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A more balanced look at the UN human rights report on China
March 19,2019   By:CGTN
March 19, 2019 -- On March 13, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted the outcome of China's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a UN report that periodically reviews member states' human rights records.
 
Following the adoption, the attention of the international media has been fixated on the country's alleged "abhorrent" violations of human rights in its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which was addressed by China's vice foreign minister, Le Yucheng, at the UNHRC meeting on Wednesday. Headlines that hint at the "cruelty" and "absurdity" of the Chinese government, such as "China tells UN human rights council Xinjiang training camps for Muslims will 'gradually disappear'" and "Muslim detention camps are like 'boarding schools,' said Chinese officials" are mostly what one can find on the news.
 
The heavily skewed focus on criticisms regarding China's handling of issues in Xinjiang gives the impression that the China UPR is filled with nothing but strong disapproval of the country's human rights performances. However, that is simply a misconception, as in fact both achievements and recommendations for improvements can be seen in the report, according to Liu Huawen, a researcher specializing in international laws at China's Academy of Social Sciences.
 
The UPR is a process all UN members undertake as part of their human rights review. The state under review first issues a report where it elaborates on its human rights performances, which is then reviewed by the UPR Working Group that consists of 47 UN members. However, all UN member states are allowed to make comments and recommendations to the state that is under review. After sessions of reviews and discussions, an "outcome report" will be prepared by the Working Group, where the actual discussions are documented. Following the report, the State under review will make preliminary comments on whether they will accept recommendations or not.
 
Liu stressed that the China UPR, like reviews for any other UN member states, takes a balanced approach as both positives and negatives are discussed, meaning it's important to not focus on just one of them too closely.
 
Thus, attention also needs to be drawn to China's achievements on improving its human rights records which are documented in the report and countries that have recognized China's progress in the area, which range from developing countries such as Nigeria, Nepal, and Philippines to developed nations such as Norway, according to UNHRC's official website.
 
According to the vice foreign minister who leads the Chinese delegation on China's UPR at the UNHRC meeting, the country has "achieved great economic progress for the world's largest middle-income population", most notably, lifting 740 million Chinese people out of poverty. He also mentioned that "the government had revised the Criminal Procedures Law, officially launched Internet Courts, created 13.6 million new jobs, and had held human rights consultations and dialogues with many countries."
 
However, despite the strides China has made, it is also true that considerable disagreements do remain between China and some countries - especially those in the West - in their interpretations of human rights situations in China as the vice foreign minister also said he found "62 recommendations difficult to accept" on the meeting.
 
Issues involving Xinjiang have indeed been one of the most contentious, constantly triggering fierce altercations between China and the West. Since last year, Beijing has come under increasing criticism for the alleged "massive human rights abuses" in the region. Among all the accusations leveled against the Chinese government, "the set-up of re-education camps" is among the stickiest points.
 
China has a different understanding on the issue. It has so far flatly rejected the accusations, believing them to be another instance where western hostility and politically motivated bias are on full display. The country has been battling with religious extremism in certain parts of the country for a long time and argues that the so-called re-education camps are in fact vocational training camps that aim to defeat radicalism and extremism, as well as to provide professional trainings to locals.
 
Liu's response in the telephone interview well demonstrated that viewpoint. He said that this was the first time that China has adopted this type of policy. "The purposes of such camps are two-fold. First, they are to counter terrorism and, second, part of broader efforts to eradicate poverty in China. For example, they try to improve people's language and work skills, and their legal knowledge," according to Liu.
 
Boiled down, in China's view, the policies adopted in the country suit its national conditions and are a reaction to events happening on the ground; moreover, they are consistent with China's value system, which prioritizes national unity, social stability and people's economic rights. Measures taken in Xinjiang are aimed at protecting the safety of Chinese people, curbing violence and ensuring that economic development is not be interrupted by social instability. Several incidents that happened in the past, such as the "March 14 incident", where 18 innocent people were killed by the mobs in Tibet and an economic loss of over 300 million yuan was incurred, have well proved this point.
 
While ethnic minorities and religious people can't be disregarded, the government makes sure national unity and social stability are not compromised in any way when protecting peoples' rights and they refuse to accept the accusation of suppressing minorities.
 
It is thus to China's constant frustration that the West has always failed to grasp the reality of life in China or the considerations taken behind certain measures. The disaccord on the issue between China and the West has existed for decades, and only intensified with China's recent rise. They are also profound enough that it seems these major differences in viewpoint will last for a very long time.

By: Xu Sicong
Chinese Dictionary:

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