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UN rights chief due in China to push for ratification of convention
Mon Aug 29, 2:24 AM ET - AFP
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is due in China for high level talks aimed at pushing Beijing to ratify the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
Arbour will meet with President Hu Jintao and other senior officials during a five-day mission centering on China's compliance with UN recommendations on improving its human rights record, the commission said in a statement.
Rights groups charge that civil liberties have taken a heavy blow despite China's rapid economic progress.
They regularly raise concern about a lack of religious and media freedoms, the situation in Tibet, forced repatriation of North Korean refugees and the bloody supression of protests over rising social problems.
The charges have proved a major headache in China's relations with the United States and Europe, and Hu is expected to be bombarded with protests when he visits Washington to meet counterpart George W. Bush next month.
Human rights concerns have meanwhile delayed a European Union plan to lift its 16-year-old arms embargo slapped on China after its bloody 1989 crackdown on democracy campaigners.
On a visit to Beijing last month, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso suggested China must ratify the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998, to show it meant business.
"One thing is the ratification of the UN Convention on Civil and Political rights. I'm sure such a decision would be very well perceived by the public opinion and the European parliament," he said.
During her talks, Arbour is expected to ink an agreement aimed at easing Beijing's ratification of the convention, the principal international agreement guaranteeing civil liberties, the commission said.
The agreement is also designed to help China "implement recommendations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights".
In May, that committee became the first of the UN panels overseeing application of the different human rights treaties to examine and report on China's compliance.
It urged Beijing to tackle 27 points of concern, after highlighting evidence of forced labour, forced abortions, exploitation of children, evictions, discrimination against internal migrants, low wages and other violations.
Besides Hu, Arbour will also meet China's foreign and justice ministers, as well as other officials and Chinese non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the UN human rights office said.
She is due to have a meeting with Hu on Monday during a commemoration of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing 10 years ago.
Arbour's mission will be the eighth official visit by the UN's top human rights official to China in seven years.
In 1998, her predecessor Mary Robinson gained unprecedented access to senior Chinese officials, enabling her to discuss concerns about reports of repression, torture and other abuse.
The UN's top expert on torture, Manfred Nowak, is due to make an unprecedented visit to China in November to probe reports of torture in the country's detention facilities.
Although China has opened up to some UN human rights experts in recent years, it has never received the world body's specialist in charge of examining allegations of torture.