Chinese human rights conference given high-profile exposure
Web posted at: 7:44 p.m. EDT (2344 GMT)
From Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- For the first time ever, China held an international conference on human rights this week, an event that took on a high profile.
Chinese television aired the conference live. The keynote speaker was Vice Premier Qian Qichen, a former foreign minister, who even admitted that China's human rights record could be better.
"The level of human rights enjoyed by the Chinese people will be raised even further," he said.
Chinese scholars and officials exchanged views on human rights with experts from many parts of the world.
"I hope it's part of an incremental step, which leads toward a much great acceptance of human rights and the rights of political voices in China," said Jeremy Corbyn, a member of the British parliament.
However, not everyone was welcome at the conference.
Human rights activist Xu Wenli was warned to stay away. Chu Hailan, wife of a jailed dissident, was kept under 24-hour police guard to keep her from showing up.
Chinese viewers had no way of knowing who was left out of the picture. But merely by holding the conference, the government succeeded in making a statement.
China made another statement recently by signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Those who feel their rights have been violated say this gives them hope. Among them is Gong Liwen, the mother of jailed democracy activist Li Hai.
"The covenant gives me a basis to argue his case," she says. "China has signed it, which means that it will have to implement it. So the covenant is our instrument and our weapon."
How useful that weapon will be remains to be seen. But the fact that China's leaders have publicly committed themselves to improve the human rights situation is considered by many here to be a step in the right direction.
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.