13 Reactions to China’s Bid for Seat on UN Human Rights Council

    Edward McMillan-Scott

    MEP, European Parliament Vice-President for Democracy and Human Rights

    (Courtesy of the subject)
    (Courtesy of EdwardMcMillan-Scott)

    Allowing China to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council would call into question the Council’s credibility. China’s human rights record is well-documented. Numerous reports by the UN itself have highlighted degrading and inhumane treatment that are routine in China: forcible abortions, religious persecution, the oppression of minorities, etc. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a statement on 16 October highlighting a series of similar abuses. Former UN Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak stated that the use of torture in China is “widespread,” and any attempts to discuss individual cases with the Chinese regime—such as that of disappeared but imprisoned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng—are met with defiance, such as through the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue or any other such procedure. This statement was written in McMillan-Scott’s personal capacity.

     

     

    David Matas

    Award-Winning Canadian Human Rights Lawyer and Co-author of “Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China”

    (Woody Wu/AFP/Getty Images)
    (Woody Wu/AFP/Getty Images)

    Gross human rights violator states seek seats on the UN Human Rights Council in order to obtain immunity for themselves. Typically they have done that by trading votes against Israel which the states of the Organization of Islamic States (OIC) avidly seek in exchange for immunity. The OIC, because of regional bloc voting, controls the Council and has done so since its inception. The OIC states form a majority of the African and Asian states in the Council and the African and Asian states together form a majority of the Council. In order to engage in this trade of immunity for anti-Zionism, states first have to get onto the Council. China is one of a long list of violator states who have sought membership. China obviously has no interest in promoting global respect for human rights. The mere fact that it seeks membership shows the disfunctionality and perversity of the Council.

     

    Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren

    Director of Free Tibet


    (Courtesy of Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren)

    China’s presence on the HRC would be a significant blow to the council’s credibility because in Tibet, China respects neither the human rights institutions of the United Nations nor its human rights principles. It is an act of cynical arrogance to stand for election to the HRC when China has for years denied access to Tibet to UN Special Rapporteurs, the representatives who can objectively assess its record on human rights. What China seeks to hide is that torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, collective punishment, intrusive surveillance and violent suppression of protest and freedom of speech are matters of policy in Tibet. On the macro scale, Tibet’s culture and history are being erased through the suppression of religious freedom, mass transfer of Tibetan populations, mass immigration of Chinese people and the imposition of the Chinese language. China may feel confident it has the political weight to secure election but it is devoid of the credibility and moral authority a seat at the top table requires.

     

    Sarah Cook

    Senior Research Analyst for East Asia at Freedom House


    (Courtesy of Sarah Cook)

    It is shameful and counterproductive that one of the world’s most repressive regimes has had a seat on the Human Rights Council for so many years. Although China participates in international processes like the Universal Periodic Review, the human rights situation on the ground remains deplorable. Freedom House’s annual assessments of political rights, civil liberties, and freedom of expression consistently designate China as one of the most “Not Free” countries in the world. The ruling Chinese Communist Party forcefully maintains a monopoly on political power and oversees a sophisticated censorship apparatus, while torture and impunity for police brutality are widespread. A range of Chinese citizens—including political dissidents, civic activists, lawyers, migrant workers, petitioners, and members of religious and ethnic minorities such as Uighurs, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners—are subjected to the very violations like arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial killings that the Council was established to address.

       

    Yang Jianli

    Founder and President of Initiatives for China


    (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

    As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is expected to defend the human rights principals set forth by the UN Charter and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). But in reality, the Chinese government has brutally violated these principles with its horrific human rights record. Almost a quarter century passed since the Tiananmen Massacre (1989), yet the Chinese government has never admitted its wrongdoing, and has turned a deaf ear to the justifiable requests for “truth, compensation and accountability” made by the victims. The United Nations should and must not submit to national power by applying different human rights standards to different members. We believe the United Nations represents the fundamental values and principles of human beings, and therefore, should not and must not sit idly by in face of the horrible human rights violations in China.

