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Economics ‘masking China rights record’

Posted by Author on February 12, 2009

BBC News, Feb. 11, 2009-

Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council recommendations to China, the BBC’s Michael Bristow examines whether the country’s growing economic power is forcing world leaders to mute their criticism of human rights violations.

When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Europe recently, it was the global economic crisis that topped the agenda.

European leaders seemed keen to hear how the world’s third-largest economy could help them recover from the economic slowdown.

Once, China’s human rights record might have been the main talking point, but that issue does not now seem as important.

Some believe China’s growing economic might has forced world leaders to soften their criticism on this issue.

Hong Kong political commentator Frank Ching said: “I think a lot of the criticism aimed at China is superficial.

“Foreign leaders want to show their public that they are raising this issue, but they do not want to provoke China.”

Strong allegations

Beijing has for some time drawn criticism because of what many perceive to be a lack of respect for human rights.

Even the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has concerns about China’s record in this area.

In a report prepared for the UN review of China’s human rights situation this week, the commissioner’s office makes several damning points.

The report says there are concerns about allegations of torture, ill-treatment and the disappearance of numerous people.

Ethnic Tibetans and Uighurs – many of whom question Chinese rule over their regions – are particularly vulnerable groups, the report says.

This kind of human rights record has in the past led to harsh words and the threat of action from Western countries.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games last August following unrest in Tibet.

In the end the French president – along with leaders from most of the world’s major countries – attended the Olympic opening.

Less audible

But the apparent lack of public criticism of China’s human rights record does not mean foreign leaders are not putting on pressure behind the scenes. …… (more details from BBC News)

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