Thursday, May 11, 2006

China’s status confirmed as Most Favoured Egregious Human Rights Violator

As reported in The Australian today, it seems China’s status as Australia’s Most Favoured Egregious Human Rights Violator has been confirmed:

Australia has welcomed the election of China to the UN’s new Human Rights Council, saying the presence of nations with “a way to go” on human rights is a positive development.

Despite claims it is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, China was one of the 47 nations elected to the council in a historic vote of the 191-member UN General Assembly in New York.

Cuba and Saudi Arabia, on a list of seven nations branded unworthy of council membership by the US-based Human Rights Watch, were also elected.

Referring to China, Australia’s UN ambassador, Robert Hill, said the new council was not just for countries with good human rights records.

“It’s also about those that have a way to go, demonstrating through the process that they are committed to improving their outcomes and improving their records,” Mr Hill said.

“In China there have been improvements over the past decade, and we’ve been seeking to continue that through our bilateral human rights dialogue and other mechanisms.”

Mr Hill said that if the council were to comprise only nations with perfect records on human rights, the UN would “have trouble filling the slots”.

But Human Rights Watch has found a silver lining, of sorts:

Human Rights Watch head Ken Roth said it was pleasing some of the world’s least deserving nations missed election.

“Venezuela and Iran failed to make the cut - that’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “There are a number of governments we would prefer not to be there - China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, but this was almost inevitable (and) they are a reduced minority.”

HRW expands upon this little ray of light in its press release:

While Human Rights Watch had expressed opposition to six of the new members on human rights grounds, they account for only six out of 47 seats on the new council.

Countries campaigned for election in large part by highlighting the contribution they would make to the promotion and protection of human rights. While issuing human rights pledges and commitments was voluntary under the resolution creating the new council, all 64 candidates published written commitments for advancing human rights.

Overall, and considering the parlous state of world commitment to human rights, this is not such a bad outcome.

But does Australia’s UN Ambassador Robert Hill have to so glowingly mitigate China’s appalling record? Well, it should come as no surprise to anyone, given the Australian Government’s longtime policy of appeasement and opportunistic engagement.


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