China Shows Reluctance in Ratifying UN Human Rights Treaties

The United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), Louise Arbour, is currently visiting China. While the visit is expected to be a golden opportunity to urge the Chinese government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, China has shown reluctance in handling the human rights policy according to the UN's standard, reports say.

At the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Symposium now underway in Beijing, Arbour called on China and other countries to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is part of the seven principal international human rights treaties of the UN, according to a report by AsiaNews.

In the midst of the request, Tang Jiaxuan, a state counselor and former foreign minister of China, said that every country should be allowed to deal with the matter in "its own way", AsiaNews reported.

"Every country should choose its own way to promote and protect human rights in line with its national conditions,” Tang said on Wednesday. “There is no uniformed standard in regards to national human rights action plans, institutions or education.”

According to Arbour, only three of the 52 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have ratified all seven international principals or human rights treaties of the UN, with 12 more having ratified six of the seven principals.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OUNCHR) shows that China has already ratified five treaties by June 2004. Though China has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1998, it has not been ratified yet.

Another human rights treaty that has not yet been signed by China is the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Arbour told the Human Rights Symposium that implementation of rights require those rights to be entrenched in law. Therefore, ratification of human rights treaties should be a start to make rights available to Chinese in Mainland China.

According to the Associated Press, the Chinese government eventually signed an agreement with the UNCHR on Wednesday to collaborate on reforming China's legal system. This is being considered as preparation for adopting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, even though no specific date was announced.

The UN pledged to help China teach human rights in primary and secondary schools, universities and in training programs for public servants.

The ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in China will be significant, especially for improving the religious freedom in country, which has often been condemned by the human rights watchdogs and international community for not respecting human rights, especially in terms of religious and media freedom.

Article 18-1 of the Covenant reads, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching."