The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) welcomes China’s signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on October 5 but expresses reservation at both China’s sincerity and the efficacy of this action in improving the human rights situation in Tibet and in China.
China’s decision to sign the ICCPR appears to be a response to persistent international pressure on the Chinese government to uphold international human rights standards, culminating in the recent visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, to China. “We are concerned that the signing of the ICCPR is another political manoeuvre by the Chinese government to deflect attention from its deteriorating human rights record,” said Lobsang Nyandak, Executive Director of TCHRD. The signing of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in October 1997 was similarly timed to coincide with the visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin to the USA.
Despite having signed that covenant one year ago, China has yet to ratify the ICESCR and thereby become legally bound by its provisions. China’s latest gesture in signing the ICCPR does not guarantee that its provisions will be upheld. “If China genuinely intends to abide by these covenants, they would ratify the instruments,” said Lobsang Nyandak.
With the signing of the ICCPR, China has now signed and ratified eleven international instruments. In spite of this, gross human rights violations continue in Tibet and in China. In November 1988, a month after China ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, a member of the Chinese delegation at the UN General Assembly stated “China will implement in good faith its obligations undertaken in the Convention”. Six months later Dawa Tsering, 22 year old political prisoner was tortured to death in Prison and since then 65 Tibetans have died due to torture.
On November 28, 1997, during his visit to Canada, Jiang Zemin, declared: “Freedom of speech and expression is totally different from the attempt or deliberate attempt to create chaos, endangering the safety of government operation”. The statement makes it evident that the Chinese Government is not prepared to tolerate freedom of expression where it provokes dissent from the official government line. It is a major challenge for China to allow its people to enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by the ICCPR.
“It is hard to believe that a country which has to date shown little tolerance for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and fair trial, will abide by the provisions of the ICCPR”, said Lobsang Nyandak.