Friday, October 25, 2013

Blog #7: United Nations Human Rights Council to Question China about Human Rights Violations

     The government of the People’s Republic of China stated in their first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2009, it would commit itself to strengthening human rights protection, sought to improve legal protection for workers, renewed pledges to improved access to education and health care, and pledged to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights. The United Nations Human Rights Council will review China’s progress and question them about the dozens of human rights activists that have been detained since February, for organizing and being involved in collective rights actions. It will also be questioned about the use of torture and ill-treatment in China’s criminal justice system, restrictions and control over the media, and the forceful disappearance of certain human rights activists. China’s government insists it fosters a fairer and more harmonious society working to continually ensure that every citizen enjoys a life of ever-greater dignity, freedom and well-being. 

     Human Rights activists are not confident that China will stand true to their word that it is “establishing a robust system of human rights safeguards” reported in their first review in 2009. Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, stated “China is good about signing human rights treaties but terrible about putting them into practice.” The ultimate source of authority at every level of government is the Communist Party of China (CCP). The party control is reinforced by the constitutional prohibition of any action that detracts from or criticizes the CCP and the cardinal principles. China has responded that the government maintains a faithful adherent of international norms and rules with respect to the principle of universality of human rights. However, the Chinese Communist Party regularly depicts “human rights” as a vehicle used by Western forces to undermine and eventually topple one-party rule. Human Rights Watch wants answers to forced disappearances like that of activist Cao Shunli, who is known for pressing the government to allow independent civil society participation in the UPR process. In 2009, China’s government commented, “No individual or press has been penalized for voicing their opinions or views.” By contrast, the UN has many questions of why violations of rights remain strife, prison sentences for political charges have worsened, and the government’s promised efforts to bring legal protections into line with international rules have stalled. 

Elaine Etzler

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