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China Rebuts U.N. Rights Chief, Assails U.S.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

China struck back at its critics Tuesday, rejecting the views of visiting U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson and issuing its own report on the “deteriorating human rights situation in the U.S.”

Beijing’s response came a day after the State Department issued its annual human rights report, citing persecution of Christians, Tibetans and followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement as evidence of a worsening rights climate in China.

Beijing was also reacting to the Bush administration’s decision Monday to sponsor a resolution critical of China at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva next month.

“The U.S. government does not talk about its own human rights situation, yet it makes gross distortions of human right situations in other countries,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.

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For the second year in a row, China’s Cabinet Information Office issued a report cataloging U.S. social ills ranging from gun deaths, overcrowded prisons and racial discrimination to female workers who “have to wear protective undergarments because they are not permitted to take time to go to the toilet.”

The report scorned the U.S. electoral system as “a rich man’s game,” adding that “well-informed people know that the so-called democracy has been nothing more than a fairy tale since the United States was founded more than 200 years ago.”

Concluding a three-day visit to Beijing on Tuesday, Robinson told Chinese officials that she had received numerous reports complaining of government abuses, torture and harsh treatment of Falun Gong adherents.

“It’s very clear that the human rights of Falun Gong members are being transgressed at the moment here in China,” she said at a news conference.

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Liu Jing, head of the State Council Office for Prevention and Handling of Cults, rebutted Robinson, saying, “I think her problem is that she has too little understanding of the Falun Gong cult.”

Likening Falun Gong to a “spiritual drug,” Liu denied the banned group’s allegations that more than 5,000 of its members are being held in labor camps and that 155 members have been killed by police while in custody.

On the positive side, Robinson told reporters that China is likely to soon ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Beijing signed in 1997. But she added that it would be “extremely disappointing” if the regime placed restrictions on the covenant’s guarantee of independent trade unions, which China doesn’t allow.

During her visit, Robinson pressed China to scrap its system of “re-education through labor” camps, which she said violates “accepted international human rights principles.”

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The New York-based group Human Rights in China says that the Communist nation has about 300 labor camps, housing 260,000 inmates, including drug addicts, prostitutes, dissidents and petty criminals. Police can send offenders to the camps without a trial for up to three years.

“The reason people are so fed up with the labor camps is that the punishment is applied arbitrarily,” said Hong Daode, a criminal law expert at the China University of Politics and Law. “Some criminal suspects found innocent by the courts are thrown into the labor camps by police who are trying to cover up mistakes in their work.”

Hong said that a consensus is emerging among Chinese jurists that the labor camp system must be reformed to meet the requirements of human rights covenants that China has signed. But he said that China still needs some boot-camp-like institution short of prison to punish juveniles and minor offenders and that control of the system would likely be taken from the police and given to the courts.


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