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China Delivers Human Rights Report to UN; Amnesty Leads Critics

By Dune Lawrence and Paul Tighe, Bloomberg
February 09, 2009

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- China presents a report on human rights in the country to the United Nations today as groups such as Amnesty International said the submission isn’t thorough enough.

“The international community should respect the principle of the indivisibility of human rights and attach equal importance to civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development,” China said in its submission prepared for the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The report, which will be officially adopted on Feb. 11, omits any references to abuses that are occurring across China, Amnesty International said last week. It fails to mention the unrest in Tibet last year, the crackdown on Uighurs in the western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and the persecution of religious followers, including members of Falun Gong, the London- based group said.

The UN’s council makes an assessment of a country’s human rights record every four years. China’s review in 2009 coincides with the 20th anniversary of the deadly crackdown on protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen square, the 50th anniversary of China quelling an uprising in Tibet and the founding of the People’s Republic of China 60 years ago.

Each state review is assisted by a group of three states, known as a troika, who serve as rapporteurs. China’s review will be assisted by India, Canada and Nigeria.

Sensitive Times

China’s submission emphasizes the improvement in standards of living while underplaying how much is needed to better civil and political rights, said Joshua Rosenezweig, a Hong Kong-based researcher at the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights group that focuses on detainees and political prisoners.

“When you have really sensitive times in China, the instinct of the leadership is typically to promote stability above all else,” said Rosenzweig. It will “use the measures at its disposal, which are many, to silence dissent and make sure they keep a lid on social unrest.”

China, in its submission, called for discussions and cooperation among countries in order to protect human rights.

“Given differences in political systems, levels of development and historical and cultural backgrounds, it is natural for countries to have different views on the question of human rights,” it said.

Wang Chen, China’s minister in charge of the State Council Information Office, acknowledged in December that progress on human rights in the nation was “less than satisfactory,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported at the time.

Some Advances

Amnesty said last week China has made advances in its legal system, human rights education programs and the enforcement of the country’s Labor Contract Law. China’s report to the UN doesn’t refer to its system of administrative detention, in which several hundred thousand individuals may be incarcerated without trial or access to a lawyer, the group said.

Tibet and some Tibetan-populated regions of western China were wracked by the biggest pro-independence protests in about 20 years in March last year. China accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, of organizing the unrest to try to sabotage preparations for Olympic Games that were held in Beijing last August.

China started a crackdown in Tibet on Jan. 18 in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in March. Police detained 81 suspects during operation “Strike Hard” by Jan. 24, according to Amnesty and Tibet’s government-in-exile.

‘Constructive Dialogue

Last week, the government-in-exile called on China to immediately end the crackdown.

China’s Foreign Ministry said last week it expected to have a “constructive dialogue” with the UN council during the review.

“We also hope that relevant organizations can objectively judge the development of China’s human rights situation,” spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in Beijing, when asked to comment on Amnesty’s statement.

China failed to meet its pledge to allow freedom of reporting during the Olympics year, the Sydney-Australia-based International federation of Journalists said Feb. 4. Some restrictions on foreign reporters were eased, it said.

“We have not seen the improvements that we had hoped for,” Rosenzweig said. “The Olympic opportunity was a big disappointment.”

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