06/19/2004, 00.00
china - united nations
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Beijing delays the visit of the UN Commission for Human Rights

Beijing (AsiaNews/agencies)  Because of organizational problems and the vacation of the officials, the Chinese government has put off the visit of an official of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights who is an expert on torture. This has raised questions among the international community.

Theo van Boven, the special representative of UN, was supposed to go to China for two weeks as a result of requests for the last ten years to Beijing by the United Nations Commission for Human Rights to conduct in the country an independent investigation on the widespread use of torture in the prisons. To justify the delay, Zhang Qi-yue, the spokesperson for the foreign ministry, declared the Chinese side has proposed putting off the visit because it coincides with the period in which the officials of various offices go on vacation and because of technical problems in the organization of the visit.

In the communiqué, van Boven's office expressed its displeasure for the delay of the visit, and it pointed out that the visit will be held at the end of the year. The organization for human rights called Human Rights in China (HRC) expressed its disappointed for the behaviour of the Chinese government: "The delay at the last minute raises serious questions about the sincerity of the commitment of China in international cooperation." Amnesty International expressed the same doubts that Beijing truly wishes to begin "an open and transparent exchange with international observers regarding human rights." On the contrary, according to the state agency Xinhua, the invitation given to the official of the UN shows the commitment of China within the international community. The press agency also defends the efforts of the government to improve the situation of human rights "which have won the approval of the international community."

In 1999, China officially invited the UN Commission for Human Rights, but no agreement has been reached on the terms of the visit. The conditions laid down by van Boven and accepted by Beijing involve "surprise" visits in the prisons and the guarantee that there would be no reappraisals by the Chinese against anyone who spoke to the inspector of the UN. (MR)

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