No More Chinese Communist Party

February 9, 2009

UN discusses China’s human rights problems

The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a hearing today on China’s human-rights record. Like other U.N. confabs, it’s unlikely to result in concrete action. But any public attention to Beijing’s actions is a discussion worth having…….

Amnesty torture cartoon

bluepoliceThe Human Rights Council — home to Saudi Arabia, Cuba and other rights abusers — has rarely, if ever, lived up to its name. But that doesn’t mean that today’s meeting is without merit. China can be sensitive to diplomatic pressure on human rights. During the U.N. review last year of China’s commitments as a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, the delegation from Beijing was forced to provide information that otherwise might never have seen the light of day.

For today’s meeting, the advance questions submitted to the Council by its freer nations — the Czech Republic, Latvia, Liechtenstein and Sweden — touch on some important issues, such as persecution of human-rights defenders, domestic censorship and allegations of torture. The Council may also raise last year’s crackdown in Tibet, Beijing’s iron grip on dissent during the Olympics, the one-child policy, “re-education through labor,” religious freedom and the detention of dissidents. Jerry Cohen and Eva Pils relate the story of recently “disappeared” human-rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng here.

China will deny every alleged offense, as it has done in the past, by citing a long litany of laws and human-rights conventions to which it has acceded. In its submission to the Council before today’s meeting, Beijing asserted that it implements its laws “in the light of China’s national realities.”

The irony of that statement is probably lost on its authors. It’s becoming harder and harder for Chinese authorities to suppress news of human-rights violations in the age of the Internet and cell phones. As China develops, its citizens are demanding better treatment. The more public attention is focused on that trend, the better.

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