In a narrow diplomatic victory for China, the UN’s top human rights body on Thursday rejected a proposal by Britain, Turkey, the United States and other mainly Western countries to organize a debate on alleged violations of the rights of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China. western Xinjiang region.
At the Human Rights Council, made up of 47 member states, 17 countries voted in favour, 19 were against and 11 abstained in a vote to hold a debate on Xinjiang at its next session in March. The vote amounted to a political and diplomatic weight test between the West and Beijing, and would have marked the first time that China’s human rights record merited a specific item on the council’s agenda. .
The result, prompting a round of applause in the chamber, followed days of diplomatic tug-of-war in Geneva and many national capitals as major Western countries tried to build momentum on a report from the office of the former UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, released August 28. 31, which concluded that possible “crimes against humanity” had occurred in Xinjiang.
A simple majority of voting countries was required.
The composition of the council changes every year among UN member states, and China – a powerful country with a permanent seat on the Security Council – has never been the subject of a country-specific resolution on the council. since its inception more than 16 years ago.
“It is always difficult for countries to vote against a permanent member of the Security Council,” said a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. He acknowledged that this was a “genuinely difficult call” for some countries. including those with economic or political ties to China – to adhere to the measure.
The proposal was simply to hold a debate, with no consistent monitoring of the rights situation, and was about the least intrusive form of control the council could seek.
The call stopped before the creation of a team of investigators to investigate possible crimes in Xinjiang, or the appointment of a special rapporteur – a tacit recognition by Western countries that tackling a China increasingly influential would be a tall order.
As part of dozens of proposals before the council on Friday, member states are also due to consider a proposal from 26 European Union countries to appoint a ‘special rapporteur’ on Russia, citing a series of concerns over the arrests and mass detentions; harassment of journalists, political opponents, activists and rights defenders; and the crackdown – sometimes violent – of protesters against President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
This is part of a rare push against two permanent members of the Security Council: China and Russia. Some Western diplomats have insisted the two-pronged effort needs immediate attention.
The council has already mandated a team of investigators investigating human rights violations and abuses in Ukraine following Putin’s order for a military invasion of Ukraine in late February.