China’s election to UN human rights council draws world-wide ire

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a video screen remotely addressing the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at UN headquarters, on 22 September 2020.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a video screen remotely addressing the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at UN headquarters, on 22 September 2020. File photo/AP/Mary Altaffer

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NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON, 14 October 2020

The re-election of countries like China and Pakistan to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) amid opposition from various rights groups drew condemnation from various quarters on Wednesday.

China won a seat at the UNHRC by a small margin on Tuesday while Pakistan secured the highest number of votes among the five candidates from the Asia-Pacific region.

Rebuking the rights body over the election of nations like China, Russia and Cuba, the US said its stand to withdraw from the council two years ago has been vindicated.

“The election of China, Russia, and Cuba to the UN Human Rights Council validates the US’ decision to withdraw from the council in 2018 and use other venues to protect and promote universal human rights. At UNGA this year, we did just that,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo tweeted.

Pompeo said that America’s commitment to human rights is far more than just words.”We have identified and punished human rights abusers in Xinjiang, Myanmar, Iran and elsewhere, and call for all nations to take this moment to recommit to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),” he said.

Several rights groups and activists strongly opposed the election of both China and Pakistan due to their abysmal human rights records.

Hillel Neuer, a Geneva-based international lawyer on human rights and executive director of United Nations Watch, condemned the election of the four countries and called it a “black day” for human rights.

“Today is a black day for human rights – UN’s newest world judges on human rights include: Pakistan – persecutes Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis. China – herded one million Uyghurs into camps. Russia – poisons dissidents. Cuba – police state. The inmates are running the asylum.”

India’s top foreign policy expert Brahma Chellany tweeted, “China, despite incarcerating more than a million Muslims, unleashing harsh repression in Tibet and killing detainees to harvest their organs for transplant, wins a UN Human Rights Council seat. It secures 30 votes less than its proxy, Pakistan. The Council is becoming irrelevant.”

Questioning the rights body, social media influencers Surendra Poonia said, “How come your organization is not able to see atrocities on minorities in Pakistan and torture camps in China where Uyghur Muslims are tortured? It is like a brutal killer getting awarded for non-violence.”

Amjad Ayub Mirza, an activist from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), said that election of the “world’s worst human rights abusers” to the UN body will damage its credibility.

“World’s worst human rights abusers set to be elected to the board of the UN Human Rights Council. Countries include Pakistan, China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. This will seriously damage the credibility of the organization,” Amjad Ayub Mirza tweeted on Wednesday.

Last week, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the United States and Canada had called on UN member states to oppose the election China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them “unqualified.”

According to the list of Human Rights Priority Countries published in ‘The 2019 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report’ titled ‘Human Rights and Democracy’ by the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), there were serious human rights concerns and violations in Pakistan in 2019, including restrictions on civic space and freedom of expression, intolerance and direct and open discrimination towards minorities communities.

Besides Pakistan, several reports have also been raised concerns over prevalent human rights violations in China.

“China continued to place restrictions on the expression of religious belief, ethnic minorities, the media and wider freedom of expression, as well as detaining and harassing human rights defenders, and restricting the space for civil society to operate. The authorities’ use of arbitrary detention continued, as did a lack of judicial transparency and due process, particularly in cases deemed ‘politically sensitive’.

“In Xinjiang, credible estimates indicate that over 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been extrajudicially detained in internment camps across the region,” the report said.


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