Diplomats and human rights advocates are ramping up pressure on the United Nations to act on China’s treatment of Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, as Beijing tries to try to monitor more closely what is happening in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The call to action comes as world leaders arrive in New York City for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and two weeks after the United Nations Human Rights Council held position landmark report that China likely committed “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang.
Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations special rapporteur on minority rights, said at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic Council and Human Rights Watch: “It is not possible to run again. “If we allow this to happen with impunity, what kind of message is being spread?”
Jeffrey Prescott, deputy US ambassador to the UN, thinks the integrity of the institution is at stake in its response to China.
“How these atrocities are addressed ultimately depends on the reliability of that system, on the reliability of our international system,” he said. “It is deeply disheartening to see a country that was once at the heart of the creation of the modern UN system, and enjoys permanent membership of the Security Council, in a profound breach of its commitments. mine”.
Since 2018 when the United Nations Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination first revealed that more than one million people Incarcerated in a network of detention centers across Xinjiang, academics, exiles and the media have exposed abuses ranging from forced labor to family separation. , and the destruction Uighur culture and religious identity.
Beijing has acknowledged the existence of the camps, which they say are vocational skills training center needed to deal with “extremism”.
It reacted angrily to the release of the Human Rights Council report, calling it “a patchwork of misinformation” and describing it as a fabrication by Western nations and their supporters. .
Beijing release The rebuttal is 122 pages longand their diplomats are now lobbying others to try and prevent the possibility of closer scrutiny by their campaign council in Xinjiang with the Chinese ambassador in Geneva threatening to withdraw cooperation with the bureau. human rights office – without specifying how.
The Human Rights Council is meeting in Geneva while the UNGA holds its annual meeting in New York.
Beijing has traditionally looked to the UN, where it can count on support from the countries it has befriended and, in many cases, financially supported, as a counterweight to US-led blocs. such as the G7, which has become increasingly hostile to China in recent years.
“China sees the UN as an important forum that it can use to advance its interests and strategic goals and reform the global order,” said Helena Legarda from the Institute of China Studies in Berlin. bridge.
While viewing the UN as a model of multilateralism, China rejects criticisms or decisions that the ruling Communist Party considers contrary to its interests.
Redefining human rights
Michelle Bachelet, a former UN human rights chief, has been pushing since 2018 for “unbridled access” to Xinjiang, but ultimately launched highly controlled visit in May when Beijing tried to block the UN report.
After the human rights office finally disclosed its findings on August 31, Chinese diplomats led a joint statement, which they said was accepted by 30 countries, including Russia, North Korea and North Korea. , Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, condemning the “misinformation” behind the report and the “false conclusions” it drew.
Like the United States, China feels certain freedom to ignore UN organizations as they please: under Donald Trump, The United States withdrew from the Human Rights Council in 2018accuses it of being anti-Israeli bias, while under Joe Biden it back with 47 member body This year.
Like the US, China used its power to find its way and effectively thwarted the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into Origin of COVID-19emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 before sweeping the world.
Ken Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Chinese President Xi Jinping is trying to redefine what human rights are, in part by making economic development a key criterion.
“More than any government in the past, China is trying to undermine the UN human rights system,” says Roth – by pressuring UN officials, retaliating against witnesses and attempting to bribe governments.
“One of their top priorities right now, maybe after Taiwan, is to avoid condemnation by the Human Rights Council,” Roth said. Beijing claims the self-governing island of Taiwan as its own and has not ruled out using force to gain control of the territory.
Rob Roe, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, said China’s response to the UN investigation was not surprising and new action was needed.
“We need to address this question. We need to address the question of what sanctions will be required. We need to address the question of what next steps can be taken to respond to the magnitude of this crisis,” he said.
Rayhan Asat, a Uighur lawyer who works for the Atlantic Council and whose brother is being detained in Xinjiang, calls on the world to take such action, not only against China but also other countries. companies profit from their abuses.
“We shouldn’t let the Chinese government get caught up in the net by normalizing what the state has done, because at the end of the day, this is state violence,” she said.