Beijing's diplomatic victory at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights could lead to even further deterioration of human rights in China, Human Rights Watch warned today.

"With this vote, Beijing strengthens its hand," said Joanna Weschler, Human Rights Watch's U.N. representative. "It can continue and intensify its crackdown on basic freedoms, without any consequences internationally. It's clear that technical assistance from the U.N. and bilateral dialogues on human rights are insufficient to address China's massive human rights problems."

The U.N. Commission in Geneva, voting on a "no action" procedural motion by China, decided by a vote of 23 for, 17 against, with 12 abstentions and one government absent, not to debate or vote on a resolution sponsored by the U.S. Last April, in a similar move, a no-action motion on a U.S.-sponsored resolution was adopted 22 for, 18 against, 12 abstentions, and 1 absent. While supporting the U.S. decision to put forward the resolution, Human Rights Watch expressed disappointment at "the Commission's dismal failure to take action on China."

"Key governments seem unwilling to put pressure on Beijing, and to back up their rhetoric about human rights with action," said Weschler.

Over the past year, China has enacted new regulations on access to the Internet, detained at least four foreign-based scholars with no explanation, waged a fierce campaign against the Falun Gong, and continued a crackdown on unofficial religious activity and the repression of ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang. It took no action to abolish re-education through labor, a system of administrative punishment repeatedly condemned by the U.N. as arbitrary, or to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. China did ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on February 28, 2001, but took a reservation on key provisions guaranteeing workers' rights.

Yet, in a new "White Paper" on human rights published in the weeks leading up to today's vote, China's State Council insisted that "the year 2000 was a year of milestone-like significance...that witnessed continued advance in China's human rights cause."

Countries voting in favor of no-action motion were: Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Against: Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Abstained: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mauritius, Mexico, Peru, Republic of Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, and Uruguay.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was absent.