UN Rights Chief Pushes China to Improve Human Rights Record

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is expected to push the Beijing government to improve particularly on religious and media freedom.
( [email protected] ) Aug 30, 2005 12:58 AM EDT

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Louise Arbour arrived in China on August 29 for a five-day mission trip. The visit is aimed at pushing the Beijing government to improve its human rights record and has raised the concern of human rights watchdogs worldwide as well as business investors.

According the Office of the UNHCHR (OHCHR), Arbour will meet with President Hu Jintao and China's foreign and justice ministers, as well as other officials and Chinese non-governmental organizations, to sign an agreement focusing on facilitating the Government's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on helping China implement recommendations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

China has long been charged by the UN as a violator of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Particularly, the UN often condemns the Chinese authorities for restricting religious and media freedom by the civil law.

Experts say the lack of religious and media freedom in China has been a major roadblock for the country to build a closer relationship with the Western world nations such as the United States and Europe. Many overseas business investors have also retreated from emerging the huge China market due to this problem.

Barroso told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the ratification of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political rights would be very well perceived by the public opinion and the European parliament.

China, however, has yet to ratify the agreement.

The day prior to Arbour’s arrival in China, a delegation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) led by the Commission’s newly appointed chairman, Michael Cromartie had just closed a two-week tour in China to promote religious freedom.

According to the USCIRF, the Commission’s visit to China had been a high priority for the Bush Administration, and was raised by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her July meetings in Beijing. The trip was agreed to by the United States and China in the December 2002 U.S-China bilateral human rights dialogue.

However, while USCIRF’s visit centered on religious freedom, Arbour will be keeping women's rights at the center of reform of the UN human rights agenda, according to OHCHR.

As 2005 marks the 10th year commemoration of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing – where standards and the recognition of women's rights were agreed by the UN – Arbour will to take the opportunity to urge the Chinese government to implement them on a national level.