Friday, June 12, 2009

An Outrageous Facade

A few months ago I wrote about UN recommendations other countries had for China to improve on its human rights record.
However, yesterday at a Human Rights Council meeting to adopt the "Outcome Report on China," part of a required review process for all member states, the Chinese government rejected outright 70 of those recommendations.
This includes all recommendations related to freedom of expression and freedom of association, independence of the judiciary, guarantees for the legal profession, protection of human rights defenders, rights of ethnic minorities, reduction of the death penalty, abolition of reeducation-through-labor, prohibition of torture, media freedom, and effective remedies for discrimination.

This is because during the process, the Chinese government constantly made statements, such as, "There is no censorship in the country," and responses that the Chinese government would "never allow torture to be allowed on ethnic groups," despite ample evidence of abuses from human rights groups and international organizations.

"Amid heightening repression of China's human rights lawyers, a tightening chokehold on freedom of expression, and an ongoing crackdown in Tibet, the Chinese government has tried to whitewash its human rights record in the hope that the UN will just look the other way," said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Its statements and denials bordered on farce."

In the "Outcome Report," the government agreed to a number of recommendations, the statement of intent was so broad, they neither acknowledge existing violations or show any intent to remedy the situation.

"China has betrayed its obligation as an elected member of the council to uphold 'the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,'" said de Rivero. "UN member states should not let the review process work this way, or they risk rendering the main reform of the UN's human rights machinery irrelevant."

There are so many to recall, but one recent example is a blatant abuse of human rights.
Dissident Liu Xiaobo is one of the writers of Charter 08, an online petition that calls for greater democracy, multi-party elections as well as freedom of speech and press, as well as greater rule of law.
It has been making the rounds online and quietly gaining support, much to the fear of the Chinese government, which has tried to shut down any websites related to Charter 08.
While the 53-year-old Liu is officially under "residential surveillance", he is not at home; but rights groups he's being held by the police in a hotel in the suburbs of Beijing.
He was detained in December and not been heard from since. According to Chinese law, the authorities should have released him on June 8, a six-month period. If they want to continue holding him, they must press charges and give him access to his lawyer.
Instead, the police just notified his wife that Liu would be continued to be under "residential surveillance" and the investigation would continue and no charges laid. And despite repeated requests from his lawyer, Liu hasn't been able to communicate with him at all.
International calls for his release, including from authors Salman Rushdie and Umberto Ecco, as well as the European Union and the United States have fallen on deaf ears.
How can China say it has rule of law when it brazenly breaks its own laws?
And yet it continues. Liu is not the only one, but he represents all those who are innocent until proven guilty, but have had no access to a lawyer and don't even know what charges are being laid against them because the authorities haven't yet decided what to charge them with.
This blatant disregard for rule of law from within makes one wonder how China can be a responsible power on the international stage. China doesn't like others interferring in its domestic affairs, but really, a clean slate from within shows how it is accountable to its own people, and thus making it qualified to be accountable to the world. 

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