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China Admits Flaws But Slams Rights Report

By Edward Lanfranco
Jan. 19, 2006

China's retort Thursday to the latest report by Human Rights Watch combined vitriol and vagueness, but officials admit there's room for improvement.

The rights watchdog group listed more than a dozen different areas where the People's Republic of China had noteworthy deficiencies.

The New York-based organization issued its 2006 World Review Report Wednesday; few countries and no continent on the planet escaped unscathed. Brad Adams, the Asia division director at Human Rights Watch said: "Impunity from prosecution for human rights violations is the most important problem in the region, and the most widespread."

Adams believes the "Asian values" argument first articulated nearly a decade ago by retired Singaporean statesman Lee Kwan-Yew that argued human rights were different because Confucianism had been discredited in Asia.

In a nutshell, Confucian ethics are based on understanding and cultivating one's role and boundaries in five different types of relationships: those between ruler and ruled, man and woman, father and son, old and young, and friendship among peers.

"The abusive governments that used to hide behind that rhetoric still commit the worst kinds of abuses without fear of punishment," Adams claimed in the report's news release.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday, United Press International asked spokesman Kong Quan if he had read the report, what China's response was to the charges made, and if the country had any room for improvement in its human rights record.

"I personally will not look at the report because Human Rights Watch is highly biased. They've fabricated facts; they've fabricated issues, and made groundless accusations against China," was Kong's opening response.

The spokesman said "the Chinese constitution clearly provides that the Chinese government respects and protects human rights" and the collective leadership headed by Hu Jintao had made and will continue to make "earnest efforts promoting the protection of human rights."

Criticisms made by Human Rights Watch fell into four different broad categories: authority, territories, societal and personal. Each category listed different issues where China's record left little doubt that serious problems exist for the Chinese government to tackle.

In the authority grouping Human Rights Watch cataloged flaws in the legal system such as the lack of an independent judiciary, the changing of laws to curtail petition rights, and the government's foreign policy support to unsavory regimes including Sudan, Myanmar (Burma), Uzbekistan and North Korea.

Chinese territories mentioned as having human rights abuses included the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Tibetan Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, and Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region.

Problems in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia related to ethnic tensions and suppression. For Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997, Human Rights Watch criticized the PRC for interference in the development of universal suffrage promised in its Basic Law.

The societal section included a list of horrors impacting Chinese people in groups ranging in size from tens of millions to the small brave few. Human Rights Watch cited ongoing problems with forced evictions from land, non-existent independent labor rights, plus lawyers, reporters and human rights defenders punished for rising against injustice in China.

In the last category the rights watchdog group reported on mistreatment of the individual. Freedoms of expression and religious belief were trampled in 2005, as were the efforts of non-governmental groups and activists focused on HIV/AIDS.

China's foreign ministry spokesman offered the Communist regime's big picture position on the sensitive issue of human rights. He said: "In the Eleventh Five Year Plan the Chinese government will make efforts to consolidate democracy and political construction and press ahead with the reform of political institutions."

Kong then addressed the point of making things better for the country's 1.3 billion citizens.

"Of course as a populous country and a developing nation as constrained by factors of nature, history, and development levels we have much room for improvement in human rights. We are quite clear about that," he said.

The spokesman continued by saying China had taken "unprecedented strong efforts to strengthen democracy and human rights protection" including 85 new laws (50 national, 35 local) which became effective Jan. 1.

Kong finished his response, stating "the efforts of the Chinese government in improving the situation have been sincere and unprecedented. We are going to continue to make efforts to improve and safeguard human rights."



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