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China's Statements in UN Human Rights Mechanism

2000-11-15 14:16




23 April 1999)

Madam Chair,

The Chinese delegation is firmly opposed to the draft resolution L22 tabled by the United States. In accordance with Rule 65, Paragraph 2, of the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council, I would like to move that this Commission take no action on the draft resolution L22. My reasons are as follows:

First, the American allegation that this resolution was tabled because "the human rights situation in China has deteriorated sharply in 1998" is totally groundless. In 1998, China has achieved all-round success in the field of human rights, which is reflected not only in the remarkable accomplishments on economic, social and cultural rights, but also in the significant progress on civil and political rights. In 1998, China lifted 8 million rural residents out of poverty, enabling the total number of the people in poverty to drop from 250 million in 1978 to the current 42 million, the most rapid decrease in the world. In 1998, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress adopted the Organic Law of the Village Committee, which provides solid legal guarantee to the strengthened democracy-building at grassroots levels in the rural area and the direct exercise of democratic rights by the people. In 1998, human rights protection in every aspect of the judicial administration has been strengthened. Open-trial system has been strengthened at courts of all levels with the public and the media playing a bigger role in monitoring the trials. Supervision over law enforcement by procuratorates of various levels has been intensified and more strict approaches have been adopted in investigating and handling the cases of illegal detention and extorting confession through torture. In 1998, the Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, following the signing of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In March 1999, the Second Session of the Ninth National People's Congress upgraded a fundamental state policy to a constitutional principle by writing the principle of rule of law into the Constitution, which will exert a profound impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. In 1998, thanks to the unremitting efforts by the Chinese government, the human rights situation for the Chinese people of all ethnic groups including the Tibetan people has improved rapidly instead of deteriorating sharply. The Chinese people, with their own experience, have most say in this regard. And this has also been widely recognized by the international community. The US keeps nagging over the trials of a few criminals by Chinese judiciary. These persons were not punished for exercising the freedoms of expression and association, but for the criminal activities subverting the state power. Such criminal activities are subject to punishment in any country. It is obvious that behind this resolution tabled by the US there are ulterior political motives.

Second, the resolution tabled by the US represents an outcome of double standards and the politicization of human rights, which goes against the Commission's purpose of promoting and protecting human rights. Gross violations of human rights in the US are well documented: racial discrimination, police violence, torture in prison, death penalty for minors, just to name a few. Signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1977, the US only ratified it 15 years later with many reservations, and has not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights till this day. If the resolution L22 tabled by the US could be claimed an effort to promote and protect human rights in China, why did the US not table a resolution on the human rights situation in the US so as to improve its own human rights record£?Given its poor record in acceding to human rights conventions, what right does the US have to ask China to ratify the two covenants in less than two years after the signing£?Who has given the US such a privilege£?If this were not hegemonism or double standards, then what could it be£?Without any euphemism, the bottom purpose of this draft resolution is to impose political pressure on China and to undermine the reform, development and stability in China.

Third, the US sponsored this resolution purely out of its domestic needs, which has nothing to do with human rights. Since the exchange of visits by the heads of the two states in 1997, there has been significant development in the China-US relations. However, due to domestic political reasons, there has recently emerged an anti-China undercurrent in the US and China has once again become the victim of the partisan strife in the US. Unfortunately, the US has brought such conflicts into this Commission, making it an arena for American domestic political struggles. This is a trample upon the credibility of this Commission. To allow the extension of American partisan strife to this Commission or to stand firm on the impartiality and seriousness of this Commission, that is the choice every state member of this Commission has to make.

