Sunday, November 9, 2008

China on the rack at UN torture talks

China came in for fierce questioning on its commitment to end abuses on Friday, as the UN committee against torture conducted its first review of the Asian nation in seven years.

Among other controversial matters, the UN committee addressed the wave of arrests in Tibet after nationalist unrest last March, the house arrest of family members of dissident rights activist Hu Jia (胡佳) and overall conditions of detention in the country.
The committee’s rapporteur Felice Gaer also quizzed Beijing on the number of people sentenced to death, the fate of North Korean emigrants and the harassment of pregnant women to “persuade” them to have an abortion.
Gaer said she was “perplexed” by China’s response, which consisted of highlighting the relevant laws in place to combat abuses, while the committee “expects information on concrete measures to make sure these [laws] are being implemented.”
“The lack of information makes it difficult to do a serious and independent assessment of the allegations by rights groups about torture and ill treatment,” she said.
But Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong (李保東) said progress had indeed been made in combating torture.
Some 40 trials involving 82 people accused of extracting confessions by torture took place last year, for example — down from 64 trials involving 119 people in 2006, he said.
China is routinely criticized by rights groups and Western countries over its human rights record, which it rejects as interference in its affairs.

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