The UN top rights envoy told Beijing yesterday she expected more progress on human rights in China, saying individual countries could not ignore international standards in dealing with the issue.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed concern about the possible use of the death penalty against ethnic minorities and the mentally ill, saying data from other countries showed they often were executed in disproportionately large numbers.
Arbour also said she expressed her concern over China's execution of people for offenses "that do not meet the international standard of `most serious crimes.'"
China executes thousands of prisoners every year for crimes ranging from murder to nonviolent offenses such as tax evasion.
"There is a framework of international standards that must be respected. It's not appropriate to say we're doing it in our own way," she told a briefing as she ended a five-day visit.
Her remarks came just days after Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇), a state councilor and former foreign minister, told a symposium attended by Arbour that every country should be allowed to adopt its own approach to dealing with human rights.
"Every country should choose its own way to promote and protect human rights in line with its national conditions," Tang said on Tuesday.
Arbour, in China on her first visit as UN high commissioner, told yesterday's briefing she expected progress on rights in China in the coming years given the country's development in other areas.
"During my discussions with Chinese officials it was often said to me that change had to be gradual," she said.
"While I do not disagree, I believe the stage is set for expecting more than modest progress in the coming years," she said.
"China has declared its commitment to human rights and has raised expectations for the country to match its growing prosperity with a firm commitment to advancing human rights, at home and abroad," she said.
She said her visit had shown that China is "seriously" approaching the issue of ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Officials had told her China wants to use the time before ratification to bring legislation and practice in line with the covenant's requirements so that the treaty can be ratified with as few reservations as possible, she said.
"If China were to ratify the covenant today, certainly on the basis of my discussions here, it's pretty clear that the government understands that it would be in non-compliance in many areas," she said.
At the start of her visit, she raised about 10 individual cases of particular concern to the UN, including cases of detained journalists, labor activists, two Tibetans, a member of the Uighur minority group and an ethnic Mongolian.