UN logoAmsterdam – The Chinese government has delivered a Human Rights Council Pledge to the United Nations as part of its bid to win a seat on the new Council, but the content of the pledge is long on rhetoric and short on detail of how China intends to meet its commitments to the UN.

In the pledge, the Chinese government acknowledges that “Much work remains to be done in the field of human rights” and that the government is “steadily advancing judicial reform, and constantly improving democracy and legal system, with a view to building a harmonious society”. The document provides only ambiguous promises of progress on civil and political rights while simultaneously asserting that China’s implementation of these rights should take account of China’s “cultural background as well as historical tradition”.

However, the pledge mostly focuses on China’s efforts in the social and economic sphere, and only makes vague commitments to increasing political and civil rights. The pledge states that in today’s China there is “complete freedom of the Chinese people in movement, employment, access to information, religious belief and ways of life.” ICT and other human rights groups have consistently documented harsh restrictions on religious belief and practice, the use of torture and imprisonment against non-violent protest and restrictions on the media and internet in China.

The pledge also highlights that the Chinese government “actively cooperates” with the UN on human rights, despite China’s refusal to acknowledge critical UN reports and lack of implementation of the many recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteurs. Most notably, China has consistently refused independent access to Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, despite requests from the highest levels of the UN. The pledge also reiterates Chinese opposition to direct criticism and country-specific resolutions at the UN, saying that the new Council must avoid “the mistake of political confrontation made by the Human Rights Commission”.

“The Chinese pledge offers little in the way of concrete information for UN member states to determine how China will move forward with its UN commitments and implement all the many human rights recommendations that have so far gone unheeded. This document doesn’t deliver a compelling reason for any UN member to overlook Chinese abysmal human rights record and vote for China at the new UN Human Rights Council”, said Ms Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT Europe.

The elections for the new UN Human Rights Council will take place by secret ballot on 9 May 2006.

You can find ICT’s position on China’s candidacy here. You can also read the full text of the Chinese government’s pledge here.