Near the conclusion of her visit to China, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights today signed a “Memorandum of Understanding between the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UNHCHR Concerning the Agreement to Cooperate on the Formulation and Establishment of a Technical Cooperation Program.” Human Rights in China (HRIC) supports the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as an important and potentially constructive development, keeping in mind that the UNHCHR has a dual mandate to execute technical cooperation programs and supervise the implementation of international human rights treaties. The strengthening of the relationship between the UNHCHR and the PRC government can help to maintain constructive multilateral dialogues and to achieve progress in improving the protection of fundamental human rights in China.
During this visit, while the High Commissioner was able to meet with a select number of officially sanctioned civil society groups and representatives, a number of incidents raised human rights concerns. On the eve of the High Commissioner’s visit, Beijing police placed a number of well-known dissidents under house arrest, including Liu Xiaobo and Liu Di, and ransacked the office of the Empowerment and Rights Institute, a Chinese rights group, and questioned its director, Hou Wenzhuo.
HRIC respectfully urges the High Commissioner to address these efforts to silence or intimidate independent and critical Chinese voices and groups even as the High Commissioner was in the process of signing an MOU of technical cooperation with the Chinese government. The two aspects of the High Commissioner’s mandate – monitoring and technical cooperation – are interrelated and cannot undermine each other.
In advance of the High Commissioner’s visit, HRIC submitted a briefing packet of issues and cases on August 16 to the office of the High Commissioner. HRIC reiterates the key point made in that submission: a clear and strong message must be conveyed to the Chinese government—technical cooperation is the means, not the end, for progress in human rights, and the efficacy of technical assistance programs must be linked to human rights monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.