'On Human Rights, the Only Obstacle Is China Itself'

A commentary by Bao Tong
china-un-rights-council-feb-2013.jpg The 22nd session of the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva on Feb. 25, 2013.

As China gears up for the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of its rights record on Oct. 22., Beijing has detained a number of activists who speak out about abuses, as well as some who campaigned against its application for a seat on the council. In this commentary broadcast on RFA's Mandarin Service, Bao Tong, former aide to late disgraced premier Zhao Ziyang, takes China's leadership to task for its failure to ratify U.N. rights covenants signed ahead of its bid to host the Olympics:

In spite of the Chinese Communist Party's denunciation of universal values, the Chinese government is still seeking a role on the U.N. Human Rights Council. This is a sign that they are looking to progress, and is worthy of recognition. As a citizen, I would like the government to achieve this. China is a populous country, which offers no human rights protection to its 1.3 billion people, which greatly devalues its signing of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The only obstacle comes from China itself. Fifteen years after signing the international human rights covenants, China still hasn't ratified them; nor has it implemented them so that Chinese people can genuinely feel their benefits. This is quite baffling. If the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party was so determined to safeguard China against the ideology of universal values and to boycott the human rights covenants, why did it send a special delegation to the United Nations to sign them? Once they were signed, they should have been ratified and implemented, not allowed to drag on in confusion like this for 15 years.

Herein lies the mystery. Perhaps this involved the deepest thought at the highest levels, so an outsider has no way of knowing about it. But regardless of what happened in the past, today's [leadership] should file away the old scores of the past and take responsibility for making fresh choices: either the immediate ratification and strict implementation of the international human rights covenants, as a turning point towards the implementation of Article 35 of [China's] Constitution; or they should declare that the covenants and Article 35 of the Constitution are in error, and withdraw from the U.N. Security Council posthaste. This situation has gone on for 15 years, neither fish nor fowl ... which doesn't befit the gravitas of a nation-state.

Some may say that China should withdraw from the international human rights covenants and have done with it, but why withdraw from the U.N. Security Council? My understanding is that the members of the Council, particularly the permanent members, must be bound by the international human rights covenants. How can a government which takes no responsibility for implementing the covenants and its Constitution behave responsibly with regard to international treaties and agreements? How can a government which safeguards only its own sovereignty, but not the rights of its own citizens, protect global peace and security?

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.


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