China backs North Korea on human rights

South Korean protesters burn anti-North Korea placards during a  protest marking Kim Jong-il's birthday on February 16 The North's leaders are frequent targets of angry protests in the South

China has dismissed a UN report that compared human rights abuses in North Korea to those in Nazi Germany.

A Chinese diplomat said the report lacked credibility, adding to fears that Beijing will block further action. He said some of the recommendations were divorced from reality.

North Korea called the report - which details murder, torture and starvation - a fabrication by hostile forces.

It was drawn up by UN-appointed jurists to document abuses in North Korea.

Drawing submitted by former North Korea prisoner Mr Kim Kwang-il shows a practice known as pigeon torture

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The head of the international panel of inquiry, Michael Kirby, told the council that great nations had had the courage to tackle the crimes of Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and apartheid South Africa.

He said they must now act on North Korea.

The report accused the state of systematic murder, torture, enslavement and starvation on a scale unparalleled in the modern world.

China had already indicated that it would not back the report.

The Chinese diplomat, Chen Chuandong, has now gone further by questioning the credibility of the report and making it all but certain that Beijing was prepared to veto any resolution at the Security Council.

"The inability of the commission to get support and co-operation from the country concerned made it impossible for the commission to carry out its mandate in an impartial, objective and effective manner," he said.

The panel was not allowed to enter North Korea or talk to North Korean officials. It based its findings on the testimony of North Korean refugees and defectors, some of whom gave their evidence in public hearings in the South Korean capital, Seoul, and other cities.

Abuses in North Korea

  • Report finds an "almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion"
  • Society is "rigidly stratified" with "entrenched patterns of discrimination"
  • Security forces "systematically employ violence and punishments that amount to gross human rights violations"
  • The state uses "systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons from other countries on a large scale"

China maintains that public censure is not the way to tackle human rights issues in North Korea.

It has recommended what it calls constructive dialogue with the government in Pyongyang.

North Korea has condemned the report as a political attack orchestrated by the United States and its allies with the aim of bringing down the regime.

The European Union and Japan, with US backing, sponsored the proposal to investigate North Korean abuses.

They want it to be submitted to the security council for a referral to the international criminal court or another body able to hold the North Korean leaders to account.

The resolution is expected to meet significant opposition in Geneva, where Cuba, Russia and Vietnam sit on the Human Rights Council as well as China.

Testimony given to the panel from defectors included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera.

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