Over 300 Civil Groups Seek International Probe of China’s Human Rights Abuses

September 9, 2020 Updated: September 9, 2020

A coalition of more than 300 rights groups are calling for the United Nations to create a “monitoring mechanism” to hold the Chinese regime accountable for human rights abuses in the country and abroad.

321 groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Service for Human Rights, and 50 U.N. experts, drafted a joint letter to the U.N. on Sept. 9 criticizing Beijing’s suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang, as well as its mishandling of the CCP virus pandemic and persecution of human rights advocates.

“China’s disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens—its support for dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever,” said Sarah Brooks, Brussels liaison at the International Service for Human Rights, in a statement. The joint letter has united organizations worldwide “fighting for their own communities with common cause,” she added.

The collective called for an “impartial and independent UN mechanism” to monitor and investigate China’s abuses, adding to a growing chorus of international criticism against Beijing’s tactics, from its heavy-handed clampdown of Hong Kong protests to its censorship of Western journalists and China critics.

Asked by a reporter about the letter, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said at a Wednesday press briefing that “the groundless allegations of these organizations are not worth refuting.”

Just days earlier, seven U.N. human rights experts sent a letter to the Chinese government decrying the new national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong. They said that the law, with its broad terms, “infringes on certain fundamental rights” and could allow Chinese authorities to target political dissidents—such as by reframing legitimate activities of human rights defenders as illegal.

In June, around 50 U.N. human rights experts also called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.” Despite numerous requests, they said that the Chinese regime has only permitted five visits by outside experts over the past decade and dismissed their concerns.

Manchester Protest In Support Of Pro-Democracy Activists In Hong Kong
A young girl joins protesters in Piccadilly Gardens showing their support for Hong Kong pro-democracy activists in Manchester, England, on Aug. 31, 2020. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In the Wednesday letter, the organizations expressed “dismay at Beijing’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council [UNCHR] by promoting ‘cooperation’ over accountability.”

The regime, using its seat at the five-member panel, has shielded serious human rights violators from prosecution, “baselessly” denied U.N. accreditation to nongovernmental organizations, and barred human rights activists from accessing U.N. premises, they said.

A U.N. official previously told Human Rights Watch that China is “one of the few countries that … pushed really very hard to try to limit participation of certain NGOs” by describing them as terrorists. Chinese delegates have interrupted activists such as Hong Kong singer Denise Ho during their testimonies before U.N. bodies.

The “growing chorus of voices” should prompt the U.N. to act and put an end to Beijing’s impunity on the sweeping human rights violations, said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch.

“A state that tries to hold itself above any kind of scrutiny presents a fundamental threat to human rights,” wrote the groups in the joint letter.

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