Key bilateral program is no more . . .
The Australian reported this week that China has suspended its Human Rights Technical Co-operation Program with Australia and blocked two Australian legislators from attending a study tour to China next month. Established in 1997, the program had been one of Australia’s core human rights policy initiatives with China and marked a switch in Australia’s approach to China from one of supporting resolutions at the UN on human rights, to instead conducting private bilateral meetings on the issue. With a budget of C$6.7 million over three years, the program aimed to provide human rights training activities for Chinese officials.
Move follows criticism of Uighur detentions . . .
According to The Financial Times, the suspension of the human rights dialogue actually came in August, after Australia, along with 21 other countries, called on China at the UN Human Rights Council to end mass detentions of Uighurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang. The suspension followed on the heels of The New York Times’ release of the Xinjiang papers, which outline the Chinese government’s efforts to curtail perceived terrorist and separatist threats in the Muslim populated region.
Similar Canadian program petered out . . .
As with Australia, bilateral human rights dialogues used to be Canada’s preferred approach to advocate human rights in China. Canada had its own human-rights dialogue with Beijing, established in 1997, that allowed mid-level officials of various ministries, non-profit organizations, and academics to meet on an annual basis. It was cancelled in 2005 after it was criticized for its limited effectiveness. In view of the current political climate, promoting human rights in China will continue to be a challenge for the Canadian government.