China Offers Funding But Little Compromise At UN Rights Session

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Originally published by London South East on October 22, 2013

GENEVA (Alliance News) – China vowed to significantly increase its funding of UN human rights work, but did not budge on domestic civil rights issues at a UN review of its human rights situation on Tuesday in Geneva.

At the review session of the UN Human Rights Council, Beijing envoy Wu Hailong said his country’s yearly donations to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would rise from 50,000 to 800,000 dollars in the coming four years.

The announcement came amid China’s efforts to be elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council in November.

The country last served on the 47-member body between 2006 and 2012.

The review session was overshadowed by recent criticism from UN experts and EU external relations chief Catherine Ashton that Beijing has been cracking down on civil rights activists who had been campaigning to provide input to the Geneva session.

All UN countries undergo this review process periodically. Wu did not acknowledge shortcomings regarding civil rights, such as political and religious freedom, as well as freedom of speech.

However, he highlighted some problems.

“Judicial injustice still exists,” he said, adding that his government also needed to address poverty, shortages in health care and environmental issues.

A US envoy said in Geneva that China should “end the use of harassment, detention, arrest and extralegal measures such as enforced disappearance to control and silence human rights activists as well as their family members and friends.”

The statement was echoed by other Western countries.

According to the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group, more than 60 activists have been detained or disappeared in the lead-up to the Geneva session.

Western countries at the Human Rights Council welcomed reforms of China’s criminal justice system. They also joined developing and emerging countries in commending the country’s economic progress, which has reduced poverty levels.

At the same time, Western envoys asked the Communist country to abolish the death sentence, to address the demands of minorities, including Tibetans, and to do more to ensure freedom of religion and opinion.

Pro-Tibet student protesters hoisted a large banner with the slogan “UN Stand up for Tibet” on a wall of the UN headquarters near the council chamber.

Wu maintained that China was protecting free speech and religious beliefs.

Another member of the Chinese delegation justified government control of the internet in order to rein in “rumour-mongering.”

“The spread of harmful information, if unchecked, would eventually hamper the development of the internet,” the delegate said.

Copyright dpa

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