China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on Monday, 10/5/98 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Foreign governments recognize the promise to sign the treaty as an important step for China, considering its unpopular human rights record. Critics are sceptical.
The treaty, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, backs the rights of self-determination, prohibits torture and provides for freedom of movement, religion, expression and association.
By adding its signature to 140 others, Beijing demonstrated a commitment to refrain from actions that violate rights enshrined in the accord. States that have signed on to the treaty are required to submit an initial report within one year of ratification, and periodic reports every five years thereafter.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is one of two accords seen as fundamental to protecting human rights. China has signed the other one -- the Intenational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- but hasn't ratified it. China's UN ambassador, Qin Huasun, said the Chinese government was deliberating now on ratifying that accord.
Neither treaty will take effect until ratified by the legislature, which may attach reservations to nullify provisions.
The Human Rights Group in China urged the Chinese government to demonstrate its intention to comply w/ the pact by releasing political prisoners and opening a "public dialogue" with all Chinese citizens on the issue of human rights. "The Chinese authorities continue to impose systematic restrictions on the exercise of the rights & freedoms contained in the covenant, despite rhetoric about their commitment to human rights."
Dissidents accused China of promising to sign the treaty to maximize its diplomatic advantage and silence critics over its civil rights record.
"Signing would still be the right move for the wrong reasons but only if we see tangible human rights improvements," said Sidney Jones, executive director of the Asian division of Human Rights Watch.
Qin Huasun told reporters after signing the accord that China believed
in dialogue on the question of human rights "on the basis of mutual respect."
He said a September 14th trip to China by the top UN Human Rights Official,
Mary Robinson, helped both sides understand eachother better.
6/98 Clinton visits China
9/14/98 Top UN human rights official Mary Ribinson visits China and Tibet
10/98 Cinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan visits the White House
10/5/98 China signs International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
10/7/98 British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits Chinajolan@unagi.cis.upenn.edu