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China’s Takes a Big Move Forward, While Ignoring Any Steps Backwards: Universal Periodic Review of China

On 22nd of October 2013, room XX of the United Nations office was filled with tension and excitement. Almost every State was ready to speak and contribute their opinion on the status of Human Rights in China over the four years since China’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR). For China’s second UPR, Mr. Wu Hailong of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave an opening statement, which reviewed the progress that China recently made in human rights and quality of life. China is made of over 1.3 billion people and 56 ethnic groups, but the report was simple, to the point, and only lasted 25 minutes out of the allotted 70. China painted a picture of a country made of complete equality, freedom, and progress during the report.

         Next, States made comments and recommendations for the Chinese Delegation. Mr. Hailong’s summary of the comments accurately portrayed the events by saying that most developing States praised China’s advancements in human rights and quality of life, while more developed States criticized the lack of religious liberty, ethnic persecutions, and absence of political freedoms. China claimed that there is absolute religious and political freedom, but that unregistered churches and work contrary to the government’s interest remain illegal and are prosecuted. A similar response was given for Sweden’s, the United Kingdom’s, and the United States’ recommendations that human rights defenders should not be persecuted or tortured, by China responding that those individuals are criminals and are hiding behind the guise of human rights. Recommendations from States covered a multitude of subjects including internet freedom, social welfare, improvements to education, rights of attorneys, abolition of the death penalty, gender discrimination, and closing reeducation through labor camps. In call that came out above all others, over 27 States recommended that China ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that it signed in 1998.
         The world waits with bated breath to see how China will respond to the recommendations and how human rights will progress in the State. There is hope that China will listen to all recommendations and continue to improve the life of its citizens.

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