China, Myanmar, and Iran criticized
BEIJING (CNN) -- China exulted Saturday in blocking a U.S. attempt to censure its human rights record and accused Washington of engaging in an "anti-China farce" before the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Hours after the 53-nation commission voted 22-17 to dismiss the U.S. resolution without debate, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said the decision showed worldwide recognition of China's human rights progress. He noted other Western governments did not rally to the U.S. side.
"The United States stands alone in this anti-China farce. The motion against China was naturally doomed to fail," Sun said in a statement read to reporters and splashed on the front- page of People's Daily, the Communist Party's flagship newspaper.
The commission narrowly approved a measure hitting Cuba for "continued oppression" and called on the Havana regime to release political prisoners.
It also condemned "horrendous and ongoing war crimes" against ethnic Albanians by Yugoslav forces in Kosovo and "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights" by Iraq.
Citing Nigeria's recent steps toward democracy, including the release of
political prisoners, the commission agreed to end its investigation into
human rights abuses in Africa's largest nation.
But even as the commission prepared to vote, China set a new date for the once-postponed trial of a former government official-turned-dissident. Beijing court officials notified Fang Jue's lawyer on Friday that his trial for fraud and economic crimes will take place Monday morning, his sister said.
The timing meant the lawyer, Mo Shaoping, and Fang would not be able to meet face-to-face because police do not allow weekend jail visits, Liu Jing said. She added that court officials had told Mo on Wednesday there would be "no trial in the near term."
Fang, a former political scientist at China's top government think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, dropped a bombshell in January 1998 when he called for political change.
He called for elections at all levels of government, including the presidency, freedom of the press and the right to form new political parties and independent labor unions.
Fang is accused of illegally selling oil import quotas when he was a government planner in the southeastern city of Fuzhou in 1995. In a letter given to his lawyer recently, Fang said he was framed.
His trial, originally scheduled for April 6, was postponed at the last minute, apparently not to mar Premier Zhu Rongji's 16-day trip to the United States and Canada. While on the road, Zhu tried to parry criticisms by acknowledging minor human rights breaches and noting that his government was working to correct them.
"Our human rights situation is not perfect. We still have a lot of things to do," Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun said. He added that criticisms from Western countries are welcome if they "are based on good will."
He accused the United States of acting to appease domestic political critics by moving to censure China before the U.N. panel.
"The United States is using human rights to interfere in other countries' internal affairs and to promote hegemonism and power politics. This method will receive no support from the people.
"Confrontation has no future," Sun said.
Washington has been defeated each of the eight times it has tried to censure China before the U.N. commission since 1990. Last year, the Clinton administration decided not to condemn Beijing amid a general improvement in relations and human rights. It reversed the decision after the Communist Party began a broad crackdown on dissent in November.
Human rights groups expressed frustration over the commission's inability to act despite increased repression in China.
"This vote undermines the commission," Joanna Weschler, a lobbyist for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "It suggests that large and powerful countries like China can intimidate members of the commission into ignoring serious abuses."
Myanmar, Iran also criticized
The U.N. commission also approved a resolution put forward by the European Union deploring government oppression in Myanmar, the Asian country formerly known as Burma.
The EU proposal criticized numerous human rights violations, including "extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions," "arbitrary seizure of land and property" and the "widespread use of forced labor."
Myanmar's delegation denounced the EU text as "a litany of unproven false allegations."
And while welcoming a "more open debate" on human rights issues in Iran, the commission approved a resolution expressing concern about "continuing violations" of human rights in the Islamic republic, including a high number of executions, the use of torture and discrimination against the Baha'i and other religious minorities.
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