China faced the United Nations Human Rights Council's universal periodic review on its human rights record in Geneva yesterday for the first time. Most Beijing supporters showered the country with compliments, but several western countries raised tough questions. Chinese delegates - headed by Li Baodong, China's ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations - appeared slightly anxious when fielding media inquiries, but made good use of their time to respond to questions and comments on China's national report. China's delegation was probably happy to hear words of support from Sri Lanka's delegate, who started his speech by saying: 'Mao Zedong announced to the world that the Chinese had stood up, and today Sri Lanka is very proud to see the Chinese delegation has proved this was the case'. The delegate applauded China for its efforts to pull its vast population out of poverty and make economic progress, adding: 'We reject the criticism of China by some countries surrounding the Tibet issue.' Similarly warm comments came from Sudanese delegates, who praised their country's friendship with China. Palestinian delegates backed China's stand on Tibet, saying the region was 'an inseparable part of China', and Zimbabwean delegates suggested that 'a bigger effort should be made to improve media in English and foreign languages to improve China's international image'. But several western countries raised difficult questions, including concerns about ethnic groups in Tibet and Xinjiang. To the visible discomfort of the Chinese delegates, China came under repeated attack over suppression of news media, human rights activists, and for its death penalty. 'We very much regret to see some countries, such as Australia, have raised questions that are highly politicised,' Mr Li said, prompting derisive noises from a gallery packed with representatives of the media and non-government organisations. No grass-roots China NGOs were present, but people from several Hong Kong-based human rights groups attended. Chinese officials quickly exited the conference hall after the three-hour session in a bid to dodge the media pack, but once outside, paused for a moment to smile and apparently take a long breath.