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FACTBOX: The U.N. human rights review of China

February 08, 2009

(Reuters) - China comes up for scrutiny at a U.N meeting in Geneva from Monday to Wednesday. Here are some facts about the meeting and China's human rights record.


The U.N. Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review examines all U.N. member states' performance in protecting rights enshrined in international declarations and covenants. Begun last year, the process will examine each state every four years.

Governments under review submit reports and non-government groups can also make submissions. At the meeting, other states can also raise questions. A troika of states chosen by lot to work with the country under review helps write a summary report.


China's opinions of its human rights record are laid out in a report to the review, and its officials will also be at the meeting to respond to questions and criticisms.

China says it "respects the principle of the universality of human rights" and says the country has made big advances in citizens' social, economic and legal rights.

But the report also says China's version of human rights naturally differs from other countries given different political systems, levels of economic development and cultures.

Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, said Chinese officials in Geneva had indicated that they consider issues such as unrest and repression in Tibet "political" and so unfit for discussion at the Geneva meeting.


International human rights groups have already laid out their criticisms of China in submissions to the review. The main ones include:

-- China's detention and jailing of dissidents and activists, using sweeping state security laws and secretive Communist Party-run courts to punish critics.

Other countries may raise the cases of the detained rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng and the writer Liu Xiaobo. Liu helped organize "Charter 08," a petition campaign demanding democratic transformation of the one-Party state.

-- Re-education-through-labor camps. This imprisonment system is used to hold people for up to three years -- four years on extension -- without trial or easy means to appeal.

Labor-re-education allows police to sidestep courts and critics say the system violates international rules and China's own laws. The camps hold many tens of thousands of people accused of prostitution, illegal drug use, theft and other offences, and also members of the outlawed Falun Gong sect.

- Executions. China does not disclose the number of people it executes. But outside groups believe thousands are killed, and critics say Chinese courts fail to give accused adequate defense and almost always find them guilty. China says it has begun to tighten up use of executions, by re-imposing rules requiring that the national supreme court review all death sentences.

- Tibet and Xinjiang. China faces international criticism that it is repressing religion and legitimate political demands in these two western regions with large ethnic populations.

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