"While noting the Chinese government's concerns about alleged acts of terrorism in China ... the fight against terrorism should be pursued with full respect for human rights and fundamental values," EU foreign ministers said in a statement ahead of the UN Human Rights Commission's 58th session in Geneva.
The session opens March 19.
In conclusions at the end of their regular monthly meeting in Brussels, the foreign ministers expressed "deep concern at the serious violations of human rights in China and the lack of progress in a number of areas."
They said the EU would urge China to put limits on its use of the death penalty "with a view to its abolition," and to show respect for "freedom of expression, religion and belief and for the right of association including free trade unions."
The 15-nation bloc will also push for "cultural rights and religious freedoms in Tibet and Xinjiang," and for the early ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The European Union maintains a human rights dialogue with China, with the latest round having taken place in Madrid last Tuesday and Wednesday as part of Spain's turn at the rotating EU presidency.
Sticking to a position it took in years past, the EU said it would "consider favourably" voting for the adoption of a draft resolution on human rights in China if one is put forth at the UN commission.
But it stopped short of saying that it would put such a resolution on the table, or whether it would co-sponsor one with the United States, which in past years has taken the lead in criticizing Beijing over human rights.
The EU ministers welcomed what it termed "certain progress in relation to establishing the rule of law, democratic principles and human rights" in China as well as recent changes to its trade union law.
But they also expressed concern about "ongoing violations of the human rights of pro-democracy activists, proponents of free trade unions and followers of the Falun gong" spiritual [group].
The EU is also worried about the "widespread" use of torture, though it noted "a certain degree of willingness of the Chinese authorities to work towards its eradication."
It described as "a grave setback" the Chinese government's "strike hard" campaign against corruption, and expressed deep concern over "the deprivation of religious and cultural rights in Tibet and Xinjiang."
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