Politicians and human rights advocates have expressed disappointment over the UN’s decision to appoint China to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council’s Consultative Group. The council monitors the human rights record of all member states, making observations and providing advice, and the consultative group is specifically tasked with evaluating candidates for UN posts that investigate human rights abuses.
China has been criticized for framing development issues from a state-centric perspective, which privileges the “sovereignty of states over groups of people and communities,” an article published on Wednesday by The Diplomat said.
The article said the council had received letters of support for and opposition to China’s camps for Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, suggesting that opposition in the world body to human rights abuses in China is being steamrollered by Beijing’s influence in some member countries. China’s appointment to the group will only exacerbate this problem.
“There is no justification whatsoever in empowering a Chinese government official, Jiang Duan [蔣端], to investigate human rights abuses until there is a reckoning with regard to China’s own record,” US Representative Chris Smith, a ranking member of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said in a news release.
“Passport holders of Taiwan, the 2nd freest country in Asia, cannot enter @UN buildings; but China, a country that corralled 1 million Muslims into concentration camps, gets to pick human rights investigators who will oversee abuses across the globe. Does this make sense?” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“China was appointed on Wed to a UN Human Rights Council panel where it will play a key role in picking the world body’s human rights investigators... You can’t make this up,” former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wrote on Twitter.
On July 9, 2015, Beijing initiated a crackdown on human rights lawyers, imprisoning many lawyers under charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” extracting forced televised confessions, denying family visitations and keeping the lawyers in inhumane conditions.
One of these lawyers, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), 44, was released on Sunday last week, but then placed under house arrest at a family property separate from his wife and son, and denied visitation. The “release” appears to have been orchestrated as a show for international media. Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Amnesty International China researcher Doriane Lau (劉尹渭) as saying that Wang’s release offered “merely the illusion of freedom.”
Numerous human rights advocates remain in Chinese prisons, including Taiwanese Lee Ming-che (李明哲), who was sentenced by a Chinese court in 2017 to five years in prison. Lee was accused of cooperating with Chinese national Peng Yuhua (彭宇華) in disseminating articles critical of Beijing.
On Thursday, Chinese property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang (任志強), who has been critical of the Beijing government, was placed under investigation for “serious violations of discipline and law.”
“Ren disappeared from the public eye last month, shortly after penning an essay that was fiercely critical of [Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平)] response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” an AFP report said.
The UN council’s membership includes countries where human rights abuses are known to have occurred, and the US and other nations have left the council in protest. The US this week threatened to cancel funding to the WHO, citing Chinese influence, but, as University of Hong Kong researchers Courtney Fung (馮康雲) and Lam Shing-hon have said, China will simply fill the vacuum left by countries that leave.
Taiwan, the US and other like-minded nations should seek to continue their roles in world health and human rights outside of UN organizations.
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