24. November 2021

Press release

"Business as usual is not an option" – Lucerne Manifesto on the People's Republic of China published

A coalition of civil society organisations today publishes the “Lucerne Manifesto on the People’s Republic of China”. The manifesto urges political and economic decision-makers to defend human rights in their dealings with the People’s Republic of China at all levels and in all matters. The manifesto is published on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the Europa Forum Lucerne. Even though this year’s topic is “Switzerland and Europe under China’s spell”, human rights are not part of the official programme.

The appalling scale of human rights violations, the massive repression of all opposition movements and the increasingly aggressive assertion of political, economic and territorial interests by the People’s Republic of China threaten to undermine the international human rights system. “The fact that the People’s Republic of China systematically disregards human rights and reinterprets their core meaning, as is happening in the case of the Uyghurs, can no longer be left out of any debate”, says Gheyyur Kuerban of the World Uyghur Congress.

Wake-up call from a broad alliance

To support this demand, a broad coalition of civil society organisations today publishes the “Lucerne Manifesto on the People’s Republic of China”. It highlights the extent, scope and irreparability of the human rights violations committed by the government of the People’s Republic of China and calls for decisive action on the part of the international community, including Switzerland.

“The manifesto is a wake-up call that ‘business as usual’ is not an option. We call on political and business leaders to finally address the issue consistently and to take a joint stand for human rights”, says Tashi Shitsetsang from the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe.

Human rights are not a focus at the Europa Forum Lucerne

The occasion for the publication of the Manifesto is the Annual Meeting of the Europa Forum Lucerne, which opened today with the annual theme “Switzerland and Europe under China’s spell”. However, human rights are not part of the official programme: on the website one finds the term “values”, but the term “human rights” is not mentioned once, and despite the urgency of the topic, no human rights players from civil society are represented. When approached by the Society for Threatened Peoples, the organisers argued that human rights were not a focus of the event.

“Unfortunately, this justification fits into the big picture of Switzerland’s ‘special path’”, says Lisa Mazzone, Member of the Council of States and President of the Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland. “We talk about China and with China without adequately addressing human rights. This is unacceptable”.

Demands of the signatories

In the manifesto, the signatories make the following demands, among others:

To the community of democratic and human rights oriented countries

  • Defend multilateralism and internationally recognised human rights norms in a strong alliance with like-minded states
  • Coherent foreign policy: consistent demand for universal human rights at all levels of the hierarchy and in all affairs
  • Demand a peaceful resolution of the conflicts with Taiwan, Hong Kong and the occupied territories in accordance with the will and interests of the affected populations
  • Diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games

To business leaders

  • Conduct human rights due diligence in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises when engaging in company shareholding, imports, exports and/or financial services in connection with the PRC

Criticism of Switzerland’s inaction

The manifesto was signed by the European Federation of Taiwanese Associations, Hongkonger in Deutschland e. V., Swiss-Tibetan Friendship Association, Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Tibetan Community in Switzerland & Liechtenstein, Tibetan Women’s Organisation in Switzerland, Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, World Uyghur Congress, Uigurischer Verein Schweiz and the Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland and Germany.

In doing so, they are expressing their concern about the continuing inaction on the part of politics and business. For example, the Federal Council has yet to take a decision on the adoption of the EU sanctions of last spring, and just over a month ago, Switzerland did not co-sign a Xinjiang declaration at the UN level.

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