Western powers are weighing the risk of a potential defeat if they table a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council calling for an independent commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses by China in Xinjiang, The Guardian reported.
The issue is a litmus case for Chinese influence at the UN, as well as the willingness of the UN to endorse a worldview that protects individual rights from authoritarian states.
The outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, issued a report on her last day in office – August 31 – claiming there was clear evidence of crimes against humanity committed by China during its suppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. It was the first time the UN made such a serious allegation against China, The Guardian reported.
The report found evidence of systemic discrimination, mass arbitrary detention, torture, and sexual and gender-based violence.
Western leaders, in uncharted waters, are hesitating whether to table a resolution setting up an investigatory mechanism into China at the Human Rights Council (HRC), which started meeting in Geneva last week and runs to October 7.
Olaf Wientzek, from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation thinktank, said: “If such a resolution were passed, it would be a watershed moment for the HRC and increase its credibility. Taking on China would be a first.”
However, China’s diplomats have already been mobilising, and on Tuesday the Chinese ambassador in Geneva issued a statement, backed by 30 countries, accusing the UN rights office of acting without a mandate and warning of the exaggeration of “an existing trend to western polarisation and politicisation of human rights,” The Guardian reported.
The number of signatories represents the hardcore that regularly supports China and was below the 40 that signed a statement in June urging Bachelet not to publish her report, but Wientzek said: “This may reflect the fact that the latest Chinese statement directly criticised the UN human rights office, and was not the usual discourse directed against a group of mainly western countries.”