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Human rights concerns of European Parliamentarians addressed at the UN Universal Periodic Review of China

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l
February 10, 2009

Advocacy by HRWF Int'l
HRWF Int'l (10.02.2009) - Website:  - Email: - During the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) (1) of China held in Geneva on 9 February, national delegations of UN member states raised most of the issues that a number of members of the European Parliament had prioritized and listed at the end of a conference co-organized by MEP Istvan Szent-Ivanyi and Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l in Brussels.
On 2 December, 2008, a conference took place at the European Parliament under the title "Human Rights in China After the Olympics and Before the UPR". On that occasion, a dozen NGOs (2) assessed the human rights record of China and listed a number of issues of primary concern:  freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of religion, Tibet and Uyghur issues, death penalty, human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, reeducation through forced labor, environmental rights, labor rights, housing rights and land rights, forced abortion under the one-child policy, refoulement of North Korean refugees without any access to the UNHCR, and so on.

A list of questions to be raised during the UPR of China on 9 February was approved and signed by MEP Istvan Szent-Ivanyi (vice-president of the EP Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula), MEP Edward McMillan-Scott (vice-president of the European Parliament), MEP Graham Watson (head of the ALDE political group), MEP Marco Cappato (Rapporteur for the EP Report on Human Rights in the World in 2008), MEP Helga Trüpel (Member of the EP Friends of Tibet).

Last month, MEP Istvan Szent-Ivanyi mandated HRWF Int'l to bring this list to the attention of a number of delegations participating in the UPR process and sent a letter of introduction to a dozen diplomatic missions with the UN in Geneva.
From 3 to 6 February, a four-person delegation of HRWF Int'l met the ambassadors of France, Germany and Slovenia as well as the human rights officers of Canada, Greece, Netherlands, Slovakia, UK, USA. They asked them to voice the MEPs' concerns through oral questions during the interactive session of China's UPR and provided them with background papers and analyses (3). The pre-selection of these countries happened to be the right one as seven of them were ranked in the top ten UN member states with the most constructive behavior in the last 12 UPR sessions by UN Watch in a report released on 6 February

All the topics but three appeared to have been put on the agenda of the various visited delegations. One of them was added by the Canadian mission after the visit of HRWF Int'l delegation: the forced repatriation of North Korean refugees despite the risks of systematic imprisonment and torture, and sometimes death penalty. However, despite the efforts of HRWF Int'l, the one-child policy and the environmental issues were not mentioned during the 60 out of 115 planned interventions of the delegations during the question time. The speakers' list was so long that only half of them could take the floor during their two-minute speaking time. Moreover, these issues were not mentioned either in the Compilation of the information contained in the reports of the treaty bodies, special procedures and other relevant official UN documents prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Every time Western states criticized China's policy concerning Tibetans and Uyghurs, the head of China's delegation regretted that "some countries were politicizing the debates". Noteworthy was the unconditional support of a number of countries such as Algeria, Benin, Cuba, Egypt, Gabon, Mali, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and others which used their two minutes to praise the remarkable achievements of China, and sometimes to support China's criticisms addressed to "some countries."

The Egyptian delegation went so far in its support to China that it congratulated it for maintaining the death penalty... (4)
The report of the Working Group will be publicized on Wednesday 11 February (5). The section on recommendations will be worth scrutinizing as China has the right to disagree with some of them. Moreover, the commitments it will make will be assessed at its next UPR in four years.
(1)    The National Report of China (34 pages), the Compilation of the information contained in the reports of the treaty bodies, special procedures and other relevant official UN documents (19 pages) and the Summary of the submissions of the stakeholders can be consulted at . On this page, you also have access to the UPR webcast of any country.
The full texts of the submissions of the NGOs can be consulted at
For the submission of HRWF Int'l, see      
(2)    Amnesty International (EU Office), Human Rights Watch (EU Office), FIDH, HRWF Int'l, Solidarité Chine, China Aid, Friends of Tibet, World Uyghur Congress, Commission of Investigation about the Persecution of Falun Gong, Database for North Korean Human Rights.
(3)    See the papers of the 2 December conference 2008 distributed at the various embassies at
(4)    Egypt's performance had previously been qualified "Detrimental" in UN Watch Report
(5)    The report will be posted at . HRWF Int'l will publicize the report and comment on it.

Canada's statement

Canada applauds China's success in improving living standards in the last 30 years of reform and opening up policy.

Canada hopes that China's National Action Plan on Human Rights will lead to an early ratification of the ICCPR.

Canada recommends that China accelerate legislative and judicial reforms, particularly on death penalty and administrative detention, to be in compliance with the ICCPR.

Canada welcomes Chinese measures to reduce immediate death sentences, reserving them for "exceptionally grave" crimes, and reinstating Supreme People's Court authority to review death sentences. Canada recommends China reduce the number of crimes carrying the death penalty and regularly publish detailed statistics on death penalty and regularly publish detailed statistics on death penalty use.

Canada recommends China abolish all forms of administrative detention, including "Re-Education Through Labour". Canada recommends China eliminate abuse of psychiatric committal.

Canada recommends China provide those held on state security charges with all fundamental legal safeguards, including access to counsel, public trial and sentencing, and eligibility for sentence reduction and parole.

Canada is deeply concerned about reports of arbitrary detention of ethnic minorities members, including Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols, as well as religious believers, including Falun Gong practitioners, without information about their charges, their location and wellbeing.

We recommend China take immediate measures to implement the recommendations of November last by the Committee Against Torture, notably on the inadmissibility of declarations made under torture, and the non-refoulement of refugees from North Korea.
We recommend China respond positively to outstanding requests made by several UN Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, to visit China, and to facilitate an early visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

We look forward to continuing our cooperation with China in the field of human rights.

Canada thanks China for its presentation and support for the UPR process.

Advance questions for China from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Could you please tell us more about civil society involvement in the preparation of your national report, including whether any grassroots, non-government affiliated civil society organizations played a role in this process?

We understand the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conducted a detailed assessment of the reforms necessary to allow China to ratify ICCPR. Could you tell us what work you will need to do, and when you plan to carry it out?

The Committee Against Torture made a number of recommendations in its Concluding Observations on China's fourth Periodic Report on the implementation of the Convention Against Torture. We would be grateful if you could tell us how you plan to implement these recommendations, and when.

The Committee Against Torture specifically raised the issue of Re-education through Labour, which it recommended should be immediately abolished. The current system of administrative detention presents serious obstacles to compliance with ICCPR article 9. Does China plan to abolish the system?

We believe it is important that minority religious, cultural and language rights are properly protected, including in Tibet and Xinjiang. Can you please tell us what steps you plan to take to remove restrictions on religious practice, and protect minority rights?

We welcome statements by the Supreme People's Court (SPC) that the reintroduction of final review of all immediate death sentences by the SPC has reduced the number of executions by 30% this year. Please could you release statistics to demonstrate this trend? Are there plans to reduce the number of criminal offences which can occur the death penalty, in line with ICCPR article 6?

We noted with concern the harassment and detention of Human Rights Defenders during the Olympic period, and following the publication of Charter 08. Could you please tell us whether you will put in place protections for individuals who work to promote human rights?

We welcome the introduction of permanently relaxed rules on reporting by foreign correspondents in China following the Olympics.
We note that domestic journalists are still subject to non-formal restrictions on reporting, such as censorship and intimidation.
Could you tell us whether you plan to take steps to protect Chinese reporters' right to freedom of expression?
Could you tell us whether you plan to establish a National Human Rights Institution in China, in accordance with the Paris Principles?
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