United Nations Human Rights Council Paralyzed by Beijing’s Participation: Report

By Kelly Song
Kelly Song
Kelly Song
Kelly Song is a U.S.-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on all things related to China.
October 27, 2021 Updated: October 27, 2021

For over 70 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been the de facto standard of human rights for nations around the world. But the Chinese regime, in the pursuit of global dominance, is working hard to redefine human rights through the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), said a French military think tank in a recent report.

The 650-page report on the Chinese regime’s global influence provided a comprehensive mapping of Beijing’s tactics, including how the regime “paralyzed the UNHRC.” Tactics include side stepping human rights for economic development, planting Chinese officials in positions of power, and denying the regime’s ongoing persecution of religious believers.

The UNHRC is made up of 47 member states elected from five geographical groups, namely African states (13 seats), Asia-Pacific states (13 seats), Latin America and Caribbean states (8 seats), Western European and other states (7 seats), and Eastern European states (6 seats). China has held a seat on the UNHRC for four terms, totaling 12 years since 2006.

The UNHRC Advisory Committee is composed of 18 independent experts apportioned according to the same geographical groups. The Committee functions as a think tank producing studies on topics selected by the council.

Chinese diplomat Liu Xinsheng has been serving on the Advisory Committee since 2016. His current term lasts until 2022. Liu also holds high level consultative positions in Chinese universities and agencies. He frequently speaks at universities on human rights and U.N.-related topics. In 2019 at Peking University, Liu gave a speech on how the regime is implementing multilateral diplomacy and safeguarding its own interests through the U.N. system.

Manipulating Councils and Committees

A 2019 report by the Czech-based Sinopsis project entitled “The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee: A new tool in China’s anti-human rights strategy,” described the details of Beijing-backed resolutions adopted by UNHRC in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and the subsequent studies conducted by the Advisory Committee. The report outlined several resolutions that sacrificed human rights in the name of economic development, all which passed through the human right’s council.

“The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights,” was the subject of a resolution proposed in 2017, and China’s first resolution at the UNHRC. According to the Sinopsis report, the United States, Germany, and other democracies raised objections, saying that the resolution “inappropriately privileged development over human rights.”

The 2018 resolution, “Promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights,” was only opposed by the United States, which argued that “mutually beneficial cooperation was intended to benefit autocratic states at the expense of people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The United States withdrew from the UNHRC that same year.

Then in 2019, another Chinese resolution privileged development over individual human rights, highlighting the eradication of poverty, which was trumpeted as a victorious accomplishment by the Chinese regime. The European Union members of the Council and Japan opposed the resolution. The three resolutions passed with majority support.

Studies were conducted on the topics of the first two resolutions. Liu chaired the drafting group for both studies, according to the Sinopsis report.

The Beijing Declaration of 2017, which said that human rights must “take into account regional and national contexts, and political, economic, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds,” was a reference for the 2017 UNHRC study.

Andrea Worden, author of the Sinopsis report, further stated, “These ‘studies’ were not academic exercises … but a means to further entrench the Chinese Party-state’s human rights agenda and discourse into the work of the HRC.”

Worden pointed out that the studies simply echoed the regime’s rhetoric that “state-led development is the paramount right,” and that “cooperation, dialogue, and respect for state sovereignty is the primary means to achieve human rights.” Ultimately, Beijing wants to incorporate the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into the work of the UNHRC.

Influencing Experts

The regime has been using a counter-terrorism narrative to justify its vast encampment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, said the French military report.

A tour guide stands near a display showing images of people at locations described as vocational training centers in southern Xinjiang at the Exhibition of the Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism in Urumqi in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on April 21, 2021. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo)

In June 2019, U.N. counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov visited Xinjiang despite oppositions from human rights advocates and Western governments. Using Voronkov’s visit, China suggested that the Uyghurs were terrorists, and thus legitimizing its repressive policy in the region, said the report.

By contrast, Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, has not visited Xinjiang.

On April 1, 2020, China was appointed to a seat on the influential Consultative Group of the HRC. The five-member committee plays a critical role in the appointments of independent human rights experts under the special procedures of the UNHRC. The four other members of the Consultative Group for the 2020-2021 term were Venezuela, Pakistan, Eritrea, and Qatar.

Seven U.S. GOP senators sent a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General, voicing opposition to the appointment of China to the Consultative Group.

According to a Bitter Winter report, more than 100 human rights and religious freedom organizations submitted petitions calling for the cancellation of China’s appointment. The petitions were submitted to the U.N. General Secretary, the chair of the General Assembly’s Third Committee, the president of the UNHRC, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and each of the 55 member states of the Asia-Pacific regional group who nominated China.

As Bitter Winter reported, the petitions received no answer.

Ignoring Persecution

U.S.-based medical ethics advocacy group, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), organized a global campaign to collect signatures for a petition addressed to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The petition appealed to the commissioner to call upon China to end forced organ harvesting from detained Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience; to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice; and to ask the Chinese government to immediately end the persecution of Falun Gong in China.

Falun Gong is an ancient Chinese spiritual practice consisting of meditation exercises and moral teachings that promote truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Chinese official data reported that 70–100 million people had practiced in China by 1999. However, the regime felt threatened by the popularity and independence of the practice, so it began to persecute Falun Gong in July 1999. Millions have been detained inside prisons, labor camps, and other facilities, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center. The Chinese regime has been killing detained Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience via forced organ harvesting and selling their organs for profit, a London-based independent people’s tribunal said in March 2018.

From 2012 to 2018, DAFOH’s campaign collected over three million signatures from over 50 countries and regions. DAFOH representatives also met with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on three occasions, hand delivering the signatures.

Epoch Times Photo
Petition signatures numbering 166,461 from 36 countries backing the Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) call on the U.N. to investigate and condemn forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China, in the Wagner Room of the Metropole Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, on Dec. 17 2012. (Tanghong/The Epoch Times)

“To our knowledge there was no formal recognition of our petition (other than meeting with us) and on one occasion we were told the UNHRC will do something, but no verifiable action was observed,” Dr. Torsten Trey, founder and executive director of DAFOH, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“Both UNHRC and WHO are sub-organizations of the U.N.,” Trey said. “There appeared to be political motives that had a higher priority than addressing the most egregious crime against humanity of the 21st century, i.e. forced organ harvesting, and it appeared that China would get a free pass by the U.N. At that point we decided to end the campaign.”

DAFOH ended the petition campaign in 2018 after learning that Huang Jiefu, Beijing’s point man for promoting its transplant and donation system to the world, was appointed a member of World Health Organization (WHO)’s task force to combat organ trafficking.

“DAFOH has ended the petition campaign, but the 3 million people who signed the petition are still waiting for a responsible response by the UNHRC,” Trey said.

Kelly Song
Kelly Song is a U.S.-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on all things related to China.