Fourth, the resolution L22 sponsored by the US runs counter to the current trend of dialogue and cooperation and has provoked political confrontation. China and the US, with distinctive history, culture, traditions and in different stages of development, do have differences over human rights issues. And it should not come as a surprise. China has all along maintained that differences be properly tackled through dialogues based on equality and mutual respect, which has also been agreed upon by the heads of the two states. Last January, China resumed human rights dialogue with the US after 4 years of suspension, and invited the American delegation to Beijing for another round of dialogue in the second half of this year. After that, the two sides exchanged views on human rights issues on many occasions. All this has demonstrated the sincerity of China in narrowing differences with the US over human rights and the tremendous efforts made by China to this end. Ten years after the end of the Cold War, it has become the trend of our time to be engaged in dialogue rather than confrontation in the field of human rights. However, the US, clinging to the Cold War mentality and ignoring China's sincerity, moves against the tide and persists in provoking political confrontation. This will only end up isolating itself and bringing about serious and negative impact on the China-US human rights dialogue that has just been resumed. The Chinese side hopes that the US will give up confrontation and return to the path of dialogue soon.

Fifth, the US alleged that China's no-action motion is intended to block the discussion of the human rights situation in China by the Commission. This could not be any further from the truth. In fact, since the opening of the current session, the US has repeatedly unleashed criticism on China's human rights situation under different agenda items. China has conducted extensive, in-depth and candid discussions with relevant parties at the human rights dialogues and seminars that China has held with Western countries including the US. There does not exist any difference between China and the US over conducting substantive discussions about the human rights situation in China. However, discussions and actions are of different nature, and substantive discussions and the anti-China resolution are two completely different subjects. The boundary between the two is deliberately blurred by the US, and this represents an attempt by the US to steal support from other countries. Moreover, as the no-action motion is provided for by the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of ECOSOC, any member state including China is entitled to initiating the motion. Thus the no-action motion proposed by China has solid legal grounds. This Commission has in the past witnessed many precedents of no-action motion over certain resolutions in accordance with Rule 65, Paragraph 2. Last year, at a Committee session of the General Assembly, the US voted for the no-action motions proposed by other countries. The accusation by the US against China's no-action motion does not hold water at all.

Madam Chair,

For the sake of honoring the credibility of this Commission, furthering dialogue and cooperation in the field of human rights and truly promoting the cause of human rights, the Chinese delegation appeals to all justice-upholding state members of this Commission to join us in voting for the no-action motion on the draft resolution L22.

The Chinese delegation requests a roll-call vote.

Thank you, Madam Chair.





(April 7, 1999)

Madame Chair,

Recently, the human rights situation in China has once again become an issue to some people in the world. I would like to take this opportunity to brief you on the real situation in China and the views of the Chinese government on the realization of human rights.

I. The 20th century is a century when the Chinese people have profoundly changed their destiny. Over the past 100 years, great changes have taken place with regard to the human rights situation in China.

China entered the 20th century in a state of deep humiliation amid the roar of cannons, when the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded Beijing in 1900. The country was on the verge of collapse, and human rights suffered an unprecedented disaster. During the 100 years around then, all the foreign powers, big or small, were involved in carving up China by imposing over 1,100 unequal treaties on China demanding cessions and indemnities from China. Under these unequal treaties the foreign aggressors plundered as much as 100 billion taels of silver from China. During that long dark period, the Chinese people were engaged in unyielding pursuit and struggle for fundamental human rights until the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 when the Chinese people freed themselves from oppression and won the dignity and rights as human being.

By the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese population approached 500 million, out of which 400 million were starving. Mr. Acheson, the then Secretary of State of the United States, predicted that China would be crushed by the pressure of food. Yet his prediction didn't come true. Today China has nearly 1.3 billion people and their needs for food and clothing are generally met. Particularly over the last two decades, the population living in poverty has decreased by 10 million each year in China.

Before 1949, the average life expectancy of the Chinese people was 35. Now it is 70.

In 1949, the illiteracy rate was as high as 80%. Now it has dropped to below 6% among the young and the middle-aged people, and the enrollment rate of children of school age has reached 98.7%.

