China rejected any mention of the human rights situation in Tibet at the conclusion of a major international review of its human rights record in Geneva today despite the fact that the issue was raised by more than six countries. The U.N. Universal Periodic Review, which is held every four years and concluded with the adoption of its final report this morning, represented the first major opportunity for the international community to discuss human rights in China since the Beijing Olympics and the beginning of the crackdown in Tibet last year.
Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for Advocacy for the International Campaign for Tibet, said today: “China’s refusal to accept any of the many recommendations on human rights in Tibet raises serious concerns beyond its own engagement in the UPR process. The fact that these recommendations could be negotiated away in a back room damages the integrity of the UPR itself, which is intended to be a serious and constructive review of human rights practices, as measured against international norms. We have witnessed a gross and willful politicization of the process by China and its collaborators on the Human Rights Council.”
The UPR process involves a peer review, during which member states can suggest recommendations for action, which the state under review can commit to, adapt or, in extreme cases, reject outright. The governments of New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Canada, Switzerland and the Czech Republic specifically raised concerns about Tibet at the UPR and made a series of recommendations, all of which China rejected.
The process involves each UN member state being reviewed every four years by the Human Rights Council, which was set up in 2006 to replace the largely discredited UN Commission on Human Rights. The mandate of the Human Rights Council is to review, on a periodic basis, “the fulfillment by each of the United Nations’ 192 Member States of their human rights obligations and commitments.”
Austria, Portugal, Germany and South Africa raised concerns relating to minority rights in China without specifically referring to the Tibet situation, while Russia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka focused on defending China¹s human rights record. Pakistan characterized ongoing unrest in Tibet as the result of foreign influences.
The Chinese delegation also negotiated the rejection of points on state secrets laws, the death penalty, and other human right issues raised by different countries – ensuring that 70 of 119 recommendations made were excluded from the final draft. The explanation given was that these recommendations “did not enjoy the support of China”.
The PRC accepted recommendations from Zimbabwe, Cuba, Sudan and Iran, but rejected all recommendations of the UK, France and the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic, which holds the current Presidency of the European Union, was the only country to refer to specific political prisoners in its statement, recommending the following to China:
- end the ‘strike hard campaign’ associated with numerous serious violations of human rights,
- to investigate all cases of police brutality and torture, as e.g. death of Mr. Pema Tsepak in Chambo in January this year.
- to ensure protection of right of peaceful assembly and to release all persons arrested in this connection, e.g Ms. Tashi Tao and Ms. Dhungtso in Kardze County.
The Chinese delegation, led by Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong, said that the concerns it had dismissed were “politicised statements”.