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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review


9 February 2009 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by China this morning, during which 60 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Cameroon, following the review of the country on Thursday, 5 February.

· Presenting the national report of China was LI BAODONG, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who noted that, in preparation of its national report, China set up a special task force composed of members from nearly 30 national legislative, judiciary and administrative departments and held consultations with 20 NGOs. In 1949 the People’s Republic of China was founded at which time a system for the promotion and protection of human rights was established in the county. With the launch of reform and its historic modernization drive in 1978, China began a new chapter in the promotion and protection of human rights. The living standards of the Chinese people took two historic leaps – from poverty to subsistence to relative prosperity. The number of person in rural areas living in poverty fell from 250 million to over 14 million. It was also noted that China was the first country in the world to meet the poverty reduction target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). By the end of 2000 primary education was universal throughout the country and illiteracy has virtually been eliminated. Moreover, China has met ahead of schedule the targets of universal primary education and eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education set in the MDGs.

China had been moving steadily to improve its legal system, the Ambassador stated. Since 1978, some 250 laws had been enacted relating to the promotion and protection of human rights. China endeavoured to promote democracy, enhance democratic institutions, improve the system of people’s congresses, and reinforce political consultations among political parties. A system of self-government at the primary level had been established, which applied to rural villagers’ committees and urban neighbourhood committees. Furthermore, China sought to guarantee judicial independence and the fair administration of justice through continued reform of its judicial system. For example, all death sentence appeal cases were heard in open court sessions. The Chinese Government encouraged NGOs to play an active role in China; there were some 400,000 registered NGOs in China working in the fields such as poverty alleviation, health, education, environmental protection, and the safeguarding of citizens’ rights.

China was a party to 25 international human rights instruments and had engaged in human rights dialogue with at least 20 countries, the head of delegation noted. China maintained good relations of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Nations Special Procedures. The Ambassador said his Government welcomed Navenethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to visit China at a time convenient to both sides, and was also considering inviting another United Nations special rapporteur to visit China this year.

Last October the Central Committee took a decision to strengthen rural reforms and development, such as enhancing efforts to combat poverty and to ensure the rights of farmers, and another 60 judicial measures were taken at the end of last year, he added. To tackle the current global financial crisis, the Chinese Government adopted an economic stimulus package containing 10 major measures so as to bring direct benefits to the people by better providing social services. The Chinese Government was conscientiously implementing the Scientific Outlook on Development, and approach that placed people first, and sought to ensure comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development, in an effort to build a harmonious society characterized by democracy, the rule of law, equity and justice. It was also noted the some 50 Government departments of China were working on a National Human Rights Action Plan for 2009-2010, which would hopefully be completed and made public very soon.

The Chinese Government resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao in 1997 and 1999 respectively and established the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regions (HKSAR) and the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) under the principle of "one country, two systems", the Ambassador stated. In the HKSAR, human rights and freedoms were guaranteed constitutionally by the KKSAR Basic Law. Further human rights protection was accorded by local legislation, including the Bill of Rights Ordinance, the Race Discrimination Ordinance, the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance, and 15 international human rights treaties applicable to the HKSAR. In the MSAR, human rights and freedoms were guaranteed constitutionally buy the MSAR Basic Law.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the rapid economic growth experienced in the country; the efforts to empower women; the enactment of a National Human Rights Action Plan to accelerate social development; increased investments in social security; humanitarian and development assistance efforts; the overall progress achieved in the area of economic, social and cultural rights; reforms made in the area of the administration of the death penalty since January 2007; the provision of free and compulsory education; the enactment of the National Action Plan on Human Rights for 2009-2010; the implementation of the Scientific Outlook on Development; and the realization of the poverty reduction target per the Millennium Development Goals.

· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, the challenges faced amidst the economic crisis; China’s strategy to expand its social service polices; steps taken or planned to engage countries at the regional and international level in dialogue on human rights; efforts to enhance labour rights and the rights of migrant workers; progress made in improving the situation of re-education through labour; progress made in upholding the rights of mentally disabled persons; measures envisaged to prevent child labour; and plans to accede to the Convention of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families.