For more than 100 years before 1949, the Chinese people were reduced to second-class citizens on their own land. At park entrances, there were even signs that read "No Chinese and Dogs". Today, the Chinese people are masters of their own country and enjoy all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws.

Over the past decades, the Chinese government and people have made unremitting efforts to achieve full enjoyment of human rights and have registered remarkable achievements. The Chinese people are striding into the 21st century in pride and prosperity

II. China has made remarkable achievements in the field of human rights over the past year.

The year of 1998 was an extraordinary one for China. Externally, we were faced with tremendous challenges of Asian financial crisis. Domestically, we suffered extremely severe floods rarely seen in history. In the most precarious situation, the Chinese government and the people, united as one, stood up to the severe tests. With the national economy growing at 7.8% and the net income of urban residents increasing by 5.8%, the people's living standards and enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights have been remarkably improved.

In 1998, China made considerable progress in strengthening democracy and legal systems and safeguarding civil and political rights. In response to the appeal of various parties and the people, the recently concluded National People's Congress has amended the Constitution by incorporating the content that "The People's Republic of China adopts the principle of governing the country according to law and builds a socialist state ruled by law" into the Preamble, which demonstrates the firm determination of the Chinese people to improve democracy and pursue rule of law.

The past year also witnessed the intensified efforts by the Chinese government on legislative and judicial reforms and the building of law-enforcing team. The revision of such laws concerning the people's fundamental rights such as Criminal Law, Criminal Procedural Law and Civil Law was followed by the adoption of the Organic Law of Village Committee and the Organic Law of Urban Neighborhood Committee by the Standing Committee of National People's Congress in November 1998, which has provided a legal basis for the consolidation and expansion of democratic participation by the people and improved democracy at grassroots level. Steps have also been taken to overhaul the law-enforcing team and reinforce supervision so as to protect the rights of the people by ensuring impartial administration of justice. Law popularization efforts on the part of the Chinese government continued, significantly enhancing the public awareness of law and rights. With such tremendous achievements, China now enjoys much better human rights situation than any previous period in history.

Before July 1 of 1997, some politicians and mass media predicted that the future of Hong Kong after its return to the motherland was inauspicious, and that Hong Kong people would lose their freedom of speech, assembly and the press. They made it seem as if Hong Kong were doomed. However, what has happened over the past year demonstrates that China has fully kept its promise. As pointed out by the Observer of Britain and The Commercial Times of the United States, the past year has been a very bad year for some prophets, but a fairly good year for Hong Kong.

Last year, we were also engaged in active international human rights exchanges and cooperation. China received Mrs. Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 1998 when the two sides reached consensus in principle on future cooperation. Not long ago an expert team was sent to China by the Office of the High Commissioner to make an assessment on cooperation needs. Following the signing of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights in 1997, the Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October 1998. And positive preparations are under way for the ratification. The Chinese government sponsored a series of activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by way of taking stock of the past and envisaging the future. During the past year, We engaged ourselves in dialogues and other exchanges with the EU, Norway, Sweden and other western countries, which have further enhanced our mutual understanding.

III. The promotion and protection of the human rights of the Chinese people must not be divorced from the specific conditions of China.

China fully recognizes and respects the universality of human rights and believes, on the other hand, that human rights must be realized in connection with the specific conditions of one's own country. Endowed with over 5,000 years of civilization, the Chinese culture, philosophies, values and traditions have a significant bearing on the modern Chinese society. China is the most populous country in the world with nearly 1.3 billion people, out of which more than 800 million are found in rural areas and 50 million are still living in poverty. Like many developing countries who long suffered external aggressions and internal disturbances in modern history, China had painful experiences of being deprived of state sovereignty, and therefore holds dear the hard-won independence and stability.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to democracy and protects full rights of the people in accordance with law. As democracy is found in concrete manifestation, the specific system of a country to achieve democracy is subject to the influence of such factors as history, culture, economic development, level of education, geographic and territorial features, and evolves with economic and social progress. History testifies to the pursuit of democracy by the Chinese people after overthrowing the feudal imperial regime by experimenting with the so-called multi-party and representative systems, all of which ended up in failure. The system of National People's Congress is the historical choice of democracy by the Chinese people, through which the Chinese people exercise the rights as master of the country and the democratic parties participate in the management of state affairs. As proved by practice, the establishment and improvement of the system of the people's congress guarantees the promotion and protection of human rights in China.

