China Petition Demands Legislature Ratify UN Rights Treaty

A group of Chinese intellectuals signed a petition calling on the nation’s legislature to quickly ratify a United Nations human rights treaty.

More than 100 scholars, lawyers and journalists including Peking University Professor He Weifang signed the petition. It urged the National People’s Congress, which starts its annual two-week session March 5, to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in 1998.

The petition comes as Communist Party Secretary General Xi Jinping has called for people to adhere more closely to the constitution and for judges to be more independent. China’s constitution enshrines freedom of speech and the press, though the party crushes dissent that it deems a threat to its rule.

“I’ve participated in calls for this for 10 years but because there’s now a new group of leaders I think everyone has a hope that they can resolve the situation,” He said by phone.

The petition says there’s a “considerable gap” between the situation in China and the requirements of international human rights treaties. It calls on the State Council to submit a proposal to the National People’s Congress, which should then ratify the treaty immediately. If the NPC can’t do so this year, it should explain why not and provide a timetable toward ratification, the petition said.

In December, an online petition by a group of Chinese intellectuals demanded the Communist Party end Internet censorship and ease its grip on the courts, and leave court decisions to judges and lawyers.

A previous call for more democratic freedoms, Charter 08, spurred China to crack down on many of the signatories. One of the petition’s organizers, Liu Xiaobo, was later sentenced to 11 years in prison for state subversion and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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