Other issues pertained to the arbitrary detention of ethnic minorities; the status of the application of the policies to address the needs of refugees from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; plans to strengthen protection of Chinese media; plans to implement recommendations by the Committee against Torture as to safeguards the treatment of human rights defenders and protections for defence lawyers; efforts to effectively combat torture of persons in detention facilities; steps to guarantee the independence of the judiciary; and plans to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To strengthen the protection of ethnic minorities’ religious, socio-economic and political rights; to allow ethnic minorities to fully exercise their human rights, to preserve their cultural identity and ensure their participation in decision-making; to respect the basic rights of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet; to ensure that greater access is granted to Tibet areas for OHCHR and other United Nations bodies, as well as diplomats and the international media; to extend new media regulations as regards access to information to Chinese journalists; to investigate harassment and detention of human rights defenders; to accept different opinions if expressed by human rights defenders through peaceful demonstration; to respond positively to outstanding visit requests by Special Procedures and issue a standing invitation; and to renew the memorandum of understanding with OHCHR to intensify technical assistance and advisory services in the field of human rights.

Other recommendations included: To intensity engagement with the international community to exchange best practices in law enforcement supervision; to accelerate legislative and judicial reform; to abolish administrative detention; to provide those held on State security charges with all fundamental legal safeguards, including access to counsel, public trial and sentencing, and eligibility for sentence reduction and parole; To take effective measures to ensure that lawyers can defend their clients without fear of harassment; to become party to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; to intensity human rights awareness campaigns and to continue to provide and improve training programmes on human rights for the judiciary, law enforcement personnel and lawyers; and to establish a National Human Rights Institution, in accordance with the Paris Principle; and to proceed as soon as possible to publish the National Plan on Human Rights 2009-2010.

Several delegations called on China to abolish the death penalty, to publish statistics on the total number of executions and to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step to the abolishment of the death penalty. Others recommended that China reduce the number of crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed; continue to implement the policy of strictly controlling and applying the death penalty; implement the recommendations made by the Committee against Torture; accede to Optional Protocol Convention against Torture; and establish an independent and effective complaints procedure for victims of torture. A number of delegations also recommended that China ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Other called for the release a clear timetable for work towards the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to guarantee all citizens the exercise of religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

Additionally, States recommended that China pursue its efforts in achieving the Millennium Development Goals; continue to provide financial resources in view of the economic crisis, in particular for Tibet; pick up efforts to bridge the gap between the rights realized between rural and urban areas; to ensure primary education attains the constitutionally guaranteed universal compulsory status; to lift current its current reservation to article 8.1a of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; speed up the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan on social development; and to continue its endeavour to build a sound security system.

Moreover, China was encouraged to share with the international community, and in particular developing countries, its experience with promoting the right to development and poverty reduction; to strengthen efforts in poverty alleviation to reduce the number of person living in poverty; to take effective measures to improve education training and supervision of prison staff; to address the educational balance between rural and urban areas; to adopt special measures to ensure the realization of rights in view of the economic crisis; to adopt a comprehensive policy to combat child labour; to lift reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; to enact specific legislation on domestic violence; to ensure that national include legislation include the effects of discrimination against women; and to attach more importance to the protection of the Rights of the Child through national plans for economic and social development.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Egypt, Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Cuba, Ghana, Angola, Nicaragua, India, France, Jordan, Bahrain, Indonesia, Japan, Gabon, Argentina, Qatar, Pakistan, Senegal, Brazil, Italy and Malaysia.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Australia, Singapore, Algeria, Bhutan, Libya, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Mozambique, Vietnam, Morocco, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Iran, Zimbabwe, Benin, Mali, Finland, Palestine, Latvia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, Venezuela, Colombia, Sweden, Thailand, Myanmar and Hungary.

· The 15-person delegation of China consisted of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of China are India, Canada and Nigeria.

· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on China can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Cameroon: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Cameroon are China, Cuba and Senegal. Introducing the report BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE (Senegal) welcomed the excellent quality of the discussion between the troika and the delegation of Cameroon. The delegation took a very constructive approach to the review which led to Cameroon’s acceptance of a number of recommendations mentioned in the Working Group report. Representing the State under review, ANATOLE FABIEN MARIE NKOU, Permanent Representative of Cameroon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said his country had approached its UPR and would always bear in mind the words of encouragement born by delegations during the interactive discussion. Cameroon would spare no efforts to ensure that a strong human rights culture would continue to prosper strongly in the country.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of China on Wednesday, 11 February.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Nigeria after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Cuba.  

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