Human rights are international matter

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am

Lau Nai-keung ('An outrageous breach of loyalty', March 9) makes some interesting points in his comments on the debate over Martin Lee Chu-ming's appearance before a US congressional committee.

However, his logic is flawed when he compares this to a Chinese reaction to human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay.

Not only is it perfectly legitimate for one country to examine human rights violations by another, but it is in fact mandated under international law.

Not only are countries encouraged to be frank about their human rights shortcomings, but they are committed to doing so through their international citizenship as members of the United Nations and under the treaties they ratify.

Thus China, as a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, has committed to provide regular, comprehensive and frank reports to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in an open forum. This allows for international scrutiny and the opportunity for constructive suggestions for improvement of the human rights situation.

Similarly, the US, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is accountable to the international community for protecting those under its jurisdiction from human rights abuses.

It is perfectly appropriate for members of the international community to make recommendations for improvements that would enable the US to meet its human rights obligations - and China should not be timid in doing so.

However, for this to be even-handed, such mechanisms as congressional committees are one way to ascertain all the relevant facts.

The issue of constitutional development in Hong Kong might not be an appropriate topic for such a committee, but human rights certainly are. China demonstrated this when it recently drafted a critical report on human rights violations in the US.

We should look forward to the time when a congressional committee in Beijing holds regular hearings on breaches of international law in developed countries of the west and invites parliamentary representatives from these countries to make submissions and to appear before it.

ANDRE FRANKOVITS, Human Rights Council of Australia, Sydney