6 September 2005


Press Release
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 5 September (UN Information Service) -- A rapidly changing China has great potential in the area of human rights, although concerns remain in a number of areas and daunting challenges lay ahead, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in Beijing on Friday, 2 September.

Closing a one-week visit to the country, Louise Arbour saluted progress in the realization of economic and social rights in China, highlighting how economic growth has been instrumental in improvements in life expectancy, reducing child mortality and increasing literacy.

Mrs. Arbour also pointed to China’s ratification of five of the seven major international human rights treaties and its cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms.

Recalling the agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed with the Government during the visit, Mrs. Arbour said the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) would work with China to help it remove obstacles to ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to implement recommendations of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The High Commissioner emphasized the relationship between the two sets of rights, adding that respect of both was essential in meeting "the growing, and increasingly asserted, aspirations that economic change is generating" among China’s people.

"These aspirations translate into calls for transparency, fairness and the full extension of the rule of law", she added.

Mrs. Arbour said she had also raised a number of concerns with Chinese officials, citing the need for judicial review of all decisions regarding deprivation of liberty.  She also called for an immediate overhaul of the system of administrative detention known as re-education through labour. 

The High Commissioner expressed concern at the extensive use of the death penalty, including for offences that do not meet the international standard of "most serious crimes".  She welcomed the anticipated resumption of the jurisdiction of the Supreme People’s Court in the review of all capital punishment cases.

Commenting on the lack of reliable data on the extent of the use of the death penalty, the High Commissioner said "transparency is critical for informed public debate on the issue".

The High Commissioner also raised with authorities individual cases illustrative of some of the changes needed as China prepares to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Throughout her discussions with the authorities, the High Commissioner said, she highlighted the importance of China exercising its global role to help advance human rights internationally.  "I called on China’s support for the Secretary-General’s reform initiative, including in the human rights area, and specifically regarding the creation of a human rights Council and the doubling of capacity for the Office of the High Commissioner", she said.

"I also urged China to take a proactive leadership role in the advancement of human rights, not only in the Security Council but also more broadly in instances where it might constructively exercise its influence."

Assessing her visit, the High Commissioner said she believed the trip, the signing of the MOU and previous cooperation endeavours were evidence of the desire of the OHCHR and China to continue working together to improve human rights in the country.

"This will not always be easy", she said.  "In a spirit of cooperation and constructiveness we can sometimes be critical.  I leave China encouraged about taking this work forward, energized by the prospect of helping the country face daunting challenges, and guardedly optimistic about the enormous potential for positive change."

Visit of High Commissioner to China , 29 August – 2 September

During her visit, the High Commissioner took part in the " Beijing+10" commemoration of the World Conference on Women hosted by President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People.  On that day, 29 August, she also met with Gu Xiulian, Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress.

On 30 August, the High Commissioner opened the thirteenth Annual Workshop on the Asia-Pacific Framework for Regional Cooperation in human rights, co-hosted by China and her Office.  She held talks with State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan.  Later in the day, she met with Minister of Justice Wu Aiying, followed by a visit to the Sunshine Community Correction Center of Chaoyang District, Beijing. 

On 31 August, the High Commissioner held talks with Assistant Foreign Minister Shen, a meeting followed by the signing the MOU.  Later in the day, she met with representatives of non-governmental organizations, including the China Society for Human Rights Studies, China Association for the Disabled Persons, Beijing Legal Aid and Research Centre for Youth, Beijing Bar Association, Women’s Law Research and Service Centre of Beijing University Law School.

On 1 September, Mrs. Arbour met with the President of the Supreme People’s Court, Xiao Yang, as well as with Vice-President Shen Deyong.  She then held a discussion with academics from the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University, China University of Politics and Law.

On 2 September, the High Commissioner met with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, as well as with Vice Minister for Public Security Liu Jinguo, and the Director-General of Legal Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security Ke Liangdong.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.