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China rejects human rights criticism at UN

February 12, 2009

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

GENEVA: In its first examination by the U.N. Human Rights Council, China
rejected Western proposals Wednesday to end labor camp sentences,
abolish the death penalty and guarantee freedom of religion.

Beijing, which fought under the old U.N. Human Rights Commission to
avoid any criticism, struck down virtually every suggestion made by
countries such as Britain, Mexico and Germany, in a new procedure
designed to open every country to scrutiny.

Still, rights groups said they were happy that several important issues
had been raised publicly at the U.N. for the first time and included in
a 32-page report.

The recommendations dismissed by China also included ending torture,
respecting ethnic minorities and allowing independent experts to
investigate human rights abuses.

"We're disappointed that China failed to deal with many of the most
serious human rights issues," said Corinna-Barbara Francis of
London-based Amnesty International.

"We definitely thought they would commit to do something about torture."

China said it did support proposals — mostly by developing countries —
to improve social and economic rights such as creating jobs in rural
areas and doing more to integrate people with disabilities.

The report, which was compiled after a heated three-hour debate Monday,
contained a plethora of praise for Beijing and sharp words for its critics.

_Cuba urged its fellow communist country to crack down on self-appointed
human rights defenders "attacking the interests of the state and the
people of China."

_Pakistan blamed the clashes during last year's anti-government protests
in Tibet on criminals who had "disturbing links to external perpetrators
with ulterior motives."

_"Sri Lanka rejected malignant criticisms by those who tore China into
little pieces in the period of colonialism and semi-colonialism and who
forced the habit of opium on Chinese people," according to the report.

Campaigners said the praise showed how some countries use the U.N.
council to undermine efforts for a serious examination of human rights
abuses.

"Why don't we look at the human rights records of those countries and
see what the value of that kind of praise is," said Juliette de Rivero,
a spokeswoman for New York-based group Human Rights Watch.

She added that China's reaction was a telling indication of how
sensitive it is to criticism, despite the fact that the 47-member
council has no enforcement powers.

"China wants to look like it's one of the good guys trying to promote
human rights in a constructive and objective manner," de Rivero said.
"They've clearly shown that they don't."

"Where praise is merited, it should be made," Amnesty's Corinna-Barbara
Francis. "But it should not be at the expense of ignoring what are very
serious human rights issues."

Francis said Western countries should recognize that China has made
progress in some areas, such as the development of its legal system,
over the past two decades.

"But it would help if China was less defensive," she said.

It marked a change, however, from battles before the predecessor
commission when China succeeded in winning votes year after year to
prevent that body from formally criticizing the military's 1989 crushing
of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

China is not the first country to take criticism in the council badly.
On Monday, Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla reacted
angrily to the fact that some reports of his country's review before the
council omitted to mention all of the praise it received from its allies
such as North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

___

On the Net:

U.N. review of China: http://tinyurl.com/d7npmq
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