FOREIGN AFFAIRS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
UN whitewash of China human rights abuses
, March 7, 2009
A United Nations review has ignored the systematic violations of human rights in China. Peter Westmore reports.A United Nations report has effectively whitewashed the systematic violations of human rights taking place in China.
The UN Human Rights Council - a body set up in 2006 to replace the discredited UN Human Rights Commission - has just delivered its first review of human rights in China by commending China's human rights record, in defiance of recommendations by every member-state of the European Union, as well as by Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland.
The review has ignored the systematic violations of human rights in China, which had earlier been identified by the UN Rapporteur on Torture in a recent report, and by numerous international human rights bodies.
The review was adopted by a majority of the 47 states which are members of the UN Human Rights Council.
The Australian delegation, to its credit, was prominent in drawing attention to human rights issues in China.Repression
According to the report on China, "Australia welcomed the considerable improvements made by China over the past 30 years, but expressed concern that Chinese officials continue to repress religious activities considered to be outside the state-controlled religious system."
It added, "Noting grave concerns about reports of harassment, arbitrary arrest, punishment and detention of religious and ethnic minorities, including Tibetans, it recommended that China:
"(a) strengthen the protection of ethnic minorities' religious, civil, socio-economic and political rights. While encouraged by positive developments in the handling of death-penalty cases, it remained concerned about the reportedly high number of executions and lack of transparency in such cases and recommended that China;
"(b) abolish the death penalty and, as interim steps, reduce the number of crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed, and publish figures on executions."
The report said that Australia's delegation had welcomed the softening of media regulations for foreign journalists and sought to encourage China to ensure that restrictions are not imposed on journalists' access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and to rural areas.
Further, it recommended that the new regulations be extended to Chinese journalists and that China respond positively to outstanding visit requests by special procedures and issue a standing invitation.
It also recommended that China ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as quickly as possible and with minimal reservations; establish a national human rights institution, in accordance with the Paris Principles; and "investigate reports of harassment and detention of human rights defenders, including alleged mistreatment while in police custody, with a view to ending impunity".
In its response, the Beijing government singled out Australia for criticism, saying, "China also noted with regret that there were a few countries like Australia, which made some ill-founded comments on Tibet. China categorically rejects this attempt to politicise the issue."
In fact, Australia was just one of many countries to question aspects of China's human rights policy.
The Chinese response to the inquiry came at a media conference after it concluded.
According to Associated Press, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that most countries had endorsed China's human rights record - and those that did not were simply politicising the process.
"A majority of countries spoke highly of China's human rights policies and achievements, and support China continuing the followed path in line with its national conditions," Jiang said at a regularly scheduled news conference.
"A few countries attempted to politicise the review and made some accusations. They were rebuked by most countries."
Not surprisingly, China's allies were fulsome in their praise for the regime. Cuba urged its fellow communist country to crack down on self-appointed human rights defenders "attacking the interests of the state and the people of China".
Pakistan blamed the clashes during last year's anti-government protests in Tibet on criminals who had "disturbing links to external perpetrators with ulterior motives".
Sri Lanka rejected malignant criticisms by those who tore China into little pieces in the period of colonialism and noted that China had achieved independence and self-determination for its people.
The Chinese Government, however, was criticised by Willy Fautré from the European organisation, Human Rights Without Frontiers International, which specialises in China.
He said, "The Chinese delegation rejected almost all the recommendations aiming at promoting democracy and human rights.
"After Cuba, China has sabotaged the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), as no other country has done, since the implementation of this new mechanism of the Human Rights Council in 2008.
"Now that the Olympics are over, China has shown its true face: no to democracy, the rule of law and human rights international standards.
"The EU and its member-states should draw their conclusions for their human rights dialogues with China and drastically revise their strategies."- Peter Westmore