Wednesday, November 12, 2008

China Refuses to Answer Questions from UN Panel on Torture Allegations

According to an Associated Press report ( China refused Monday to answer questions from a United Nations human rights panel about the alleged torture and disappearance of dissidents, or provide official figures on the mistreatment of detainees in its prisons.Campaigners have long criticized the country for failing to live up to a 1984 UN anti-torture accord, citing the secrecy of its courts and the persecution of lawyers who highlight abuses.
Li Baodong, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said his government had "zero tolerance for torture" and was making progress in stamping out abuse.
"The concept of prohibition of torture is gaining widespread recognition among the judiciary," he told a public meeting of the UN Committee Against Torture.
But Li and 31 other members of China's delegation rejected requests for detailed information on issues such as forced disappearances and prisoner abuse.
Three years ago, the UN's torture investigator said inmates told him they were forced to lie still for weeks, faced beatings with electric batons or sticks, or faced other ill-treatment. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also have documented cases where they say torture was committed by state officials.
Felice Gaer, one of the UN panel's 10 members, said she had hoped to receive more specific answers from China during the two-day hearing, which began Friday.
"The problem is not the absence of statistics but the inability to make these statistics public," she said.
Gaer also cited individual cases that China had been asked to explain, including the disappearance and prosecution of religious figures, human rights campaigners and lawyers.
Chinese officials addressed only one case, that of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who in 1995 was chosen by the Dalai Lama to become the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second-highest ranking figure.
Nyima, who was six years old at the time, disappeared with his family soon after and has not been heard from since. Human rights groups say Nyima, now 19, is being held under house arrest by the Chinese authorities.
"Choekyi Nyima and his family are leading a normal life and they don't want to be disturbed," Shen Yang, an official with China's Ethnic Affairs Commission, told the committee.
The UN committee will issue a list of findings and recommendations on China later this month.

Comment: China Ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1998. Here is part of the text China agreed to abide by at that time: Article 20
1. If the Committee receives reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State Party, the Committee shall invite that State Party to co-operate in the examination of the information and to this end to submit observations with regard to the information concerned.
2. Taking into account any observations which may have been submitted by the State Party concerned, as well as any other relevant information available to it, the Committee may, if it decides that this is warranted, designate one or more of its members to make a confidential inquiry and to report to the Committee urgently.
3. If an inquiry is made in accordance with paragraph 2 of this article, the Committee shall seek the co-operation of the State Party concerned. In agreement with that State Party, such an inquiry may include a visit to its territory.
4. After examining the findings of its member or members submitted in accordance with paragraph 2 of this article, the Commission shall transmit these findings to the State Party concerned together with any comments or suggestions which seem appropriate in view of the situation.
5. All the proceedings of the Committee referred to in paragraphs I to 4 of this article shall be con fidential , and at all stages of the proceedings the co-operation of the State Party shall be sought. After such proceedings have been completed with regard to an inquiry made in accordance with paragraph 2, the Committee may, after consultations with the State Party concerned, decide to include a summary account of the results of the proceedings in its annual report made in accordance with article 24.

Friday, November 07, 2008

China Should Ensure that its Human Rights "National Action Plan" Amounts to More than a Publicity Stunt

Statement from Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) "a non-political, non-governmental network of grassroots and international activists promoting human rights and empowering grassroots activism in China. CHRD's objective is to support human rights activists in China, monitor human rights developments, and assist victims of human rights abuses. CHRD advocates approaches that are non-violent and based on rule of law. CHRD conducts research, provides information, organizes training, supports a program of small grants to human rights activists and researchers, and offers legal assistance."

作者:CHRD 文章来源:CHRD 点击数:25 更新时间:2008-11-7 11:07:10

China Should Ensure that its "National Action Plan" Amounts to More than a Publicity Stunt

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, November 7, 2008) –The Chinese government announced on November 4 that it is to draft its first "national action plan to protect human rights". Although CHRD welcomes the initiative, it is concerned that the plan will fall short of its stated objective of protecting human rights due to the following reasons:
The plan, as outlined thus far, is vague. It lacks details such as a concrete timetable for implementation of the plan or precisely the kind of actions that it will involve.
It is unclear why the State Council Information Office (responsible for publicizing official information domestically and promoting the Chinese government abroad) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (responsible for foreign relations) will be heading the government panel that drafts the plan.
The government panel will be advised by "ten human rights experts from key universities and academic institutions" and "NGOs". CHRD is concerned that these experts and organizations will only be those carefully hand-picked and controlled by the government. CHRD is particularly concerned that the drafting process excludes consultation with the wider public, especially independent human rights activists and genuinely independent NGOs.
The facts that the plan as currently outlined is vague and that its drafting is to be led by government agencies involved in promoting China's image abroad and advised by individuals who lack independence raise the suspicion that Chinese government has initiated the plan not to promote human rights but to placate the international community at a time when China is being reviewed by the UN Committee Against Torture (November 7 and 10) and will soon be reviewed by the Human Rights Council in its Universal Periodic Review mechanism in February 2009.

CHRD believes that a concrete national action plan could genuinely and effectively promote human rights if:
the Chinese government invites members of the public and civil society, especially independent human rights activists and groups, to participate in the drafting process;
the Chinese government makes a draft of this plan available to the public, involves it in a thorough process of consultation, and incorporates the public's opinion into the finalized plan;
the drafting panel is headed by the National People's Congress (NPC), the legislative body that is vested with the power to make laws that could effectively protect human rights;
the plan includes the establishment of a national human rights body, such as an independent National Commission on Human Rights, as exists in many other countries, to ensure that the plan will be implemented and effectively monitored; and
the plan addresses, among other areas of concern, the following five requests CHRD has made to the Chinese government and asked the UN Human Rights Council to consider during its Universal Periodic Review of China in February 2009:
(1) Take effective measures to implement the Convention against Torture.
(2) Abolish all systems of arbitrary detention.
(3) End the criminalization of freedom of speech and of the press.
(4) Cease Party and government control of the judiciary.
(5) Honor its commitment to protect human rights defenders.