Rights activists have hit out at China as it undergoes scrutiny by the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying an all-out public relations bid by Beijing does little to hide routine violations of the rights of its citizens.
In a statement released shortly after the Chinese delegation to the Council's second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Beijing's rights record, the New York-based group Human Rights in China (HRIC) warned that the ruling Chinese Communist Party has continued to detain and punish citizens who had tried to contribute to the review.
"The Chinese are in the best position to know the situation of human rights in China," the delegation told the Council in its closing comments on Tuesday.
But HRIC said Beijing was trying to present itself as one with the Chinese people.
"This ... diverts attention away from a stark reality: the people of China—the Chinese most directly affected by the human rights situation—are increasingly asserting rights protected by both domestic and international law," the group said in a statement on its website.
"Yet, Chinese voices ... demanding information about and participation in China’s international human rights reporting, are being silenced, harassed, and intimidated," it said, citing the case of detained activist Cao Shunli, who was prevented by police from boarding a plane to Geneva to participate in the UPR process earlier this year.
The group said Beijing had stepped up a crackdown on rights defenders and citizen activists this year, and was now targeting "even moderate voices" calling for greater official transparency and accountability.
It called on the Communist Party to respond to the "objective, comprehensive, and impartial evaluation of China’s human rights situation by its own people."
'Show of force'
An online writer who gave only his surname Liu, for fear of reprisals, said there had been a clear deterioration in human rights protection for Chinese citizens since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2009.
"Dissidents are being persecuted, as are religious groups, as well as online dissidents," Liu said.
"This is probably because the new administration [under President Xi Jinping] wants to make a show of force to preserve stability, so it is using some strong-arm tactics."
He said the problem stemmed from one-party rule.
"This is a closed system of government," Liu said. "The main characteristic of Chinese Communist Party rule is dictatorship and authoritarianism."
Meanwhile, U.S.-based dissident Yang Jianli said Chinese officials typically explain that the country is "still developing" to excuse human rights violations.
But he said China's level of economic development wasn't the main obstacle to human rights protections.
"The way I see it, the Chinese government is the biggest obstacle in the way of progress on China's human rights situation," Yang said.
He said China's presentation to the Council on Tuesday had dominated proceedings.
"During this three-and-a-half hour meeting, the Chinese government took up 70 minutes, while the other 100-some countries had only 51 seconds each to bring up a number of issues, such as [jailed Nobel peace laureate] Liu Xiaobo, other dissidents, and the issue of the protection of Tibetans, freedom of speech and the Internet," Yang said.
Liu said Beijing didn't need to do much to improve human rights in China.
"There are some things it needs to do less, or best of all, stop doing them altogether," he said.
A U.S. official on Tuesday called on Beijing to end harassment, detentions and arrests used to silence human rights activists and their families and friends.
"We're concerned that China suppresses freedoms of assembly, association, religion and expression ... harasses, detains and punishes activists ... targets rights defenders' family members and friends and implements policies that undermine the human rights of ethnic minorities," said Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department's bureau of democracy, human rights and labor.
Meanwhile, China's special envoy Wu Hailong, who led the Chinese delegation to Geneva, said talks with other countries had been "open, candid ... and cooperative."
But he said that some accusations leveled at China were "based on misunderstandings and prejudice."
However, HRIC cited the detention in April of rights activists Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” after they held up signs in the street to demand that high-ranking officials disclose their assets.
It said rights lawyer Guo Feixiong was detained in August after he petitioned the government to ratify U.N. human rights covenants, while Beijing police had also formally detained transparency advocate Xu Zhiyong and other supporters of the New Citizens’ Movement.
Reported by Shi Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.