Bahai News - China Escapes Censure in Vote by U.N. Human Rights
April 24, 1999
China Escapes Censure in Vote by U.N. Human Rights Agency
By ELIZABETH OLSON
G>ENEVA -- Human rights advocates failed to secure international
condemnation of China's rights record on Friday, but they eked out,
by one vote, a censure of Cuba by the U.N.'s top rights
China was able to evade criticism at the U.N. Human Rights
Commission when member nations backed its "no action" motion,
which blocked any debate on complaints against it. This was the
eighth time that China has succeeded in avoiding full-blown
scrutiny on human rights since the first resolution was brought
after the military suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators at
Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The resolution on Cuba, sponsored by the Czech Republic and
Poland, was adopted in a 22-21 vote by the 53-member commission,
which is in the final stages of its annual six-week session that
reviews human-rights violations worldwide. Russia and China were
among nations that abstained.
The vote on the Chinese motion was 22-17, with 14 abstentions.
There were few surprises, as China won support from Russia, India
Delegates burst into applause when the vote tally was announced.
This year, however, the mood was more businesslike than for China's
victory in 1997, when it also used procedural tactics to bury
debate on its rights record. In 1998, the United States declined to
field a critical resolution, citing Beijing's steps to improve
democratic rights for its citizens.
But with the crackdown on pro-democracy advocates toward the end
of last year, the United States once again mounted an effort to
call China to account on human rights. The effort seemed rocky from
the start, as only Poland signed on, just two days ago, as a
Harold Hongju Koh, the American assistant secretary of state,
said that although he was "deeply disappointed," he felt that the
United States had achieved its goal of focusing "international
attention on the sharp deterioration in the human rights situation
Despite the defeat, the United States narrowed the margin of
China's victory. Two years ago, China won by 10 votes, 27-17. This
year, only five nations tipped the outcome.
The effort against Cuba was led by two formerly Communist
nations, the Czech Republic and Poland, which chalked up a win on a
measure expressing concern over "continued repression" in Cuba
and urging the release of all those imprisoned for their political
or religious beliefs.
Last year, in a blow to the United States, its resolution on
Cuba was defeated for the first time since 1991.
In 1998, Cuba benefited from Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba,
which many believed signaled that the island nation was relaxing
its strict hold on its citizens. But recent convictions of four
dissidents accused of trying to subvert the Communist state brought
widespread criticism of Fidel Castro's government.
Voting on dozens of other resolutions that highlighted
violations worldwide, the U.N. rights watchdog also voted to
condemn Israel's actions in detaining thousands of Palestinians
without trial and taking over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.
Only the United States voted against the measure. Israel is not a
member of the commission.
Iraq's rights record was condemned overwhelmingly, 35-0, with 18
nations abstaining. A resolution criticizing Iran's rights record,
particularly its discrimination against women as well as its treatment
of religions like the Bahai, passed 23-16, with 14 abstentions.
©Copyright 1999, The New York Times Company
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