Right reply

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 June, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 June, 1999, 12:00am

I write in reference to 'Human rights group denied UN status' (Sunday Morning Post, June 6). I understand that you have limited space. However, it seems unfair that while you printed in full the Chinese Government's claims about Human Rights in China (HRIC), you hardly included anything about how my colleagues responded to these allegations at the hearing. So I take this opportunity to set the record straight.

First of all, as HRIC's By-Laws state, 'the organisation is dedicated to the humanitarian and educational purposes of monitoring and promoting human rights in the People's Republic of China'. The organisation takes the various UN human rights documents as guidelines for its work, and has never advocated violence or the overthrow of any government. HRIC has consistently encouraged rights activists in China to use peaceful, public and legal means in their struggle for change.

HRIC seeks to abide by the law in its work in China, while recognising that some Chinese laws allow for illegitimate restrictions on internationally-recognised rights and freedoms. This fact has been acknowledged by a number of UN human rights experts.

The Chinese Government's characterisation of some of our board members as 'criminals' is a case in point: none of these individuals did anything but peacefully exercise the rights to which they are entitled under international law and under China's constitution.

We recognise that the causes of many of the human rights abuses which are occurring in China are complex, and therefore along with our criticism of rights violations, we consistently present practical, constructive recommendations aimed at bringing about the changes necessary to working towards compliance with international standards in the PRC. We have submitted information to a host of UN rights-related bodies.

With regard to our position on Tibet, in line with international law, HRIC supports the right to self-determination of all peoples, but we recognise that this does not necessarily imply secession or independence, and we do not take any position on the independence of Tibet or Taiwan. Much more information on our principles and our work is available on our Web site: www.hrichina.org It is interesting to note that both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had some trouble getting consultative status at the UN. By contrast, the government-organised group, the China Society for Human Rights Studies, which does little more than issue rebuttals to the annual United States State Department reports on China, was accredited last year without any discussion.

SOPHIA WOODMAN Research Director Human Rights in China, Hong Kong