China 's human rights record has come under scrutiny, for the first
time, by the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council under a new mechanism
called the Universal Periodic Review. The report looks at progress
made in human rights based on the country's economic development, but
fails to address issues such as political and religious persecution.
Human rights organizations accuse China of a whitewash.
China takes its position on the world stage seriously and has sent a high-powered team to defend its human rights record before the U.N. Human Rights Council.
But, China need not have worried. Opinion was definitely in China's favor as country after country took the floor to praise China's achievements. The head of the Chinese delegation Li Bao Dong set the tone of the proceedings.
In presenting his country's report, he stressed steps China has taken to safeguard its citizens' rights, to govern as a law-based society and to improve the welfare of its people.
Li said China pursues a policy of ethnic equality and regional ethnic autonomy.
"Ethnic minorities in China benefit from special preferential policies in political, economic, cultural and educational spheres," said Li. "The Chinese government encourages due and multi-language teaching in schools of ethnic minorities ... Huge investment has also been made to protect the religious practices, cultural identities and other heritages of ethnic minorities."
During the course of the three-hour debate, China was praised for its astounding economic feats and promotion of human rights. A long list of speakers supported China's use of the death penalty and Internet censorship.
Algeria deplored, what it called, the politicization of China's record by some nations. Egypt approved China's use of the death penalty and said it should be expanded. Sudan lauded China's system of re-education through labor.
Sri Lanka Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka rejected criticism of China as a manifestation of colonialism.
"China has ensured the political rights of its people. The rights of independence, self-determination and sovereignty and the social and economic rights, to freedom from feudal exploitation and to the satisfaction of material needs ... We reject the criticism surrounding Tibet, which Sri Lanka considers an inalienable province of China," said Jayatilleka.
A handful of Western countries challenged China's record. The Canadian representative, Louis-Martin Aumais questioned China about its alleged use of evidence obtained under torture and its treatment of political prisoners.
"Canada is deeply concerned about reports of arbitrary detention of ethnic minority members, including Tibetans, Uighurs, and Mongols, as well as religious believers including Falun Gong practitioners without information about their charges, their location and well being," he said.
At the end of the session, a parade of Chinese experts answered questions regarding its treatment of ethnic minorities, Tibetans, and human rights defenders. It assured the delegates at the Council that their rights, as well as the right to religious freedom and assembly were well protected.