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October 22, 2013

China to Appear Before UN Human Rights Council

by VOA News

Chinese officials will appear before a United Nations panel to defend their country's human rights record, which many say is stained by a worsening crackdown on dissent.

The Tuesday session in Geneva will be the second time Beijing has reported to the Human Rights Council, which reviews the rights record of each country every four years.

The hearing comes amid a series of arrests of Chinese rights activists, including some who were trying to participate in the government's report to the so-called Universal Periodic Review.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the Chinese delegation is looking forward to a "candid discussion" on human rights, but warned it will only accept certain types of criticism.

"In Geneva, China will give the truth of our efforts and progress in human rights, and we look forward to constructive criticism. We will kindly accept the constructive criticisms and work towards a better state for Chinese human rights. But we do not welcome the 'maligned criticisms,'" said Chunying.

The debate offers a chance for foreign diplomats to air their complaints about China's rights record in a public setting, in the presence of Chinese officials, who will also be invited to give a presentation.

At the council's first review of China in 2009, Beijing rejected virtually every recommendation from U.N. member states except for those calling for the general promotion of human rights.

China, the world's most populous country, claims it is making progress on human rights but that it should not be held to the same standard as more developed countries.

It views criticism of its rights record as inappropriate interference in its internal affairs, despite having signed international treaties guaranteeing freedom of speech and other fundamental human rights.

In the leadup to the U.N. hearing, Chinese authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of activists, jailed government critics, and increased online censorship.

In a statement released on Monday, Human Rights Watch called the recent period "one of China's major crackdowns on activists and free expression."

Specifically, the New York-based group raised concerns about the forced disappearance of Cao Shunli, a prominent activist who was trying to convince the government to allow independent civil society groups to take part in the U.N. review.

Cao has not been seen since September 14, when she was interrogated and detained at the Beijing airport. She was one of several Chinese activists prevented from flying to Geneva for a workshop on international human rights.

Under the council's rules, countries are encouraged to allow public participation in drafting their reports for the UPR. Beijing argues it has met those requirements by seeking "broad public support" on a government website.

Human Rights Watch also urged more action on issues, including China's use of torture in its criminal justice system, pervasive media censorship tools, notorious Re-Education Through Labor camps, and extensive human rights abuses in Tibetan and Uighur areas.

Critics have said these and other alleged rights violations mean China should not be allowed to serve on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Beijing has announced plans to run in a November election to fill one of the council's 47 seats for a three-year period beginning in 2014.