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Statement by Ambassador Zhang Yishan Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations at 3rd Committee of 59th GA Session on Human Rights
(26 October 2004)

2004/10/26


Mr. Chairman,

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. Over the past six decades, the United Nations has made important contributions to maintaining world peace, encouraging development and promoting human rights in countries all over the world. Today, in celebration of the achievements of the United Nations, people will naturally have greater expectations on the future role played by this Organization. The world today is not tranquil. Traditional threats such as regional conflicts still exist. Non-traditional threats such as terrorism have become more prominent. The gap between the North and the South and the digital divide are widening further. How to enable the United Nations to better respond to such new circumstances, new difficulties and new challenges is the focus of the attention of the international community. To genuinely fulfill the noble mission of promoting and protecting human rights, the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations (CHR), as the main organ within the UN system for promoting and protecting human rights, also needs to review the past and look into the future.

We will never forget the historical contributions made by CHR. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the two international covenants on human rights and a series of international human rights instruments have formed the legal framework for promoting and protecting human rights. The establishment and development of the right to development has enriched the content of human rights. The eradication of the apartheid system in South Africa in particular could not have been achieved without the tireless efforts made by the CHR over the years. These are indeed hard-won achievements attained by the CHR against the backdrop of confrontation between the two major blocs of the East and the West.

However, serious political confrontation and low credibility and efficiency are what people generally comment on the current CHR. The conclusion of Cold War has not enabled the CHR to completely lift itself from the constraint of the Cold War concept. In recent years, instigated by their domestic political interests, some countries have attempted to turn CHR into a tool which they can manipulate according to their own will. Due to the political needs, these countries can ignore such large-scale violations against human rights as foreign military occupation. Due to the same needs, they can also willfully "name and shame" those developing countries they don't like. The grave politicization and double standard on human rights issues are the root cause of serious political confrontation and low credibility of the commission. Such political confrontation has wasted the UN resources, and deepened differences among countries. Human rights issues of universal concern are thus unable to receive due attention.

How can the innovation and reform be conducted to revitalize the CHR? Paragraph 3, Article 1 of the Charter stipulates explicitly that one of the purposes of the United Nations is "to achieve international co-operation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all". To conduct UN reform in the field of human rights, we should first and foremost adhere to the principles of the UN Charter, and make "achieving international cooperation" as the starting point and foothold for our entire work. On the basis of respect for the principle of universality, considerations have to be given to the differences between countries in terms of the social systems, level of economic development, and cultural background. Discussions at the CHR should therefore focus more on human rights at the national level. Countries can either present their national progress and experience in promoting and protecting human rights, or frankly identify the existing difficulties and problems. It is necessary to strengthen dialogue and exchange on the basis of equality and mutual respect, so as to improve each country's respective human rights conditions. Only by so doing, can the CHR be instilled with new enthusiasm and vigor, thus becoming a true forum for all countries to make joint endeavor to promote human rights cause on an equal footing and receiving genuine respect and attention from the international community.

Mr. Chairman,

As a victim of terrorism, China is against all forms of terrorism. We have taken an active part in the international combat against terrorism. We are of the view that in combating terrorism, we should abide by the UN Charter and norms of international law. Countries in the world should use the same standard in dealing with all domestic and foreign terrorist activities. There should be no double standard. In anti-terrorism, one should not draw the line along ideologies or narrow national interests. One should not attack terrorism in certain areas or in certain forms only, while at the same time covertly connive at and turn a blind eye to terrorist activities in other countries or in other forms. In anti-terrorism, international humanitarian law and human rights standard should be abided by. And anti-terrorism should refrain from violating human rights. At the same time, protection of human rights should not be used as an excuse to shield and connive at terrorists.

Mr. Chairman,

China attaches importance to building democracy and legal system. We have basically formed a complete legal system with the Constitution at its core. In March this year, the National People's Congress of China included "the State respects and protects human rights" into the Constitution. It marks a milestone in the development of China's human rights cause. The Chinese Government has consistently governed the country with the concept of "putting human interests first and serving the people", made great efforts to improve the enjoyment of various human rights by the Chinese people. The world has witnessed such great achievements. China has earnestly fulfilled its international treaty obligations, and actively conducted international human rights cooperation. The Arbitrary Detention Working Group paid its third visit to China in September this year at the invitation of the Chinese Government. The Chinese government has also decided to host the 13th Asia-Pacific human rights seminar in Beijing early next year. We support the work of Ms. Louise Arbour, the newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, and would like to reiterate our invitation to her to visit China.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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