Beijing last night signed the United Nations' key covenant on human rights, declaring it was committed to furthering human rights around the world. But in signing the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at UN headquarters, UN Ambassador Qin Huasun warned that Beijing would not be lectured on rights and said Taiwan's signing of the treaty was illegal. He said China had developed a strong rule of law in the past 20 years. 'As a member of the international community, China stands for dialogue on the question of human rights on the basis of mutual respect and it is opposed to confrontation,' Mr Qin said. It is unclear how far the mainland will be prepared to implement the treaty's more sensitive sections, which call for full freedom of speech and assembly. 'Since China is currently in violation of almost every article of the covenant, we hope its decision to sign indicates a change in human rights practices,' said Sidney Jones of Human Rights Watch/Asia. 'The test will be in the implementation.' Beijing did not sign the covenant's protocol, which would require, among other things, abolition of the death penalty.