Democracies, Autocracies Clash at UN Human Rights Council Over Xinjiang

( – Deep political divisions were on display at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday as democracies and autocracies backed competing statements condemning and defending China over its policies in its far-western region of Xinjiang.

On many delegates’ minds was U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s controversy-dogged visit to China last month, and her ongoing delay in releasing a report on the human rights situation in Xinjiang. Bachelet, who announced on Monday she would not seek a second term when her current one ends later this summer, was at the podium during the meeting.

In a statement delivered on behalf of 47 democracies, Dutch representative Paul Bekkers cited “numerous extensively researched and credible reports” on the detention of more than a million Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, restrictions on freedom of religion, torture, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labor, and forced separation of parents and children by authorities.

After raising concerns too “about the deterioration of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong and the human rights situation in Tibet,” Bekkers returned to Xinjiang, and Bachelet’s recent visit.

He invited the high commissioner to share “more detailed observations, including on the restrictions the Chinese authorities imposed on the visit as well as on your access to members of civil society and to places of your choice.”


Bekkers concluded by calling for the “prompt release” of the long-awaited Xinjiang report, and he asked Bachelet to provide “further information on the timeline” for its publication.

Last September, Bachelet told the HRC that the report was being finalized with a view to its public release, but nine months later it remains under wraps, despite widespread criticism from Western governments and human rights groups.

Bachelet has now said the report must be shown to China first for its input, and that the aim is to release it before her terms ends on August 31.

Shortly after Bekkers’ statement, Cuban delegate Lisandra Astiasarán Arias delivered one on behalf of 69 countries, supporting China in the face of the democracies’ criticism.

“Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet-related issues are China’s internal affairs,” she said. “We oppose politicization of human rights and double standards, or interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.”

The representative of the communist regime in Havana said all countries at the U.N. should “adhere to the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, and respect the right of the people of each state to choose independently the path for development, in accordance with their national conditions.”

(The Cuban statement did not list the 69 countries on whose behalf it was delivered, although they included Algeria, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Laos, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. A request for the Cuban mission to provide the full list brought no response by press time.)

Chinese representative Chen Xu hit back at Bekkers’ statement, accusing the countries supporting it of spreading “lies and rumors to smear and attack China.”

“We categorically reject these allegations,” he said.

“These countries, turning a blind eye to their own serious human rights problems, attempt to engage in political manipulation under the pretext of human rights. Their hypocrisy and political attempts have long been known to all.”

Chen said that the fact many countries voiced support for and “echoed China’s position” was a demonstration of “the will of the international community.”

He also accused the countries supporting Bekkers’ statement of having “hyped up the so-called report on Xinjiang,” adding that the report – which he claimed violated Bachelet’s mandate – “should not be published at all.”

In a separate statement during the day’s meetings, Chen complained that the HRC had become “increasingly politicized and confrontational, and disinformation has become rampant.”

This, he declared, runs counter to the council’s original purpose.

“Multilateral human rights mechanisms should serve as a platform for cooperation and dialogue, rather than a venue for division and confrontation,” Chen said.

The 47-member HRC has been characterized since its creation in 2006 by the presence of some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Current members include Cameroon, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Libya, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela’s Maduro regime.

Of more than 350 condemnatory resolutions adopted by the HRC since 2006, not a single one has related to China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or many other countries with frequently criticized records. At least 125 have targeted Israel.


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