GENEVA (AP) - China today blocked a full-scale review of its human right record by the U.N. Human Rights Commission despite U.S. criticism.
As in previous years, Beijing mobilized support from developing countries, which dominate the 53-nation commission, to prevent discussion of an attempt to censure China for the first time. The vote on China's ``no-action'' motion was 22-18, with 12 countries abstaining and one absent.
Countries from Yugoslavia to Equatorial Guinea also face scrutiny by the U.N. panel. But the China measure was the toughest battle, and Washington took the unusual step of announcing well in advance - on Jan. 11 - that it would propose the censure resolution.
``We must acknowledge that the situation of human rights in China remains very poor,'' said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Harold Koh. ``Its human rights record has not improved and has in fact deteriorated markedly over the last 12 months.''
Chinese Ambassador Qiao Zonghuai responded that Washington was engaging in an ``anti-China political farce'' which was ``a mockery toward the commission and its members.''
He accused Washington of using the commission ``to make unwarranted attacks on China'' and repeated Beijing's accusation that the U.S. motion ``serves the needs of its domestic party politics.''
Chinese officials have been keen to justify the crackdown on the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, one of the points covered by the U.S. resolution.
``The United States is giving unreserved support to the evil cult in China,'' Qiao said.
The resolution on China cited ``severe restrictions on the rights of citizens'' over the past year and also protested ``increased restrictions'' on Tibetans' freedoms and the ``harsh crackdown'' on opponents of the government.
Censure by the U.N. panel brings no penalties but brings international attention to countries' records. Both sides have lobbied hard among commission members.
Chinese authorities appeared to be delaying the verdict of an anti-corruption campaigner to avoid negative publicity ahead of the U.N. vote. A court in Xinyang in the central province of Hunan confirmed today that a verdict in An Jun's trial would be announced Wednesday.
Last year, the Chinese ``no-action'' motion passed 22-17.
The 15-nation European Union refrained from sponsoring the China resolution but opposed the Chinese ``no-action'' motion.
``Little progress has been made on the ground,'' Portuguese Ambassador Alvaro de Mendonca e Moura said on behalf of the EU.
``Today's decision represents a sorry failure of political will,'' said Joanna Weschler, a representative of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. ``The credibility of the U.N. commission has been seriously damaged by its unwillingness to censure China or even to discuss its rights performance.''
``This is not surprising,'' said Xiao Qiang, executive director of Human Rights in China, expressing particular disappointment that the EU failed to back the resolution more strongly.
But Russian Ambassador Vasily Sidorov described the U.S. motion as a counterproductive and maintained that ``one cannot ignore the positive changes'' in China.
Among other motions, the human rights group condemned Iraq for its ``all-pervasive repression and oppression'' of its population. The EU motion was supported by 32 nations. There were 21 abstentions.
Cuba faces a motion submitted by Poland and the Czech Republic that expresses concern about continued repression of political opponents and the detention of dissidents. The communist island last year was rebuked by a single-vote margin.
A potential showdown on an EU motion expressing concern at allegations of abuses by both sides in the Chechen conflict was delayed. Commission chairman Shambu Ram Sinkhada said it will take place April 25 instead of today.
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