China crackdown to come under scrutiny at UN rights review

China crackdown to come under scrutiny at UN rights review
China President Xi Jinping.

China's human rights record under President Xi Jinping will come under formal international scrutiny on Tuesday for the first time since he took power, with the main UN rights forum set to hear accusations that the government is expanding a crackdown on dissent.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, which reviews all UN members every four years, will give concerned countries a chance to challenge the administration of Xi, who some experts had thought would be less hardline than his predecessors.

Instead, critics say Xi has presided over a clampdown that has moved beyond the targeting of dissidents calling for political change. For example, authorities have detained at least 16 activists who have demanded officials publicly disclose their wealth as well as scores of people accused of online 'rumour-mongering".

"Xi Jinping has definitely taken the country backwards on human rights," prominent rights lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters.

"Look at the number of people who are being locked up and the measures that are being taken to lock them up."

China will make a presentation at the start of the debate in Geneva, during which diplomats will speak. Non-governmental organisations are not allowed to address the council but can submit reports, often echoed in country statements.

The council has no binding powers. Its rotating membership of 47 states does not include China, although Beijing is expected to run for a spot in about a month. The hearing will be the second time China has been assessed under a process that began in 2008.

Diplomats are likely to raise questions over China's crackdown on dissent, the death penalty and the use of torture among other topics, said Maya Wang, an Asia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Of special concern, Wang said, is the arrest in August of prominent activist Xu Zhiyong, who had called for officials to reveal their wealth. Wang also cited the September disappearance of Cao Shunli, who had helped stage a sit-in this year outside the Foreign Ministry to press for the public to be allowed to contribute to a national human rights report.

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