CHINA / National

Beijing pledges to uphold human rights
By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-05-11 05:44

China, newly elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, yesterday pledged to fulfil its obligations under the terms of international human rights accords.

"The Chinese Government has always been committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and basic freedoms," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao in Beijing.

The 191-member UN General Assembly on Tuesday elected 47 members from 64 countries that ran for the seats to the newly-founded council through three rounds of secret ballot. China polled 146 votes, 50 more than it needed.

China is ready, along with other members, to "push for the council to promote dialogue among different civilizations, cultures and religions; attach equal importance to citizens' political rights and economic, social and cultural rights; and handle human rights issues fairly, objectively and impartially," Liu said.

The council, established in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly on March 15 to replace the controversial and now defunct Human Rights Commission, will hold its first meeting in Geneva on June 19.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the first members, saying the new body offers "a great opportunity to make a fresh start in the United Nations' vital work of upholding the highest standards of human rights."

Under UN rules, to ensure global representation, Africa and Asia each has 13 seats; Latin America and the Caribbean, 8 seats; Western Europe and others (including North America and the developed nations of Oceania), 7; and Eastern Europe, 6.

The members may not serve more than two successive three-year terms; and each year, a certain number of members should be changed.

Human rights experts in China hailed the nation's election to the UN body as a positive response to criticisms of the country's human rights record by some Western countries.

"China's election with a high number of votes demonstrates that its policies and position on human rights as well as its efforts made in the protection of human rights have been accepted by the international community," said Liu Nanlai, a senior researcher at the Centre for Human Rights Studies, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China's rapid economic growth and the legislative measures adopted by the government have helped guarantee human rights in the country, the researcher said.

The United States was among only four countries that voted against setting up the council. But its UN ambassador, John Bolton, has pledged that Washington would co-operate with other member states to make the council as effective as possible, according to a news release on the UN website.

(China Daily 05/11/2006 page1)