Last week, at the eleventh hour, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to grant a visa to a staff member of Human Rights in China (HRIC), who had been invited to participate in the EU-China Human Rights Seminar in Beijing. According to official descriptions, these seminars, organized along side of the bilateral EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, are intended “to create a space for constructive discussion on human rights issues between European and Chinese stakeholders,” including experts, NGO representatives, and other civil society participants.
HRIC was informed that the Chinese MFA viewed HRIC as an “anti-China” (反华, fanhua) organization, whose participation in the Seminar is “totally unacceptable,” and that that is the reason why HRIC has not been allowed to participate in the Seminar in past years.
“HRIC is an organization dedicated to advancing the protection of the fundamental rights of the people inside China,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC Executive Director. “We regret being excluded from this exchange, especially because one of the Seminar’s topics is technology and human rights, an area in which HRIC has some experience to share. But our more fundamental concern is the success of the Chinese authorities in stigmatizing any independent voices as ‘anti-China.’”
But what is “anti-China”? Perhaps artist and activist Ai Weiwei describes it best:
… They say it’s anti-China to catch the rapist; it’s anti-China to ask about the quality of building construction when your child is crushed to death; it’s anti-China to expose that there’s poison in our food; it is also anti-China to petition about the beatings, killings, and bullying of common people; just raising questions about the sale of children, or of HIV-infected blood, the illegal coal kilns, the fake news, the judiciary breaking the law, embezzlement and corruption, unconstitutional violation of rights, or the “green-damming” of the Internet, is anti-China. If you aren’t anti-China, are you even human?
from Ai Weiwei, “All That’s Left Is the ‘Grass-mud Horse,’” in “Voices from the Blogosphere,” China Rights Forum, no. 3, 2009.
HRIC’s staff member was invited as the designated representative of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), of which HRIC is one of 164 league members. The invitation was based on the staff member’s relevant background, credentials, and qualification as an EU national. HRIC has participated in four of these seminars beginning in 2003.
For background information on the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, see: