Sunday, February 15, 2009
China rejects UN call to improve human rights
China has rejected all of the most serious proposals suggested by the United Nations Human Rights Council to clean up its human rights record.
After submitting to a peer review on Monday, it has now turned thumbs down on most of its specific recommendations, namely that it abolish capital punishment, adopt international norms against torture, abolish illegal detention and respect religious and minority rights.
This was China's first appearance before a UN Universal Periodic Review panel and Sharon Hom, executive director of the advocacy group Human Rights in China, called the 30-month old process "a failure."She said the review "has given China a 'cover' for impunity."Although Canada, India and Nigeria presided over the review, all of the 47 states that are members of the Human Rights Council could submit recommendations for the report. China accepted several that talked broadly of respecting and promoting human rights and quite happily agreed to fellow Communist state Cuba's recommendation that it take action against "people who are qualifying themselves as human rights defenders with the objective of attacking the interests of state and the people of China."
China's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Li Baodong, received the report and told the council that his country "is witnessing the emancipation of thought, enlightenment in politics, development in economy, harmony of society, progress in sciences and blossoming in art," according to Xinhua, China's official news agency.
Xinhua managed to ignore all the criticism levelled at China and said: "During the review many countries praised China's tremendous achievements in the promotion and protection of human rights in the past 60 years, and particularly since its launching of reform and opening up in 1978."
Canadian recommendations on capital punishment, torture, legislative and judicial reforms, extra-judicial detention, legal rights and freedom of religion were all rejected by China.
Several states, including New Zealand and the United Kingdom recommended China respect fundamental rights in Tibet and allow UN observers, diplomats and the international media to travel freely in the region.It is a particularly delicate topic in China now and the recommendations were rejected.
The 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's forced exile to India is on March 10 and last year demonstrations in Lhasa to mark the day turned violent and police and troops cracked down heavily in the region.Officials admitted to killing only one Tibetan and blamed the death of 21 more on "rioters."Tibetan groups say that more than 200 were killed in clashes with the security forces.Since that time, and despite new rules adopted for the Beijing Olympics, journalists have not been allowed to travel freely anywhere on the Tibetan plateau.