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Ban calls for stronger civic society in China

HONG KONG (SE): During a visit to China from July 6 to 10, the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, praised the Middle Kingdom for the leading work it has done in the environmental field, as well as its remarkable transformation over the past 10 years in terms of its contribution to various United Nations’ (UN) missions around the world.

A letter sent to Ban from Human Rights Watch on July 5, the day prior to his arrival in Beijing, called on him to take China to task for rolling back the clock on human rights, but rather than being critical, Ban set out to embrace China for what it has done and encourage it to come more on board in the international agenda by ticking the positives.

Nevertheless, he did not ignore the call from the well-respected rights watchdog, emphasising to the Chinese hierarchy the important role that environmental advocates, human rights lawyers and defenders, as well as other civil society groups can make as catalysts for social progress and economic growth.

However, he did not go down the path suggested by Kenneth Roth, from Human Rights Watch, of taking the leadership to task, but rather stuck to the path of complimenting what has been achieved and encouraging China to embrace more freedom for civic society.

Ban told a gathering of China’s leaders, “In almost 10 years as secretary-general, I have the seen the remarkable transformation of China and invaluable contributions that China makes to the work of the UN. As China continues along the path of transformation and reform, I encourage China’s leaders to create the space needed for the civil society to play a crucial role.”

A press release from the UN Media Centre on July 7 quoted Ban as telling the gathering, “They can represent the diverse interests of the population and bring the voices of the vulnerable in from the margins. Along with a free and independent media they can help ensure accountability and thereby help the state to be more effective and strengthen its standing in the eyes of the people.”

He stressed that China should look to complement its “remarkable economic advances by giving citizens a full say and role in the political life of their country.”

However, on the touchy issue of the South China Sea, Ban said that he could not comment as the ruling by the arbitration court on the case had not yet been released.

While he praised China for its positive peace-keeping role in the world, especially in the Union of Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and other places, his words came only two days prior to the Chinese navy and air force putting on a provocative and massive pyrotechnics display between Vietnam and The Philippines on July 8.

Nevertheless, at a meeting with Wang Yi, from the Foreign Ministry, Ban said he did address another touchy subject, the issue of the Korean Peninsula.

“But most of all, Mr. Wang and I discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula, which remains a grave concern for the region and the world,” Ban said in a statement.

He pointed out that as a permanent member of the Security Council, China has been playing an important role in maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, particularly in the wake of the nuclear test and the continuing ballistic missile tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

At the same time, Ban was quick to point out that North Korea is not the only worry in the area, as South Korea, the United States of America and China itself have all been responsible for heightening the tension to some degree or other, and all need to work together to find a dialogue path to achieve the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

While he gave China the biggest ticks for its progress in the areas of sustainable development and climate change, he stressed that in international relations constant dialogue is the best path to go down in breaking the cycle of provocation.

He stressed to Wang that, as with all countries in the world, all issues should be resolved in a peaceful manner.

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