Update: 15:39, 09 February 2009 Monday
UN urges China to protect human rights as state denies charges
China has still urged by Muslim communities, West and some Latin American countries to ensure political and religious freedom.
China, urged by Muslim communities, West and some Latin American countries to ensure political and religious freedoms, insisted on Monday that it is guided by the rule of law and is committed to protect and promote human rights.
And while European delegations in the United Nations Human Rights Council called on Beijing to end the death penalty and halt torture in prisons, many Asian and African countries hailed China as a beacon of progress and an example for them to follow.
"China is a state where the rule of law prevails," a top official of the Chinese Supreme Court told the 47-nation Council, while the chief Chinese delegate said: "China is fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights."
China's ambassador in Geneva, Li Baodong accused countries who raised the Muslim-populated region of East Turkistan and Tibet of "politicising" human rights issues.
East Turkistan and Tibet issues
Both regions have been the scene of unrest in recent years, especially East Turkistan where China detained dozens of Uighurs under the name of "top security threat" for the Games after a suspicous deadly attack on border police.
Uyghur Muslims faced new bans over their religious practices. They couldn't perform Tarawih prayers, special nightly prayers performed during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, and Muslim man couldn't keep their beards and women couldn't cover. Because autorities banned Islamic practice.
China said had arrested almost 1,300 Uighurs during 2008 in East Turkistan, official press said.
East Turkistan is home to more than eight million Uighur population, Muslims who have complained for decades of political oppression.
East Turkistan was occupied by the communist China in 1949 and its name was changed in 1955. The communist China has been excersizing a colonial rule over the East Turkistan since then.
Meanwhile Tibet where bloody anti-Chinese riots broke out last March which China says were inspired by the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and unidentified "foreign centres".
Li and his team appeared angered over references by France to reports from Chinese dissidents to "black jails," or secret prisons for government critics, and by Australian, British, and Czech mention of alleged persecution in Tibet.
The Beijing delegates bluntly denied that such prisons could exist or that torture was allowed in detention, as suggested by some Western speakers, and declared that East Turkistan and Tibet enjoyed full cultural and political freedoms.
Amnesty International says on Thursday that China whitewashed abuses against ethnic minorities in Beijing's first human rights report to the U.N. Human Rights Council under a new review process.
New process and "whitewashing"
The discussion came in a newly launched Council process called the "Universal Periodic Review", or UPR, under which all members of the United Nations are expected to submit themselves every four years to scrutiny of their human rights record.
But critics among independent rights bodies in developing as well as developed countries say bloc politics in the Council prevent meaningful exchanges.
Amnesty, while applauding China's willingness to participate in the U.N. review, said the self-assessment "whitewashes serious human rights abuses being committed in the country."
"China's national report fails to list some of the country's most pressing issues," Roseann Rife, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific director, said in a statement.
One such group, the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, described the Council -- which replaced the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission in 2006 -- as a "mutual praise society", and questioned whether it served any useful purpose in its current form.
Western and Latin American countries including Argentina and Chile, who have asked pointed questions of each other when their reviews have come up, are in a minority in the body where an Islamic-African alliance is strong.
On Monday, Sri Lanka -- itself under fire in the West for its treatment of its Tamil minority -- denounced what it called "malign criticism of China", while Zimbabwe and Egypt hailed Beijing for major efforts to protect human rights.
However China, which regards public discussion of its rights practices as interference in its internal affairs, held out an olive branch to its critics with Li saying in his final remarks that Beijing was open to backstage talks with its critics.
"China is ready to exchange views through other channels on how to improve the protection of human rights in China," he said, though adding that such exchanges had to take place "on the basis of equality and mutual respect".
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