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Rights group says does not expect China to change

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, May 10: A prominent US-based rights group has said it did not expect China to promote human rights at home despite its new position on the UN Human Rights Council.

Human Rights in China (HRIC) said that China should use the opportunity to promote human rights as befits its role as an increasingly important global player, but expressed doubts that the country with the world's largest population would change.

''While there has been some improvement in the human rights situation in China, over the past 17 years HRIC has documented continued and increasing detentions, arrests and other forms of persecution,'' the group said in a statement seen today.

''China's position that countries can differ on human rights due to cultural and historic differences undermines the universality and indivisibility of human rights,'' it added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao today said Beijing will honour its commitment to protect human rights.

''As a member of the council, the Chinese government will comprehensively push forward the human rights cause in China and seriously carry out its obligations under relevant international human rights conventions,'' Liu said in a statement on the ministry's Web site (www.fmprc.gov.cn).

China was elected to the council along with Russia, Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

The six counties, identified by New York-based Human Rights Watch as unworthy of membership on the new UN body, were yesterday among the 47 nations that won seats on the council for its first session, due to open on June 19 in Geneva.

Amnesty International has also urged all the newly elected states to fulfil their obligation ''to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights''.

China ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2001, but it has been slow in approving the more substantial UN covenant on civil and political rights, which it signed in 1998.

Liu stressed that China wanted the new council to handle human rights issues ''in a fair, objective and unselective fashion'' and reiterated Beijing's stand that historic and cultural backgrounds in different countries should be respected.

Over the last few months China has intensified a crackdown on dissidents and media freedom and arrested a number of people for expressing their opinion on the Internet. Some of their trials are expected to start soon.

''The real test is whether China and the other members of the council will actively, transparently and comprehensively engage in the universal periodic human rights review process,'' said HRIC Executive Director Sharon Hom.

''Otherwise, they are just pouring old wine into new bottles.''


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