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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

UN rights chief says China failing to protect Tibetan, Uighur rights

September 20, 2009 - Sep17, 2009

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanethem (Navi) Pillay, has
cited "discrimination and the failure to protect minority rights" among the
factors that had led to the recent violent events in Chinese ruled Eastern
Turkestan and Tibet. Pillay made the comment in an "update report" to the
12th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Geneva, on Sep 15
morning. She called lack of democracy a major factor contributing to rights

"I followed with concern the recent disturbances in the Xinjiang Autonomous
Region and those previously in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and surrounding
areas. While condemning such violence and urging the Chinese authorities to
respect human rights in upholding the law, I also encourage them to reflect
on the underlying causes of such incidents, which include discrimination and
the failure to protect minority rights," Pillay was quoted as saying.

Pillay dealt with the plight of Uyghurs and Tibetans in the 'scourge of
discrimination' section of her statement.

Mr. Li Baodong, China's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, accused
the High Commissioner was "ignoring facts". He wanted Ms Pillay to agree
with his government's still unproven position that the events in the two
occupied regions were "serious violent and criminal acts instigated and
organized by hostile and separatist forces" and were not caused by his
government's ethnic policy.

Li has maintained that the events in Eastern Turkestan and Tibet had nothing
to do with human rights and deplored the move by the High Commissioner for
allegedly "choosing to ignore facts and pointing fingers at many sovereign

But Ms. Pillay's statement came three weeks after the UN Committee on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) had urged China to
find out the "root causes" of the protests which erupted across the Tibetan
Plateau in 2008 and in Eastern Turkestan in July this year and recommended
that China "carefully consider the root causes of such events, including
inter-ethnic violence, and the reasons why the situation escalated."

As regards the issue of sovereignty of states versus human rights raised by
the Chinese, Ms. Pillay said States have the power - and responsibility - to
prevent, protect against, and redress human rights violations. She said
those suffering from the deprivation of human rights and other concerned
states and bodies look to the Council for guidance and support and must not
be disappointed.

Pillay called the lack of democracy a particular cause for concern when it
comes to respecting human rights. She said, "Clearly, no human rights
defender is safe when democratic institutions of governance are inadequate
and unaccountable, when the rule of law remains an aspiration rather than a
reality, and when corruption, co-option, or coercion hold sway."

The 12th session of the Human Rights Council takes place from Sep 14 Oct 2
at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.
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