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Postponement of Torture Mission "Disappointing"

June 16, 2004

Human Rights in China (HRIC) expresses its deep disappointment and concern over the PRC government’s announcement that it has postponed the planned mission by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo Van Boven, which was expected to take place this month.

The previous Special Rapporteur, Sir Nigel Rodley, had requested an invitation to China in 1995, and China issued an invitation in 1999, but no agreement was reached on terms of reference for the visit. The Chinese government repeated its invitation to the newly appointed Rapporteur, Mr. Van Boven, in 2001, and pledged to reissue an unconditional invitation to the Rapporteur at the December 2002 U.S.-China human rights dialogue. China issued a formal invitation to the Special Rapporteur in November 2003.

The PRC government has engaged in a recurring strategy of responding to international pressure and scrutiny with well-timed overtures that it and other governments can point to as indicators of China’s progress in human rights reforms and willingness to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms. Once the pressure recedes, these overtures are all too often withdrawn. In light of the fact that the visit by the Special Rapporteur on Torture has been under discussion for the best part of a decade, this eleventh-hour postponement raises serious questions about the sincerity of the PRC government’s commitment to international cooperation.

HRIC urges the PRC government to reschedule the Special Rapporteur’s mission for a specific date in the near future, and resume good faith efforts to prepare for the visit, including arrangements for appropriate technical assistance from the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in relation to the mission, methods and aims of special UN mechanisms. Otherwise the government risks further undermining international trust in the sincerity and reliability of its commitment to abide by its international obligations.