Meeting People’s Aspiration for a Better Life Through Continued Progress on Human Rights in China
– Introductory Statement by H.E. Le Yucheng, Head of the Chinese Delegation and Vice Foreign Minister, on the Adoption of the UPR Outcome Report on China at the United Nations
Geneva, 15 March 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last November, China attended the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in an open, inclusive, candid and cooperative manner. Most countries approved of China’s guiding principles and practice on human rights and recognized China’s progress and achievements in the field, which was objectively recorded in the Working Group’s report. On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to once again express our thanks to all countries for your active participation and to the troika-Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Hungary-and the Secretariat for your hard work.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The past seven decades have witnessed a great transformation in China and historic progress never seen before in the country’s human rights development. China has grown into the second largest economy in the world, with its GDP surpassing 90 trillion RMB yuan in 2018. It now boasts the world’s largest middle-income population and has contributed to over 30% of global growth for many years in a row. Over the past 40 years, China has lifted 740 million people out of poverty and met the basic needs of nearly 1.4 billion people. And by 2020, we will achieve comprehensive poverty eradication with no one left behind. This will be a new miracle in the history of human development and poverty reduction. We have put in place the world’s largest education, social security, medical care and community-level democratic systems. Committed to running the country according to law, we faithfully uphold the principles of legality and presumption of innocence and have established the world’s largest website on written judgments. We follow market norms and universally recognized rules, work to advance the Belt and Road Initiative and share the dividend of China’s development with the world. As shown by authoritative international surveys, China is one of the world’s most secure and vibrant nations where people’s contentment is among the highest level. Such achievements would not have been possible without our strong commitment to socialism with Chinese characteristics and to the path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics, one that takes the national conditions as the foundation, the people as the center, development as the priority, the rule of law as the criterion and openness as the driving force. Suited to China’s reality, this path has gained strong support of the people and will lead to even greater progress.
Last November, I announced that the Chinese government would adopt 30 new measures to protect human rights. These measures have seen early harvests. We have been steadily advancing the work of compiling sections for a civil code, revised the Criminal Procedure Law, put the laws on legal assistance and personal information protection on the legislative agenda and officially launched Internet courts. Last year saw 13.86 million people lifted out of poverty and 13.61 million new urban jobs created. We have made donations to the OHCHR for the year 2018 and held human rights dialogues and consultations with many countries.
In view of the 346 recommendations raised by various parties, China established an inter-agency mechanism to look at them one by one. We are happy to accept all recommendations that are consistent with China’s conditions and conducive to our human rights development. China has decided to accept 284 recommendations, or 82% of the total, in areas such as poverty alleviation, innovation-driven development, job creation, safeguarding people’s well-being, protection of special groups like women and children, respect for and protection of religious freedom, free speech and Internet freedom, strengthened cooperation with the OHCHR and the Special Procedures, continued exploration of the possibility of establishing a national human rights institution, and intensified efforts to prevent torture and abuse. The number and proportion of recommendations accepted by China are among the highest in major countries, a clear testimony to China’s resolve to promote and protect human rights.
That said, there are 62 recommendations that would be difficult for China to accept. Some of them are inconsistent with China’s realities or where the conditions are not ripe, and some are not based on facts or are politically biased. For example, some countries recommended that China abolish the death penalty. Given China’s realities, legal practices and public opinion, the conditions are not there yet. Some countries recommended that China put an end to the so-called large-scale arbitrary detention. This in essence constitutes interference under the disguise of human rights, and is something China firmly opposes.
Recently, some countries and NGOs have made ill-intentioned and groundless accusations against the vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang in total disregard of the facts. Certain countries have even organized so-called side event on Xinjiang. Such moves blatantly interfere in China’s sovereignty and internal affairs, which are totally unacceptable.
