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Thursday, February 4, 1999 Published at 14:57 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

China hits back at women's rights criticism

Human rights groups said inequality was worsening

China has dismissed criticism that it discriminates against women.

The rebuttal follows accusations by human rights groups that that sexual inequality in China had grown rapidly over the last decade, and that Beijing was trying to present an over-optimistic picture of women's status there.

Duncan Hewitt on Beijing's reply to the criticisms of the human rights groups
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said that China had signed up to the platform of the 1995 UN Women's Conference, and was committed to eliminating discrimination and to raising the status of women.

The dispute follows a submission by the Chinese government to the United Nations committee on the elimination of discrimination against women.

Human rights groups based in New York and Hong Kong criticised China's report, pointing in particular to

  • an increase in trafficking in women
  • worries about the availability of health care
  • forced abortion and sterilisation resulting from China's "one child" policy

'Isolated abuses'

China has accepted that the one child policy - which in theory is voluntarily implemented - has been abused, but only in isolated cases.

Beijing's own figures suggest that trafficking in women has decreased in recent years.

But Beijing's ambassador to the UN, Qin Huasun, acknowledged this week that women faced problems including

  • growing unemployment
  • increasing cases of domestic violence
  • illiteracy
  • rural poverty
The ambassador said there was a long way to go before feudal attitudes could be fully eradicated and gender equality achieved.

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