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RSF urges European leaders to address press freedom during visit to China

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on members of the high-level European Union (EU) delegation to use the upcoming 24th EU-China summit to step up pressure on Beijing to obtain the release of jailed press freedom defenders, including publishers Jimmy Lai and Gui Minhai.

Press freedom defenders, including publishers Jimmy Lai and Gui Minhai, must be released, and the EU delegation should increase pressure on Beijing: RSF made these recommendations in recent letters sent to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel; the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen; and EU High Representative Josep Borrell, ahead of their visit to Beijing for the 24th EU-China summit, starting on 7 December.

“In recent years, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has imposed a social model based on the control of information, while repression against independent journalists has become the new norm. We respectfully call on EU leaders to uphold their commitment to addressing human rights issues with the Chinese authorities, and to step up pressure to secure the release of all press freedom defenders jailed in  mainland China and Hong Kong.”

Antoine Bernard
RSF Director, Advocacy and Assistance

Although press freedom is enshrined in Article 35 of China’s Constitution, the regime, led by General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping, has stepped up its crackdown on independent journalists in recent years. Among numerous journalists and press freedom defenders currently behind bars is the founder of independent media outlet Apple DailyJimmy Lai, who has been detained since 2020 and faces a possible life sentence under the national security law, with his trial scheduled to start in a matter of days, on 18 December.

Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, founder of a publishing house that specialised in investigative stories on Chinese leaders, was abducted while on vacation in Thailand in 2015, only to later resurface on Chinese state TV delivering a forced confession. He was sentenced in 2020 to 10 years in prison for “espionage”. His daughter Angela Gui has been restricted from meeting and exchanging correspondence with him since 2018, and has no knowledge about her father’s whereabouts despite continued efforts.

To date, the EU’s External Action Service has on multiple occasions expressed alarm over the detention of Gui and Lai, as well as other press freedom defenders, while the European Parliament has adopted numerous resolutions calling for the release of detained journalists. Most recently in June 2023, the European Parliament condemned the crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong, and called for Lai’s release.

Ranked 179th out of 180 countries and territories in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index, China is the world’s largest jailer of journalists and press freedom defenders, with at least 121 currently detained.

REPORTERS SANS FRONTIÈRES / REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS (RSF)

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