Recent extradition cases in Sweden, Poland and Spain have shown a dangerous trend where the Chinese Government has sought to circumvent provisions to stop political persecution by demanding extradition for financial crimes, accusing activists and dissidents of financial fraud. Of equal concern is Beijing’s use of the One China policy as a backdoor to extradite Taiwanese citizens to be jailed on the mainland.

Even EU citizens are not exempt from the threat of extradition. Four Danish citizens, including two elected Members of Parliament, have been expressly warned by their own Intelligence Services to avoid travel to fellow EU Member States with outstanding extradition treaties with the PRC.

That such fears are fully warranted has been demonstrated by the case of Falun Gong adherent Li Zhihui, in which Safeguard Defenders was closely involved. Sought on allegations of economic crimes by Beijing, the Swedish citizen spent no less than two years in detention in Poland while the judicial review process of the extradition request was underway and was only recently released. Sources have informed Safeguard Defenders that a Chinese national sought for extradition committed suicide after prolonged detention pending his extradition hearing.

Sources at the Belgian Ministry of Justice have confirmed there is a concrete risk to those wanted by Beijing when they travel Europe’s central policy hub in Brussels.

Commenting on the publication of the letter, Ray Wong, a Hong Kong activist who was granted asylum in Germany and one of the signatories, said:

"It is appalling that countries like Belgium, France and Spain still have extradition treaties with mainland China. In practice this means that if I decide to visit Brussels to speak to European parliamentarians or travel to Paris to address a rally, I could run the risk of being arrested and extradited to China to stand trial under the National Security Law."

Members of the European and national Parliaments commented:

Reinhard Butikofer, Chair of the European Parliament’s China Delegation and IPAC Co-Chair stated “We cannot allow the long arm of the Chinese State to reach into the heart of our European democracy. Bilateral extradition treaties with China are an open invite for the Chinese government to exert pressure on European citizens who dare to criticize the actions of the Chinese Communist Party. Terminating these agreements must be a first step in strengthening the resilience of our democratic institutions.”

Engin Eroglu, Member of the European Parliament and member of IPAC: “Europe has to be a safe haven for those who have fled the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal persecution. Yet as long as extradition treaties with the People’s Republic of China remain in force, hundreds of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese dissidents living in Europe are under threat. I strongly urge all EU Member States holding active extradition treaties with China to suspend these agreements. We do not accept that European citizens should live under fear of oppression from the Chinese government.”

Pavel Fischer, Member of the Czech Senate and member of IPAC, said “The freedom to speak out without fear is fundamental to our democratic way of life. Yet for Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese residents in Europe, openly criticizing the Chinese government carries a very real risk of harm to themselves and their families. Only by terminating our extradition treaties with China will we be able to send a clear signal that we do not accept any attempts to intimidate our citizens into silence.”

Samuel Cogolati, Member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives and IPAC Co-Chair: “It is unthinkable that while the Chinese government stands credibly accused of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, multiple European governments continue to maintain active extradition treaties with Beijing. Termination of these agreements would send a clear message to Beijing: any government that claims to uphold the rule of law must first guarantee the fundamental human rights of its citizens.”

On 30 April 2021, in view of the public hearings on the human rights situation in China and in Xinjiang in particular at the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Belgian Chamber on May 4th, Safeguard Defenders submitted a briefing to all Permanent Members of the Committee regarding the numerous severe human rights issues under the Bilateral Extradition Treaty between the People’s Republic (PRC) and Belgium, which entered into force on 16 December 2020.

Read the appeal letter and see all the signatories here: