China responded today to the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, "We believe that politicizing human rights issues is not conducive toward improving a country's human rights." She also noted China's opposition to referring the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court, something recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.
China's defense of North Korea is, of course, self-interested. While China's human rights record is not like North Korea's, there are elements of repression and social control in China that also merit international scrutiny and condemnation. Furthermore, North Korea's atrocities have to a considerable degree been aided and abetted by Beijing--directly in the many cases of refoulement involving those who have managed to flee from North Korea into China and indirectly in the many diplomatic negotiations that have occurred over the years among members of the UN Security Council seeking to impose more effective sanctions on North Korea.
At a time when the international community is trying to move, haltingly, toward a new global ethic of collective responsibility in cases involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity--as those in North Korea clearly do--China has positioned itself as the chief obstacle.