The Chinese people are open-minded by nature and never confine themselves in the obsolete practices. Today, reform and opening-up have been entrenched as a fundamental policy of state. Reform has propelled the development and fostered social stability which has in turn ensured further implementation of reform and opening-up. For a country like China with 1.3 billion people and in transition, reform, opening-up, stability and development are all of vital importance. This is the basic situation of China, and everything must be done in light of this situation including the promotion of human rights.

IV. Dialogue helps to narrow differences on human rights, while confrontation leads to nowhere.

Due to different national situations, it is normal for countries to have different opinions on human rights. The Chinese government has all along maintained that such differences should be solved through dialogue and exchanges on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and this has been proven the most effective way. The Chinese government has noted with appreciation that the EU has decided, for the second time, not to sponsor an China resolution at the current Commission session. This is a sensible move not only for the China-EU human rights dialogue but also for defusing the confrontation in the Commission.

However, the US government announced on March 26 that it would sponsor an anti-China resolution by itself due to "the sharp deterioration of China's human rights record". The accusation was based on either ignorance or ulterior motives. I have said a lot about China's human rights progress in 1998. The United States has unleashed attacks on China for trying several criminals. And what I would like to make clear is that these persons were arrested and tried for having engaged in the activities subverting the state power and endangering state security, which had nothing to do with their exercise of the freedom of expression and association. The trial conducted last December was open, fair and legitimate. It is a common practice of all countries including the United States to punish criminals who have endangered state security. According to the two Covenants, the exercise of rights is not unlimited, instead, it is subject to due limitations in the interests of state security, public safety, public order and the rights and freedoms of others. Therefore the act by the Chinese judiciary is beyond reproach.

In his speech delivered a few days ago, the US representative made unjustified attacks on China by distorting the fact and claimed that sponsoring the anti-China resolution is "a question of principle". Turning a deaf ear to the appeal of the majority of the Member States, the United States made the decision arbitrarily. If there were a principle underlying what the United States has done, it would be the principle of Cold War, the principle of hegemony and the principle of confrontation. As it is known to all, the move of the United States was not initiated by the real concern about the human rights in China, but by domestic partisan politics. It is nothing but a political trick for domestic elections. This is sheer politicization of human rights issues and the work of this Commission. If the Commission took action on such a resolution, it would constitute a blasphemy to the lofty cause of human rights and be detrimental to the credibility of the Commission.

Madame Chair,

The fact that the anti-China resolution was defeated for seven times demonstrates that confrontation leads to nowhere. Here we would like to advise the US representative not to point fingers at others. It is better to put your own house in order. At the turn of the century, it is high time that you learned some lessons from the previous failures.

Thank you, Madame Chair.



(12 April, 1999)

Madam Chair,

Civil and political rights are part and parcel of human rights, and bear on many aspects of the life of individual citizens and the social life of the state. The full realization of civil and political rights is one of the ideals for which the international community has been striving. Moreover, the promotion and protection of civil and political rights also represents an important approach to democracy.

The Chinese delegation believes that the realization of civil and political rights requires attention to the following points.

First, states should be mindful of the balance between rights and obligations in realizing the civil and political rights of their citizens. As there are no obligations that don't lead to rights, there are no rights that fail to entail obligations. To ensure the normal functioning of the society as a whole, an individual must abide by laws and undertake obligations in exercising his rights.

Second, civil and political rights, as part of the super structure of a state, are realized on the basis of economic development. In promoting and safeguarding the civil and political rights of its citizens, the state needs to ensure that the efforts made in this regard correspond to the prevalent economic basis, rather than stretching beyond the specific stage of historical development the state is in.

