A legislator hinted strongly yesterday that it could take years before two United Nations human rights treaties signed by Beijing become law in China.
Qiao Xiaoyang, a vice-chairman of the NPC Legal Work Committee, said the congress' Standing Committee began to examine the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights last June and found many areas that needed to be studied carefully.
The second treaty - the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - was still with the State Council and had not been put before the Standing Committee for ratification.
Mr Qiao took a swipe at the United States, saying that although China signed the first treaty more than a year ago and still had not ratified it, such speed was by no means slow even by US standards.
He said it had taken the United States Congress 15 years to ratify the economic treaty, and the political one remained unratified after 22 years.
Mr Qiao denied the NPC was stalling on ratification, saying when the United Nations drafted the two covenants, China was not a member of the world body and, therefore, some of the contents of the two covenants were inconsistent with China's present situation.
When asked whether the two treaties would be ratified by China during the tenure of the Ninth NPC, which ends in 2002, he did not answer.
'It is quite normal for responsible governments to be prudent in examining international treaties such as these covenants,' said Mr Qiao.
China signed the economic covenant in 1997 and the political covenant last October.
Since then, dozens of political activists have challenged the authorities by setting up political parties in China, claiming such rights are protected under the two covenants.