Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

China submits rights record to UN

Guards at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 2008
Critics say China still represses human rights 20 years after Tiananmen

China has submitted its first report on its human rights record for review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The document focuses on improvements brought about by economic development, but also admits that China faces serious challenges.

The report will be reviewed by a three-country panel, which will then make recommendations by Wednesday.

Analysts say the process puts China's frequently-criticised rights record under unprecedented scrutiny.

The council - which replaced the discredited UN Human Rights Commission - has no enforcement powers, but does have considerable moral authority.

Rigorous scrutiny?

China's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Li Baodong, defended his country's rights record to the council.

"China is the world's largest developing country. We are fully aware of our difficulties and challenges in the field of human rights," he said.


He said there was still a sizeable number of people on low incomes and an imbalance between those in the countryside and those in the towns.

"Medical and health-care services and the social security system still fall short of our people's needs," he said.

Under questioning from some of the European delegates in the council, he defended China's use of the death penalty.

And he hit back at a number of Western countries, including Australia, that raised the alleged repression of Tibetans and Uighurs.

"We would categorically reject this attempt to politicise the issue," he said.

Some human rights activists were angered by the presentation, saying China had failed to address such key concerns as persecution on religious and ethnic grounds and press censorship.

But Nigeria's envoy to the UN in Geneva, Martin Uhomoibhi, who holds the council's rotating presidency, spoke positively of China's efforts.

"We are impressed by the efforts [China] has made to take this country out of slums and poverty," he told the BBC, adding that China had invited UN officials to assess the situation for themselves.

Delegates from Nigeria, India and Canada will now review China's report, and are set to make recommendations to China by Wednesday.

All UN member states are expected to report at regular intervals on their human rights record under the newly-launched UPR process.

But analysts say that China's report has been especially eagerly awaited.

Human rights groups say it is essential that China's rights record comes under rigorous scrutiny.

They say that a failure to address alleged violations will discredit the UN Human Rights Council.

China's human rights record has been criticised for years.

Human rights groups claim that today, 20 years after the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government continues to persecute political dissenters, and to deny press freedom.

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