UN Confronts China on Torture
United Nations Committee on Torture questioned China on its extensive
record of abuse in a review just completed. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch
The Chinese regime has failed to answer hard-hitting questions about
its severe human rights violations when pushed by the UN's Committee on
Torture, say human rights organizations.
As a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), which it
signed in 1988, China is subject to a compliance review every four
“We were pleased to see China held to account but frustrated to see
China was basically oblivious to the concerns, not taking them
seriously and not giving responsive answers,” said human rights lawyer
David Matas, who attended the Geneva meetings on November 7 and 10.
China missed the last review in 2004 by ignoring it completely. This
year it submitted a report spanning eight years but failed to respond
to the 11 pages of questions raised by the UN follow-up committee.
Although Chinese ambassador Li Baodong told the committee that China
has “zero tolerance” for torture, those observing the review said the
Chinese delegation deflected questions about the use of torture in
detention centers, police stations, labor camps, psychiatric hospitals
and other institutions.
Mr. Matas participated in the review as a representative of Interfaith
International, which was one of 12 organizations submitting statements
to the UN specifically about mainland China.
The Interfaith submission analyzed the Chinese regime’s response to a
2006 report Mr. Matas co-authored, which documented evidence of organ
harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.
Mr. Matas specifically questioned the increase in organ transplants
coincident with the persecution of Falun Gong. According to his 2006
report there were 41,500 organs unaccounted for in China's transplant
system between 2001 and 2006.
He said the Chinese regime avoided answering specific questions about
the organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
“Instead what they did was they attacked the Falun Gong — which the committee noted.”
Mr. Matas said a number of UN mechanisms had queried China on issues
surrounding the persecution of Falun Gong, including organ harvesting.
“China basically hadn’t given any meaningful answers so I suggested to
the committee that they pursue this — and they did — and again China
didn’t give any answer,” he said.
“They are obligated not to torture people and they do torture people, so they’ve violated the convention. That’s the problem.”
Other submitters included Amnesty International, Human Rights in China, Free Tibet and the Conscience Foundation.
its submission, Human Rights in China said some “key areas of concern”
are the definition of torture under Chinese law, continuing attacks on
defense lawyers, accountability for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen
crackdown and China's state secrets system.
“In many instances, information requested by the Committee is
classified as “state secrets.” Such information control obstructs the
Committee’s review process and undermines legislative, administrative,
judicial or other measures aimed at preventing acts of torture,” stated
The Chinese regime’s 38-page report is largely a list of constitutional
amendments and penal code reforms. The Conscience Foundation described
China's report as “progress on paper and deterioration in reality.”
“The progress in legislation proves that the Chinese Communist Party
(CCP) knows what international standards are, but chose to violate
them,” said Shizhong Chen, President of the Conscience Foundation, an
affiliate of the Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group.
“It is not progress, it is a deceptive game to begin with.”
Mr.Chen explained that this behaviour is deceptive for two reasons.
“The first is that the CCP took advantage of honest people in their
assumption that laws will be honored. The second is that the CCP played
the game of ‘we need time to improve.’”
However, Mr. Chen said he was encouraged that the UN Committee is pressuring the Chinese regime.
“We are very glad to see the Committee publicly question China’s act of
passing, but ignoring, relevant legislation. That sets a precedent. It
sets a new standard for dealing with the CCP.”