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Human Rights Commission must censure China

April 17, 2000

Human Rights in China (HRIC) urgently calls on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to pass a resolution criticizing China on its dismal human rights record. This last-ditch call for action comes on the eve of the monitoring body’s vote on the China resolution, and in the midst of the Chinese government’s most ruthless repression of dissent since the 1989 crackdown.

HRIC’s plea for the approval of the China resolution reaffirms demands made by persecuted activists within China who have expressed the need to hold the Chinese government accountable for its human rights violations. Such demands were most recently voiced by a wide range of groups and individuals including the China Democracy Party; the Falungong spiritual movement; the Zhong Gong meditation group; Bao Tong - the former senior official who was imprisoned seven years for opposing the government's use of force to suppress the 1989 demonstrations; and Ding Zilin - the bereaved mother turned activist who lost her son in the June 4, 1989 Massacre and has since been the driving force in the search for truth and justice for the atrocity.

“Chinese citizens from a diversity of movements and backgrounds have spoken out about the need to for the Commission to approve the resolution as a step towards ending Chinese government impunity,” said Xiao Qiang, HRIC executive director. “It is up to the Commission to fully acknowledge these pleas, to uphold its mandate and to maintain the integrity of international human rights norms and mechanisms.”

The Commission is the highest international forum for human rights. Comprised of 53 member states elected for three-year terms, it meets each year in Geneva for a six-week session. This year, the resolution on China was introduced by the United States, but it has no co-sponsor. Many member states had asserted that they were waiting for the EU’s lead, and would co-sponsor only if the EU did so. However, the EU recently stated that it would not act as co-sponsor, but would support the resolution only if it came to a vote.

As in previous years, the Chinese government has called the resolution a means of hostile confrontation which opposes “dialogue” and “engagement” on human rights. In reality, the Chinese government has sought to skirt international scrutiny while offering no meaningful basis for cooperation on human rights. In the 11 years since the June Fourth Massacre, the Chinese government has heavily lobbied member states to avert censure at the Commission. During this period, China’s human rights record has progressively deteriorated. While Chinese authorities routinely pay lip service to international human rights norms and mechanisms, they continually avoid concrete action on improving the country’s human rights situation.

During the High Commissioner on Human Rights’ trip to China last month, the signing of a long-anticipated memorandum of understanding was postponed with no explanation. Plans for the much touted visit to China by Sir Nigel Rodley, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture have been stalled because the Chinese government refuses to accept Rodley’s request for an independent itinerary. And in a document released this month, despite the Chinese government’s supposed cooperation with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the body declared arbitrary the imprisonment of June Fourth activist Li Hai and China Democracy Party founder Wang Youcai. HRIC urges the Commission on Human Rights to follow the examples of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - to equally apply international human rights standards to all countries, irregardless of the state’s size or influence.

“There should be no trade-off between the resolution and China’s unrequited promises of human rights improvement,” said Xiao Qiang. “The resolution is about real people and real issues. It must not be reduced to a game of politics.

Related Links:

  • U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Document of Adopted Opinions, released April 2000(E/CN.4/2000/4/Add.1)
    Available as .pdf file or MS-Word file.
    See pg. 78 for opinion on Li Hai;
    See pg. 85 for opinion on Wang Youcai.
  • "Report" session at HRIC's website:

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