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UN Human Rights Official: China Remains Deep Concern

The top United Nations human rights official says China remains a deep concern and needs to undertake political and social reform. High Commissioner Mary Robinson made the comments during her last visit to Beijing.

Mary Robinson said she is particularly worried by the recent jailing of labor activists, growing repression of Muslim Uighurs and wide use of the death penalty, even in cases that did not involve violent crime. "The overall situation on human rights still gives cause for deep concern," she said.

She told reporters in Beijing Monday that China needs to undertake political and social reform to address the underlying causes of unrest and crime. She also expressed concern about restrictions on Internet use and more limits on freedom of expression.

Ms. Robinson's blunt remarks are typical of the criticism she has leveled at China during six previous trips here. This time she tempered her critique by praising Beijing for working to strengthen its legal system to offer more protection of individual rights.

But at Monday's legal seminar, Ms. Robinson told a group of lawyers and judges that more needs to be done. She slammed the practice of sending people to labor camps without trial, and of reportedly confining dissidents to mental hospitals. "It's still a cause of great concern that people can be detained for reeducation through labor with no due process and I would add to that concern, the report of the use of mental institutions for detention of persons considered to have diverted from the official approach," she said.

She said she is raising specific human rights cases during her meetings with top Chinese officials.

Ms. Robinson, a former president of Ireland, plans to leave her U.N. job September 11, making this her last visit to China as the U.N. High commissioner for human rights.