     

    Krassimir Kanev

    Chairman of The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee


    (Courtesy of Krassimir Kanev)

    A country which is not democratic, and on whose territory human rights are being systematically violated, has no place in the UN Human Rights Council. The creation of the Council several years ago during a reform of the UN bodies, was prompted exactly by the necessity of having Council member-countries with proven affinity to human rights. China is a totalitarian communist state with established ideological and political monopoly of one party. All other ideological and political alternatives, which could object or disrupt this monopoly, are excluded from social life and are being systematically suppressed. Apart for political alternatives, this holds true for all other groups—religious, cultural, groups based on alternative lifestyle, etc. Their members are subjected to systematic persecution, detainment, imprisonment and re-education. The history of communist China is a history of mass atrocities, deprivations and discrimination of millions of people. The current Chinese authorities not only have not distinguished themselves from these violations, but in many cases continue the policy of their predecessors. It is hard to imagine what place such a country could have amongst the world human rights leaders. Accepting a non-democratic totalitarian country in the UN Human Rights Council disrupts the integrity of this body, that of the UN in general, as well as the human rights idea itself.

     

    Eva Suárez-Llanos

    Deputy Director of Amnesty International Spain


    (Courtesy of Eva Suárez-Llanos)

    Amnesty International has a policy of not commenting on who should or should not occupy a seat in the Human Rights Council, but makes recommendations to the Member States and suggests some criteria that should be taken into account when choosing them. The States which are part of the Human Rights Council of the UN should have a positive track record in defending human rights and concrete plans to defend them.

    In this respect, recognition and real respect for human rights is the unfinished business in China. The jail sentenced currently being served by the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo, due to the publication of the Charter ’08, which is demanding democratic rights, is an example of the situation in which thousands of human rights activists find themselves in this country. Advocates and human rights defenders face harassment, arrest, prosecution, detention under house arrest and forced disappearance. This repression extends to all areas of national life: people fighting for their economic, social and health services, and cultural and ethnic groups, or those who do it for the attainment of democratic rights. And of course, people who echo these events as, for example, journalists and Internet censorship activists. Censorship over the Internet is not only not going away, but has worsened over the past years

    The judicial system has serious problems that manifested in unfair trials and persecution to lawyers which has been intensifying. The practice of unauthorized religion, such as Falun Gong, is persecuted, and torture is often used as a method for people to give up their beliefs. This is so despite the fact that freedom of expression and association is recognized under Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, which says “citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, assembly, association, movement and expression.” What’s more, year after year, even though its government makes it public, China is still the state that carries out more executions worldwide.”

     

    Tsering Tsomo

    Executive Director, Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy

    (Courtesy of Tsering Tsomo)

    China should not have a seat at the HRC simply because it does not deserve it. If China gets elected again, then it will legitimize the persistent criticism that the HRC is just another platform for states to indulge in their political horse trading over human rights issues. China’s presence in the HRC will render meaningless the purposes for which the HRC was created. It is somewhat like asking the victims to trust their perpetrators to provide them justice and redressal.”

     

     

    James Lovatt

    Voluntary Country Coordinator in the China & East Asia Region for Amnesty
    International UK


    (Courtesy of James Lovatt)

    Given that the United Nations Human Rights Council is intended to act as a forum and springboard for action on behalf of all victims of human rights abuses, it is quite frankly frightening to imagine that by the end of 2013 China is very likely to have a seat on the council.

    This example of hypocrisy by the Chinese Communist Party comes at a time when, amongst other things, the party has failed to meet many of the key human rights measures it has set itself, continues to send North Korean refugees back over the border to face life in forced labor camps, harvests organs from prisoners of conscience and still hasn’t ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the most important human rights treaties.

    The direction of global governments in protecting people worldwide seems to be moving in a direction that humankind will not be proud of when it reads back the history books in decades to come unless action is taken immediately to halt our current path.

     

    Antonio Stango

    Founder and Secretary General of Italian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights


    (Courtesy of Antonio Stango)

    Currently, China should not have a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. China will deserve it when it will have a high degree of respect for human rights, not just because its government say so, but only when the facts will confirm it. It is necessary for China to totally satisfy the International Bill of Rights, that consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the latest International Covenants on the matter.

