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China To Sign U.N. Rights Treaty

March 12, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ China will sign a major U.N. treaty intended to grant civil and political rights to its 1.2 billion people, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen announced today.

The government earlier said it was considering signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but had indicated it believed the accord could conflict with domestic laws.

The treaty is intended to provide broad, basic guarantees of civil liberties and legally support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

No date was given for the signing. China signed another key accord, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, last October but the legislature has yet to ratify it.

China’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech, assembly and religion and other civil liberties, but in reality those rights are severely curtailed by laws and regulations, some of them unpublished.

Under Chinese law, police may detain suspects for lengthy periods without charge and may send detainees to labor camps for up to three years without trial. The punishment has been increasingly applied in recent years to political dissidents.

China still prohibits Roman Catholics from recognizing the Vatican’s authority and government campaigns are under way to tighten control over Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and Islamic study groups. Both religions are seen by Beijing as inspiring anti-Chinese separatists in Tibet and the Muslim region of Xinjiang.

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