In recent months, China has invited several groups, or hundreds of foreign officials, representatives of political parties, diplomatic envoys in China, journalists, experts and religious figures to visit Xinjiang and vocational education and training centers there, including diplomatic envoys and representatives from the UN Office at Geneva. I myself visited Xinjiang last month, where I toured several training centers, visited the Exhibition on Major Incidents of Violent Terrorist Attacks in Xinjiang and some religious sites, and had in-depth conversations with local residents and tourists. I would like to share what I saw and heard with you using facts and a few key words with the acronym of F-A-C-T.
First, F for fundamental interests. Located in the Northwest border, Xinjiang accounts for one sixth of China’s land territory. Living on this land are 24 million people from 56 ethnic groups. Xinjiang’s stability and unity are indispensable for the prosperity and stability of the whole country. Xinjiang-related issues concern China’s sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and core interests. We are firmly opposed to ethnic separatism, violent terrorist acts in all manifestations and interference any external forces.
Second, A for anti-terrorism. Since the 1990s, the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism inside and outside China have orchestrated and executed thousands of violent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. The Exhibition on Major Incidents of Violent Terrorist Attacks in Xinjiang presents a large number of pictures and video footage about the appallingly cruel acts against humanity committed by violent terrorists. At the same time, the spread of religious extremist thoughts had stoked the terrorist rampage. The government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has taken a series of measures according to law to crack down on violent terrorist crimes on the one hand and actively explored preventive anti-terrorism and deradicalization measures on the other, including setting up vocational education and training centers. These efforts have been effective and won the sincere support of the people.
Third, C for campus. The training centers I visited in Xinjiang are boarding schools, or campus, not “camps” as claimed by the ill-intentioned few. The vocational education and training program is preventive counter-terrorism in nature and a precautionary step to prevent a disease or treat it in its early stages, as we do in traditional Chinese medicine. It aims to educate and rehabilitate to the greatest extent possible the individuals who have been influenced by extremist ideologies and committed minor offenses, so that they will not be victimized by and fall prey to terrorism and extremism. Courses on the national common language, legal knowledge and professional skills help the trainees deradicalize. The trainees sign training agreements with the centers to receive education and assistance there. The training centers provide free accommodations and safeguard all basic rights of the trainees in accordance with the law. The trainees can go home regularly ask for a leave when needed and make phone or video calls to their family, and their family can come to the training centers to visit them. In Kashgar, Southern Xinjiang, we learned that many trainees have already graduated. They have found jobs in modern factories and lived in the communities nearby, breaking free of both extremist ideologies and poverty. We were delighted to see on the faces of the trainees smiles of contentment and appreciation for the government and society.
I must point out that the vocational education and training program is a special measure adopted by Xinjiang at a special time. We will continue to improve the work of the training centers. As the counter-terrorism situation improves, the training program will be gradually downsized, leading to its completion.
Fourth, T for truth. Xinjiang has taken a host of measures to protect citizens’ freedom of religious belief and safeguard their cultural rights and the right of all ethnic groups to use their own ethnic languages. There are 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang, one for every 400 or so local Muslims, more than many Muslim countries. Diplomats and journalists from many countries, after visiting Xinjiang and vocational education and training centers there, said that what they saw and heard in Xinjiang are completely different from what is depicted by those who have their own agenda.
The stability dividend has continued to benefit Xinjiang. No case of violent terrorism has occurred for 27 months in a row. A total of 150 million tourists visited Xinjiang last year, and this year the figure is expected to reach 200 million. Is it fair to label a place that receives nearly 200 million visitors a year as unsafe and not free?
Everyone who respects China’s sovereignty and laws is welcome to visit and get to know more about Xinjiang. The establishment of vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang has gained understanding and support from the majority of countries. On 2 March, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issued a report in which it welcomed an OIC delegation’s visit to China and commended China for its care for Muslims. This fully demonstrates that relevant measures have also earned understanding and support from the Muslim world.
When it comes to human rights, no one can claim perfection. So making progress is all important. We will continue to advance human rights development in China in an all-round way to meet people’s need and aspiration for a better life, and join hands with other countries to promote and protect human rights around the world, with a view to advancing the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.