    In the PRC the freedom of thought and conscience, of expression and of association are severely violated, the control over the media and Internet networks is stifling, and the prison system, including “re-education” camps, is destructive. In addition, representatives of the PRC have frequently acted, in the Council for Human Rights, to stop civil society representatives that were duly accredited, refusing useful interactions.

      

    Alex Neve

    Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada


    (Courtesy of Alex Neve)

    Amnesty International does not support or oppose the candidacy of any particular country that seeks election to the UN Human Rights Council. We do remind any country that hopes to be elected of the importance of making concrete pledges as to human rights improvements they intend to pursue, both domestic and international. As well, any country that becomes a member of the UN Human Rights Council is expected to show leadership in pursuing meaningful action to improve human rights protection around the world, including within their own borders. There are many countries that are currently or have been members of the Council that have very troubling records of widespread human rights violations. That certainly includes China. In fact, no country has a perfect human rights record. China aspires to be seen and treated as a leading world power and once again seeks a seat on the Council. That means that China must demonstrate a firm commitment to ending human rights violations within China and becoming a champion of human rights improvements around the world. That is what global leadership and Council membership require. If other states are prepared to support China’s bid they must make it clear that a return to the Council would come with an expectation and an obligation to change course when it comes to respecting human rights at home and promoting human rights abroad. China’s current record of widespread violations is inconsistent with what the Council stands for. Global pressure is needed to turn that around.

      

    Bob Fu

    President of China Aid


    (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    As one of the worst human rights violators in the world, the Chinese communist government is not qualified to join the UNHRC.

     

    Reggie Littlejohn

    Founder and President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers


    (Lisa Fan/Epoch Times)

    The UN Human Rights Council is “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.” In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, “All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.”

    The Chinese government does not promote or protect the human rights, even of its own citizens. To the contrary, the Chinese Communist Party is a brutal, totalitarian regime — one of the greatest human rights violators in the world. How can it then be a watchdog over human rights in other nations? Rather, will China merely turn a blind eye to serious human rights abuses in other nations, to discourage other nations from challenging it on its own abysmal human rights record? China should be denied a place on the UN Human Rights Council.

    One example of the CCP’s brutality is that it is the only government that forcibly aborts women, up to the ninth month of pregnancy. It also practices forced sterilization and coercive birth control. China’s coercive low birth limit has led to gendercide, the widespread systematic elimination of baby girls. The resultant gender imbalance has led to sexual slavery. Instead returning China to a seat at the table, the UN Human Rights Council should be taking action against China for being the most massive violator of women’s rights in the world.

     

    Masood Azizi

    Chairman of Afghanistan Forward


    (Courtesy of Masood Azizi)

    China has violated the rights of its citizens by imprisoning dissidents and targeting their relatives, including that of blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who exposed abuses in the enforcement of China’s one-child policies, and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned since 2009 on subversion charges after he campaigned for peaceful democratic change in China. The United States condemns the violations and harassment against relatives of the activists, arguing that all the violations and harassment are even contrary to China’s own law and regulations. For instance, Xu Zhiyong, another young activist who runs a new movement in China, was forcibly taken from Beijing on suspicion of gathering people to disturb public, and he is now in police detention. China’s authoritarian government maintains strict controls over free speech, religion, and political activity—restrictions that the US considers human rights violations. China systematically violates the rights of its citizens, and the existence of a state with a bad human rights background will not be helpful for the rest of the world, and especially for countries that are at the beginning of developing internationally-accepted human rights laws and standards as part of their democratic government, such as Afghanistan.


    • JanaShearer

      well thank goodness for the above 13 eyes wide opened people!!

    • Maurpd

      China is also COMPLICIT in North Korea’s terrible Human Rights abuses!! They are COMPLICIT because they refuse to allow the UN Security Council to level charges against the Supreme Leader or allow the UN to intervene and level charges as Crimes against Humanity against this despicable Regime! WHY IS CHINA ALLOWED to stay on this Councii??? IS the UN SO WEAK and USELESS they can’t stand against CHINA and REMOVE THEM!! ? Otherwise the UN is also complicit in Human Rights abuses because they allow ABUSERS to be on their Security Council with NO ACCOUNTABLILITY!! SHAME ON THE Useless and Compromised UN


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