China making limited progress on human rights: UN panel

[JURIST] A report [text, PDF] issued Wednesday by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] commended China's developmental progress, while urging the nation to share best practices in poverty reduction and to improve the national standard of living. The report follows China's evaluation under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [official website] process adopted by the UN in 2006, which aims to review the human rights records of every UN member country by 2011. Although supporting the majority of recommendations submitted by reviewing nations, China rejected suggestions that it abolish or reduce its application of the death penalty, ensure religious freedom, eliminate administrative detention in labor camps, and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text]. Speaking at a Thursday press conference [transcript, in Mandarin], Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu said that

the overwhelming majority of countries submitted a positive evaluation of China's human rights policies and achievements, but also continue to support China's national conditions suitable to their own development path. A small number of countries will be considered to have made an attempt to politicize the work of the Chinese side and make unjustified accusations that were refuted in most countries.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders [advocacy website, in Mandarin], a human rights activist group, expressed concern [press release] over China's "dismissive attitude toward critical comments" and "the general unwillingness of most member states to confront the human rights records of the Chinese government." Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] has criticized the UPR process generally [press release], saying that the proceedings where "marked by excessive praise and timid criticisms."

China defended its human rights record [JURIST report] before the UNHRC on Monday, noting that it has been taking steps to improve its legal system, promote democracy, and encourage non-governmental organizations. On Tuesday, the US State Department defended the silence of the US delegation [JURIST report] during the proceedings, saying that the administration of President Barack Obama [official website] is still deciding how it wants to interact with the UNHRC. Despite the relatively positive report, China continues to be widely criticized for its human rights record. In November, the UN Committee Against Torture [official website] expressed deep concern over repeated allegations that China authorities continued the routine and widespread practice of torture [JURIST report] and ill-treatment of suspects to extract confessions. Earlier that month, China's State Council Information Office [official site, in Mandarin] announced that the country would draft a plan to protect human rights [JURIST report]. No information was provided as to when the plan would be released.


 

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