Wed, Sep 06, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Beijing seeks to silence critics at UN forums: HRW

GROUNDLESS?Human Rights Watch accused Beijing of systematically trying to undermine UN efforts to defend human rights in China and abroad

Reuters, GENEVA, Switzerland

Beijing is waging a campaign of harassment against Chinese activists who seek to testify at the UN about repression, while the world body sometimes turns a blind eye or is even complicit, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

In a report released yesterday, the group said China restricts travel of activists, or photographs or films them if they do come to the UN’s offices in Geneva to cooperate with human rights watchdogs scrutinizing its record.

“What we found is that China is systematically trying to undermine the UN’s ability to defend human rights, certainly in China, but also globally,” Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said.

“This comes at a point where domestically China’s repression is the worst it has been since the Tiananmen Square democracy movement [in 1989]. So there is much to hide and China clearly attaches enormous importance to muting criticism of its increasingly abysmal human rights record,” Roth said.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) dismissed the report’s accusations as “groundless,” saying Beijing was playing an active role in the UN’s human rights work.

“We urge the relevant organization to remove their tinted lenses, and objectively and justly view China’s human rights development,” he told a regular briefing.

UN Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said the office did its best to protect all participants and had been “extremely vigilant in addressing and investigating all acts and perceived acts of intimidation, threats, and attacks brought to its attention,” regardless of which state committed them.

“[Chinese President] Xi Jinping (習近平) seems to have adopted a ‘nip it in the bud’ strategy with respect to activism at home, but increasingly abroad. That’s one of our messages; China’s repression isn’t stopping at its borders these days,” Roth said.

In China, activists have “decreasing space safe” from intimidation, arbitrary detention, and a legal system controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, said the report, based on 55 interviews.

Several activists who have attended UN reviews of China’s record have been punished on their return, it said.

Others have their passports confiscated or are arrested before departure, it said.

When Xi addressed the UN in Geneva in January, the UN barred non-governmental organizations from attending, it said.

Dolkun Isa, a Uighur rights activist originally from China, was attending a UN event in New York in April when UN security guards ejected him without explanation, despite his accreditation, it added.

Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) disappeared in November last year, months after meeting in Beijing with UN special rapporteur on poverty Philip Alston. After being held incommunicado for six months, he was charged with subversion.

At his trial last month he confessed, saying that he had been inspired to overthrow China’s political system by workshops he had attended overseas.

“So the signal is clear — don’t you dare present an independent perspective to a UN investigator,” Roth said.

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