UN Secretary General pushes China on human rights
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, has called on China to respect human rights, after critics accused him of dodging the issue on a trip to Beijing.
Mr Ban brought up China's human rights record on the last day of his visit to the country in a speech delivered at the Central Party School in Beijing, which trains elite leaders of the Communist party.
"Clearly, China is on the rise," Mr Ban said. "Its transformation has been profound. Its influence is increasingly global. Its power is real."
But, Mr. Ban added, "with this remarkable progress comes great expectations and great responsibilities." "As we move forward, we recognise that achieving the shared goals of human rights around the world is more than an aspiration, it is a foundation of peace and harmony in our modern world."
"So too is respect for freedom of expression and the protection of its defenders," he said, in a pointed reference to China's broad censorship.
Mr Ban said he was confident that China would now show its "full commitment to the common values that unite us."
The UN secretary general met Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, on Monday, but failed to challenge Mr Hu on the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo, the democracy activist who was awarded this year's Nobel Peace prize, and raise the issue of human rights.
Mr Ban's reticence triggered widespread criticism from human rights activists, who said he had failed to uphold the UN's own Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which China is a signatory.
"The common refrain is that confronting human rights abuses in private can be more effective than in public, but Ban's complete neglect of human rights, even in private, is appalling," said Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch.
There was further criticism after it emerged that one of Mr Ban's top advisers, Sha Zukang, had travelled to China to present the World Harmony award, a private award funded by a Chinese businessman, to Chi Haotian, a retired general who oversaw the army operations in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
A spokesman for Mr Ban said he had "consistently" raised such issue with China, when and where "appropriate".
Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that police in southern China have arrested and filed criminal charges against a man for handing out flyers with the news of Mr Liu's Nobel win. Guo Xianling has been charged with "inciting subversion of state power," according to Ye Du, a friend of his.
Mr Liu, 54, was jailed last December for 11 years after co-authoring a petition for political reform in China. China has repeatedly attacked the Nobel committee for choosing to honour him this year, and has kept roughly 40 human rights activists under house arrest since the announcement of the prize last month, including Liu Xia, Mr Liu's wife.
"I believe Guo is the first person to be charged for a crime linked to Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace prize," said Mr Ye, a writer. "It is ridiculous that the police believe the act of telling people about the Nobel Peace prize is an attempt to incite subversion," he added.