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UN Official: Very Serious, Worrying Issues Exists in China

The United Nations' top human rights official says Beijing must not use the war on terrorism as an excuse to boost repression of groups the government does not like. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson made the comment Tuesday, after meetings with top Chinese officials. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says China has used a special anti-crime campaign to increase police powers of arrest and detention.

Ms. Robinson says the government used the last year's terror attacks in the United States as a reason for its crackdown. She says the measures appear aimed at crushing independence-minded Muslim Uighers in China's restive western border area. "For the Uighur population, the real concern is since the 11th of September, we are getting complaints of much harsher treatment that's being used under the rubric of combating terrorism, and that "Strike Hard" policy is affecting very substantially, with much greater use of the death penalty," says Ms. Robinson.

She says the campaign also threatens followers of Falun Gong, thousands of whom have been shipped to labor camps, often without trial. "These are very serious and worrying issues."

Ms. Robinson says she raised her concerns in meetings with Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen and other senior officials in Beijing. She brought a long list of human rights cases to those meetings, including people detained on political grounds rather than for crimes.

She urged officials to consider releasing the founder of the China Democracy party on humanitarian grounds because he is seriously ill. Xu Wenli is serving 13 years in prison after working for a party that the ruling Communist Party saw as a potentially threatening rival.

Ms. Robinson also asked about the fate of a Uighur businesswoman serving a long jail term for sending Chinese newspapers to her husband overseas. She also inquired about a young leader of Tibetan Buddhists who disappeared in Chinese custody.

While she had blunt criticism of China's approach to human rights, she said the government has taken a few steps toward improving the legal system.

Ms. Robinson is on a final tour of Asia before she leaves office next month. She also will visit Cambodia and East Timor.