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The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing
"Mrs Robinson saw no sign of improvement"
 real 28k

Mary Robinson
"I am concerned about three areas"
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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 13:11 GMT
China's rights record criticised
Mary Robinson and Qian Qichen
Different views on human rights
The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and senior Chinese leaders have clashed over Beijing's human rights record.

Mary Robinson said Beijing's human rights record had "deteriorated" since her visit to China in September 1998.

I am concerned about ... freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of association

Mary Robinson
She criticised Beijing's record of imposing long sentences on pro-democracy activists and its ban on the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

But a Chinese spokesman hit back saying only the Chinese were able to judge the country's record - and that most Western nations were pleased with Beijing's progress.

Falun Gong: Banned movement
Falun Gong: Banned movement
Mrs Robinson, speaking after a meeting with Vice-Premier Qian Qichen in Beijing, said: "My major concern is that there does seem to have been a deterioration.

"I am concerned about three areas that I have expressed my worries about - the freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of association."

She cited the long jail sentences given to pro-democracy activists as one example of the deterioration in the situation.

She also voiced concerns over the suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement - which is now banned - as evidence of human rights abuses in China.

Rights monopoly

But the Chinese Government has rejected the criticism.

The Chinese vice-premier said that different conditions in different countries require different approaches to the promotion of human rights in each country.

Chinese people are satisfied with the rights they enjoy.

Zhu Bangzao
Foreign Ministry
He added that human rights and democracy should not be the monopoly of any one country.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said: "Only Chinese people have the right to judge whether human rights conditions in China have turned better or worse.

"Chinese people are satisfied with the rights they enjoy. This is a fact widely recognised by the international community."

Treaties not ratified

Mrs Robinson acknowledged China's progress in the areas of economic rights and criminal procedures but said that China's system of detention without trial for up to three years must be phased out.

Vice-Premier Qian: Different approaches
Vice-Premier Qian: Different approaches
She also called on China to ratify two international treaties on human rights which China signed in 1998.

These are the International covenant on Civil and Political Rights - which ensures basic freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly - and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

But she also expressed the need for the international community to keep encouraging China.

"To me, the covenants are not sticks to beat China with. It is important that China be encouraged and supported," she said.
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See also:

01 Mar 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Robinson critical on China rights
13 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
China defends academic's detention
26 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
US warns China over Falun Gong trials
18 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong followers arrested
28 Oct 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong followers call for help
26 Feb 00 |  Americas
China scorns US criticism
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