Third, the promotion and protection of civil and political rights takes a long and gradual process, and has no uniform or fixed model to follow. As no country in the world is perfect in this regard, all governments should proceed from their own specific situations in adopting practical and feasible measures to guarantee the civil and political rights of their citizens through strengthened international cooperation and by drawing upon the positive experience of other countries.

Madam Chair,

For more than twenty years since our reform and opening up,. the Chinese government has on one hand committed itself to realizing the economic, social and cultural rights of the people by improving their livelihood, and on the other hand attached full importance to the promotion and protection of the civil and political rights of the citizens, and has achieved remarkable success.

I. Speeding up the process of governing the country according to law with emphasis on judicial independence and fairness. The recently concluded Second Session of the Ninth National People's Congress adopted the amendments to the Constitution as proposed by its Standing Committee. Provisions on governing the country according to law and building a socialist country of the rule of law have, for the first time, been written into the Constitution. This represents a major step by China in promoting and protecting human rights and in accelerating the process of governing the country according to law. On the question of judicial independence, China's constitution clearly provides that people's courts and people's procuratorates at all levels exercise their power independently, free from interference by any administrative organs, social groups or individuals. In recent years, Chinese judiciary has adopted many measures and made much progress in safeguarding the judicial independence and fairness.

II. Protecting the freedom of speech of the citizens in accordance with law. The Chinese Constitution clearly stipulates:"The citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy the freedoms of speech, publication, assembly and association."Among all the newspapers and magazines published in China today, only one-fifth belongs to governmental organs, with the remaining belonging to various democratic parties, social organs and academic institutions. In recent years, the news media in China have caught on the fad of launching such programs as Interview In Focus and Tell-It-All, making themselves active participants of the social life. By helping to unearth and expose the unhealthy occurrences in people's political life, they have received general approval of the public.

III. Taking effective measures to protect the religious freedom of the citizens. Freedom of religion, as protected by the Constitution and other laws, is a fundamental right of the Chinese citizens. In China, all religions are treated on an equal footing, with all citizens enjoying equal rights, believers, non-believers and believers of different religions alike. In recent years, the Chinese government has poured in hundreds of millions of yuan(RMB)to renovate various temples and churches. According to incomplete statistics, up to date, China has over 85,000 sites for religious activities, about 300,000 religious clerks, more than 3000 religious groups and 74 religious institutions. All religions in China have their own publications of scriptures, books and journals. There have also been exchanges of visit between the religious personnel in China and other countries, as an effort to strengthen international cooperation in this field.

IV. Taking various measures to prohibit and oppose the use of torture. The Chinese government has always stressed the importance of human rights protection in the judicial system. In both legislation and judicial practice, the prominent emphasis has been laid on the opposition and prohibition of the use of torture. Severe punishment against the use of torture is explicitly provided for by such Chinese laws as the Criminal Law, the Criminal Procedure Law, the Law on Prison, the Law on the People's Police, the Law on Judges, the Law on Procurators and the National Law on Compensations. In 1988, China formally acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Prohibition of Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, and has ever since been conscientiously performing all the obligations under the convention. In judicial practice, we have installed a variety of vigorous mechanisms of supervision including legislative, administrative and social supervision, so as to effectively prevent torture from happening. China has also strengthened the education and training of law-enforcers on law and relevant international conventions, with a view to raising both their legal awareness and law-enforcement quality.

Madam Chair,

Thanks to the persistent efforts, the Chinese government has scored tremendous achievements in promoting and protecting the civil and political rights of its citizens. However, as I said before, the full realization of civil and political rights is a long and step-by-step process. The Chinese government is willing to work with all governments and relevant international organizations to search for the ways and means of promoting and protecting civil and political rights by strengthening dialogue and cooperation and sharing experience.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

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