GENEVA — Faced with a U.N. review of its human rights, China acknowledged Tuesday that it still faces shortcomings but insists it has reduced poverty and has deepened judicial reforms and protections of ethnic minorities.
China put its pride and promise to better itself on display at the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, which reviews each nation's record once every four years.
Human rights groups and activists called attention to what they described as serious abuses and violations of international protections such as crackdowns on human rights defenders and tightened controls on ethnic Tibetan and Uighur populations in some provinces.
Tibetan activists managed to get past U.N. security and enter the grounds of the Palais des Nations, where the meeting is being held, and unfurl a banner denouncing China's rule in Tibet
A special envoy for China's foreign ministry, Wu Hailong, said in his speech to the three-hour session in the 47-nation Council that the nation has made many improvements but acknowledged the difficulties of a big, fast-growing country with more than 1.3 billion people and 56 ethnic groups.
"We are soberly aware that China still faces many difficulties and challenges in promoting and protecting human rights," Wu said.
The review, led by Poland, Sierra Leone and the United Emirates, called for better treatment of women, disabled people, and ethnic minorities; a reduction and eventual abolition of the death penalty; and the release of everyone detained for political reasons.
Some of the criticism focused on China's unfulfilled promise to ratify an international human rights treaty known as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). China signed the treaty in 1998 but its parliament has never ratified it. As part of a U.N. International Bill of Human Rights, the ICCPR requires nations to uphold basic individual rights such as freedom of religion, assembly and speech.
But China, which unlike the West focuses more on collective rights, said that since the last such review in 2009, when it accepted 42 recommendations by other countries, the country had reduced poverty, deepened reforms of the judicial systems and protections for ethnic minority groups, along with helping to spread "the right to development" among other developing countries.
"Unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development remains an acute problem," Wu told the Geneva-based Council.
He said social programs lag "in parts of the ethnic minority regions" and there was insufficient human rights "awareness" among law enforcement personnel.
On Tuesday, the Chinese government issued a white paper on Tibet, saying its "growth and progress could not have been achieved without the correct choice of a development path" in the region under Beijing's rule. The paper also accused the exiled spiritual leader Dalai Lama and his "clique" of engaging in separatist activities.
Didi Tang in Beijing contributed to this report.