May 10, 2006

Rights group says does not expect China to change

BEIJING (Reuters) - A prominent U.S.-based rights group has
said it did not expect China to promote human rights at home
despite its new position on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Human Rights in China (HRIC) said that China should use the
opportunity to promote human rights as befits its role as an
increasingly important global player, but expressed doubts that
the country with the world's largest population would change.

"While there has been some improvement in the human rights
situation in China, over the past 17 years HRIC has documented
continued and increasing detentions, arrests and other forms of
persecution," the group said in a statement seen on Wednesday.

"China's position that countries can differ on human rights
due to cultural and historic differences undermines the
universality and indivisibility of human rights," it added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on
Wednesday that Beijing will honor its commitment to protect
human rights.

"As a member of the council, the Chinese government will
comprehensively push forward the human rights cause in China
and seriously carry out its obligations under relevant
international human rights conventions," Liu said in a
statement on the ministry's Web site (

China was elected to the council along with Russia, Cuba,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

The six counties, identified by New York-based Human Rights
Watch as unworthy of membership on the new U.N. body, were on
Tuesday among the 47 nations that won seats on the council for
its first session, due to open on June 19 in Geneva.

Amnesty International has also urged all the newly elected
states to fulfill their obligation "to uphold the highest
standards in the promotion and protection of human rights."

China ratified the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights in 2001, but it has been slow in
approving the more substantial U.N. covenant on civil and
political rights, which it signed in 1998.

Liu stressed that China wanted the new council to handle
human rights issues "in a fair, objective and unselective
fashion" and reiterated Beijing's stand that historic and
cultural backgrounds in different countries should be

Over the last few months China has intensified a crackdown
on dissidents and media freedom and arrested a number of people
for expressing their opinion on the Internet. Some of their
trials are expected to start soon.

"The real test is whether China and the other members of
the council will actively, transparently and comprehensively
engage in the universal periodic human rights review process,"
said HRIC Executive Director Sharon Hom.

"Otherwise, they are just pouring old wine into new