My Initial Impression of China’s Human Rights Report Review

I had the opportunity to watch some of the proceedings of today’s United Nations’ review of China’s human rights report, which was done by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council. The session was held in Geneva. According to the UN record, 60 Council members and observers took the opportunity to make comments and convey recommendations.

The Chinese Ambassador (Li Baodong) took nearly three hours to present China’s report. The report is on the UN’s website and there was no startling revelation. I was more interested in the comments that representatives of other countries were making. I am giving here my comment on some of them.

The representative of Bhutan, Mr. Yeshey Dorji, gave a surprisingly (to me) long comment (he seems to have gone beyond his time for his speech was cut in mid-sentence). He appreciated China’s “frank self critical approach” as well as China’s placing “people first.” Bhutan, he said, appreciates China’s pursuit of an approach to “build a harmonious society characterized by democracy, rule of law, equity and justice.”

He talked of China’s success in development but said the “reach and effect have not been even.” Bhutan recommended China to bridge the gap “between rural and urban areas and among regions.”

In contrast, the Indian Representative’s statement was terse. Mr.Achamkulangare Gopinathan noted the “wide broad range” and welcomed China “in promoting a nonselective approach at the international level in dealing with human rights issues.”

I wonder whether anyone should read in between the lines in these Bhutanese and Indian statements?

There were quite a few countries that referred to Tibet, including by Australia, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and New Zealand. To me, the Czech and the New Zealand statements were concrete. The Czech Republic is the current EU President. The Czech Representative (Ms. Barbora Repova ) also referred to some specific Tibetan cases, including that of Paljor Norbu ( who was arrested from his home in Lhasa on October 31, 2008, on suspicion that he had printed “prohibited material,” according to Human Rights Watch.) and two other Tibetans from Karze (I could not get their names clearly).

Her reference to the situation in Tibet was like this. “Finally, in relation to Tibet we would like to recommend China to end this strike hard campaign associated with numerous serious violation of human rights; to investigate all cases of police brutality and torture, as an example the death of Pema Tsepak in Chamdo in January this year; and thirdly protection of right of peaceful assembly and to release all persons arrested in this connection, as for example [the names of the two Tibetans were not heard clearly] in karze county.

The New Zealand Representative made a specific mention of the Chinese-Tibetan dialogue process and urged for its resumption. She said, “New Zealand has been a consistent supporter of dialogue to achieve meaningful outcome that addresses the interests of all communities in Tibet. New Zealand understands China intends to resume this dialogue andrecommends that it does so.”

The Malaysian Representative called for the strengthening of civil society in China.

During an intervention the Chinese Representative said he regretted the “politicized statement by a certain country.” This could not be a reference to New Zealand or the Czech Republic because they both spoke after this intervention. Also, the Chinese delegation was quite large and I thought there would be some Tibet specialists. Zang Ruopu, from the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, made an interesting reference to the Tibetan situation. Talking about how China “respects habits customs and religious beliefs of minorities” he said, “In Tibet you can feel the atmosphere of Tibetan Buddhism.” He also “Tibetan language is the first language of international standing” and had an internet platform.

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