West criticizes, China defends human rights record at UN
By Stephanie Nebehay and Sui-Lee Wee, ReutersGENEVA/BEIJING -- Western countries accused China on Tuesday of arresting activists, curbing Internet use and suppressing ethnic minorities, as the United Nations formally reviewed its rights record for the first time since Xi Jinping became president.
October 23, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Hours before the United Nations Human Rights Council, which reviews all U.N. members every four years, began its session in Geneva, Tibetan activists scaled the building and unfurled a banner reading: “China fails human rights in Tibet - U.N. stand up for Tibet”.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was willing to work with other countries on human rights as long as it was in a spirit of mutual respect.
“But we firmly oppose those kinds of biased and malicious criticisms,” she added, referring to the Tibetan protest.
At the session, Western delegations took the floor to voice deep concerns.
Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department's bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, said China should cease using harassment, detention and arrest to silence human rights activists and their families and friends.
“We're concerned that China suppresses freedoms of assembly, association, religion and expression..., harasses, detains and punishes activists..., targets rights defenders' family members and friends and implements policies that undermine the human rights of ethnic minorities,” Zeya said.
China faces criticism from some Western countries including the United States for what they say is the religious repression of ethnic minorities, including Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs in the vast western Xinjiang region.
China has responded to unrest in both regions by intensifying a crackdown by security forces, and Xi, who took office in March, has showed no sign of easing harsh policies.