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UN: No Criticism on China's Human Rights Record - 2002-04-11

This week has seen both sharp criticism of China's human rights practices and a victory in Beijing's quest to keep human rights off the global political agenda. Chinese officials are welcoming the lack of scrutiny by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Zhang Qiyue, of China's Foreign Ministry says the United Nations Human Rights Commission was wise to leave China alone.

In Ms. Zhang's view, China's position and views are understood by the international community and have become the main theme in the international arena.

Wednesday, for the first time in years, no member nation of the U.N. Human Rights Commission came forward to introduce a resolution critical of China's human rights practices. In prior years, Chinese diplomats used procedural maneuvers and persuasion to defeat critical resolutions introduced by the United States. Last year, the United States was voted out of the human rights body.

Chinese officials say human rights in China are now the best in the country's history, and insist that the way Beijing chooses to treat Chinese citizens is nobody's business. But foreign governments and human rights groups often criticize China for its secretive judicial proceedings and sometimes brutal repression of political dissent and unauthorized religious groups.

On Tuesday, for example, Amnesty International reported that China led the world last year in the number of executions, with more official killings than all other countries combined. The Amnesty report says China executed nearly 2,500 people last year.

The Foreign Ministry's Ms. Zhang says capital punishment is needed to help, as she put it, "maintain social stability," and is applied judiciously. She calls the Amnesty report "groundless."

Georgetown University Law Professor Jim Feinerman, an expert on China's legal system, says the number of executions rose because ordinary citizens are worried about crime, and Chinese leaders are worried about their jobs.

"I think there is also a sense that there is a need to re-assert social order across the board because of things like the Falun Gong, and real and perceived threats to the dominant role of the Communist Party," he said.

Professor Feinerman says those perceived threats come from religious groups like the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, labor protests and democracy activists who challenge the views and legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party.