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China's human rights record criticized at U.N. meeting: Action called for in response to worst human rights violations since 1989 massacre

March 30, 2000

At yesterday’s session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Xiao Qiang delivered the following statement on behalf of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Mr. Xiao is a member of the International Advisory Committee of the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights and Executive Director of Human Rights in China. The statement expressed concern that China’s government is committing its worst violations of human rights since the 1989 military crackdown on democracy and human rights activists. Xiao Qiang called for approval of a resolution on China currently before the Commission on Human Rights.

Full text of statement follows:


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56th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights 20 March – 28 April 2000

Date: 29 March 2000
Agenda Item 9: Question of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world.
Oral Statement delivered by: Mr. Xiao Qiang

Respected Mr. Chairman,

My name is Xiao Qiang, and I am speaking on behalf of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial.

Mr. Chairman,

It is a widely known and well-documented fact that China is presently committing the most blatant human rights violations since the June 4, 1989, Beijing military crackdown. Given the gross and systematic pattern of human rights violations in China during the last two years, particularly since the Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October 1998, substantive unilateral actions from the world’s highest human rights body is critically needed. China must be held accountable for its human rights abuses now, in order to preserve the credibility of the United Nations’ international human rights monitoring mechanisms. This is why we are here today, urging each member state to support the resolution on China currently before this Commission.

The Chinese government would have us believe that this resolution is “confrontational,” and the government has called instead for “cooperation through dialogue.” But China’s promotion of so-called “dialogue” is not genuine. In 1989, Chinese students in Beijing requested a dialogue with their government, but the government rebuffed their efforts and sent the national army to quell the protests in Tiananmen Square. China’s attitude has not changed since that time, as illustrated by the thousands of Chinese human rights defenders sentenced to long-term imprisonment or sent to reeducation through labor camps or into forced exile.

The China Democracy Party requested a dialogue with the Chinese government, and the government answered with a brutal crackdown, arresting and detaining at least 200 China Democracy Party members since 1998. Almost all of the key members of the China Democracy Party, advocates of the rights to freedom of expression and association, are currently imprisoned and facing some of the longest prison terms handed down to human rights defenders in the past decade.

The Falun Gong spiritual group has called for a dialogue with the Chinese government, but the government has responded with massive round-ups instead. In the past year, tens of thousands of Falun Gong members have been arrested, detained and administratively sentenced to reeducation through labor camps merely for exercising their religious rights and for engaging in peaceful protests.

The wounded and the families of those killed in the June 4, 1989 Beijing massacre have asked for a dialogue with the Chinese government, but the government has paid no heed. Over a decade later, hundreds of citizens remain in prison for participating in the peaceful protests and hundreds more remain in exile. Moreover, the Chinese government continues to harass and persecute the families of June 4th victims to this very day, prohibiting them from publicly mourning their loved ones or from receiving humanitarian assistance from abroad.

Clearly, the Chinese government is not interested in any meaningful dialogue on its human rights record. Rather, the Chinese government is using the pretense of dialogue to escape accountability for its actions. That is why, despite years of paying lip service to “dialogue,” China continues to commit egregious violations of human rights, including arbitrary detention, political and religious imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, deprivation of the rights to freedom of expression and association, widespread failure to enforce laws protecting the rights of workers and women, suppression of religious freedom and the use of physical and psychological coercion in the implementation of the population control policy.

The Chinese government commits these human rights violations with total impunity. As just one example, Li Peng, who was responsible for the June 4th massacre, will be representing China at the U.N. Millennium Assembly this September, without ever having accounted to the Chinese people or to the international community for his actions.

The Chinese government’s characterization of the resolution as “confrontational” is equally invalid. On the contrary, the Commission on Human Rights is mandated to examine the human rights situation of all countries equally. All member states are responsible for the fair and impartial enforcement of human rights standards, and no country should be immune from scrutiny. As a member of the United Nations bound by its Charter, China has voluntarily accepted the responsibility to be accountable to the international community on human rights. Passage of a resolution on China is a vital first step toward attaining that accountability.

Mr. Chairman, it is the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial’s sincere hope that all member states will unite to end impunity and promote accountability by supporting a resolution on China. Such a stand will send a strong signal that violations of human rights are not acceptable, regardless of a nation’s history, culture, or rate of economic growth. The Commission needs to reaffirm the universality of human rights, and this is what we ask you, as members of the world’s highest human rights body, to uphold at the 56th Session.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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