China

UN criticises China's rights record at Geneva meeting

File photo: Xi Jinping
Image caption This is the first time China's record is being examined under President Xi Jinping

The UN human rights council has criticised China during an official review of its human rights record.

Many members of the council expressed concern at the arrest of dissidents, the continued use of the death penalty and the use of torture in prison.

But Chinese officials said major progress had been made in improving social and economic rights.

They said people had better access to healthcare and education, and incomes had risen across the country.

But Julie de Rivero, of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC that China's focus on economic progress was a way of avoiding the real issues.

"The question is why does does China continue to torture people in prisons and why is it systematic? Why do they not allow human rights defenders to raise questions that party members are even raising, about corruption? When it comes from the mouth of a human rights defender it earns them a place in prison," she said.

Image caption Activists from Students for a Free Tibet defied security to display a banner on scaffolding in front of the of the European headquarters of the United Nations

All UN member states undergo the review by the UN once every four years.

In 2009 it was recommended that China make improvements in reducing poverty and support the rights of ethnic minorities.

Human rights groups say China has failed to address these and other issues.

Ahead of proceedings on Tuesday, at least three Tibet activists scaled scaffolding at the UN headquarters in Geneva, with a banner saying: "China human rights - UN stand up on Tibet".

A Chinese government white paper released on Tuesday said that Beijing had no intention of altering its "correct" policies in Tibet as they had brought "unprecedented achievements".

Activists missing

Members of the UN panel also expressed concern about the treatment of a number of Chinese human rights activists in recent weeks.

A BBC correspondent says several have been arrested or banned from travelling in a bid to prevent them testifying in Geneva.

On Monday, a wealthy Chinese businessman, Wang Gongquan, was formally arrested on suspicion of "gathering crowds to disturb public order".

Mr Wang is considered a key supporter of a group of activists pushing for more official transparency, New Citizens Movement, which has been targeted in a crackdown this year.

Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern about a well-known legal rights activist who recently disappeared after being questioned by Beijing airport police.

The group says Cao Shunli has not been seen since 14 September, when she was barred from boarding a flight to Switzerland to attend a UN human rights training course.

A number of bloggers and journalists have also been detained over alleged "rumour-mongering", and high-profile micro-bloggers targeted.

The UN panel - with a rotating membership of 47 states that does not currently include China - has no binding powers.

The UN is expected to deliver a report on China later this week.

More on this story