View Full Version : China signals 'first' human rights action plan

09-02-09, 14:16
China signals 'first' human rights action plan

Mon Feb 9, 9:45 AM

GENEVA (AFP) - China dismissed allegations of repression of Tibetans and Uighur Muslims during a UN hearing on Monday, and said it was preparing a "first of its kind" human rights action plan.

"At this moment, about 50 governmental agencies are working on a human rights action plan... which would soon be made public," said Li Baodong, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

"It is the first of its kind in China and will set targets for all departments, in a major move to advance human rights protection in China," he told the UN Human Rights Council duruing a universal periodic review session.

Under universal periodic review, all 192 member states of the United Nation have their human rights record vetted by the council once every four years.

During a three-hour session, only a handful of Western countries such as Australia questioned China about allegations of "harrassment and detention of religious and ethnic minorities including Tibetans."

Others such as Italy and Austria took China to task over the death penalty.

But most countries steered away of criticism, while Pakistan and Sri Lanka leaped to the defence of Beijing, saying Tibet is an "inalienable" part of China.

Li outlined China's progress in advancing human rights protection measures, and acknowledged it faces "challenges."

But he rebuffed Australia's claim in his concluding statement and argued that the 47-member Human Rights Council was not an arena for "politicised speeches."

"There were a few countries like Australia, which made some ill-founded comments on question of Tibet. We would categorically reject this attempt to politicise the issue," he said.

In his opening statement, Li did not refer to Tibet or Xinjiang in particular, but said Beijing "pursues a policy of ethnic equality" and that ethnic minorities "benefit from preferential policies."

A member of the Chinese delegation also outlined that Beijing allows regional autonomy in areas with significant proportions of ethnic minorities, and stressed that "there is no ethnic conflict" in China.

"Regrettably, a few people with external forces try to split Tibet and Xinjiang. They by no means represent Tibetans and Uighurs. (Tibet and Xinjiang) are inseparable parts of China," he added.

Human rights groups say the Chinese authorities maintain tight security in Tibet following violent protests against Chinese rule there in March 2008, while Uighurs claim a vast campaign of persecution in far-west Xinjiang.

Last week Amnesty International alleged that Beijing "omits reference to the ongoing crisis in Tibet, the severe crackdown on Uighurs in China's western Xinjiang ... region, and the on-going persecution of various religious practitioners."

Even as China claims it respects and protects human rights, it continues to deal harshly with any perceived threats to Communist Party authority, critics charge.

Mo Shaoping, a Beijing-based human rights lawyer, said Monday the Chinese government had enshrined numerous rights protections in law, but that they were routinely ignored.

"If you ask whether the situation has improved, I personally feel that from a legal standpoint it most certainly has," said Mo, who takes on politically risky cases involving dissidents and activists in China.

"The problem is that we don't yet have genuine rule of law. There is a great distance between having laws and seeing those laws respected by authorities. This is the basic human rights problem in China."