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China Deals Another Blow to the International Human Rights Framework at its UN Universal Periodic Review

Andrea Worden, November 25, 2018

 

UPR session, Nov 2018, Chine

China Review — 31st Session of Universal Periodic Review, Nov. 6, 2018, Geneva.

 

Over the past several years, the Chinese government has steadily been promoting its own version of human rights –– “human rights with Chinese characteristics”–– at the UN, and maneuvering to insert language trumpeted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with Xi Jinping as its core wordsmith, into various UN resolutions, with an eye toward assuming a leadership role in global human rights governance. China’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the Human Rights Council (HRC) on November 6, 2018 provided a high-level global forum for the government to announce its newly formulated five-pronged “human rights development path with Chinese characteristics.” In a press conference following the review, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun claimed that more than 120 countries supported China’s path during the review, and that China’s formulation was “completely correct.” In prioritizing “the right to development” as the fundamental human right and implicitly discarding the fundamental principle of the universality, interdependence, and indivisibility of all human rights, China’s “path” poses a serious threat to the international human rights system.

Although the key components of the PRC’s human rights path are not new, they have been repackaged into a tidy framework, which China confidently proclaimed at its 2018 UPR (@1:25 and 6:09). Earlier, at its 2013 UPR, the PRC stated in its national report that it was “working to explore paths for human rights development.” By 2018, China had discovered the path, described by Zhang Jun as “national conditions-based, people-centered, development-oriented, rule of law-guided and openness-driven.”  This article takes a look at some of China’s moves to promote its “development-trumps-all” human rights narrative and agenda, weaken the UPR mechanism (and, in the process, the credibility of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)), and further its efforts to gut the international human rights framework as we know it.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Mechanism   

The UPR is a key mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC); indeed, it was intended to make the HRC, established in 2006, more robust and equitable than the body it replaced, the UN Human Rights Commission. In this intergovernmental, State-driven mechanism, all 193 UN Member states are reviewed every four and a half years. The review is conducted on the basis of three documents: the national report of the State being reviewed, and two documents prepared by OHCHR–– the compilation of UN information on the State under review, and the summary of stakeholders’ information, which includes information submitted by NGOs.

Three and a half hours is allocated for the review.  The UN Member State under review is allotted a total of 70 minutes, which it uses for opening and final remarks, and comments and responses during the interactive dialogue. The remaining 2 hours and 20 minutes is apportioned equally among the countries that sign up in advance to speak at the review. In China’s 2018 UPR, each State that registered to speak was given 45 seconds to make their statements; in 2013, each country had 50 seconds. The Chinese government uses its influence to stack the roster with its friends (e.g. aid recipients, like-minded dictatorships, BRI partners, etc.) and as a result, countries poised to offer remarks critical of the PRC’s human rights record and make substantive human rights-based recommendations have less time to do so.

 

UPR session, Nov 2018

 

The review is intended to evaluate the State under review’s progress toward achieving and implementing recommendations it accepted during its previous review; fulfillment of the State’s human rights obligations and commitments; and the country’s overall human rights situation. During the interactive dialogue portion of China’s 2018 UPR, 150 delegations made statements, and offered 346 recommendations (@1:30). The Chinese government will provide its position on the recommendations by the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019. Regarding which recommendations the PRC is likely to accept, and those it’s likely to reject, the head of the UPR delegation, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, suggested the answer during his final remarks. He said “an overwhelming number of countries have fully recognized China’s efforts and achievements in promoting and protecting human rights over the last five years,” and that the Chinese delegation sincerely appreciated their “many constructive comments and recommendations.” @3:07:22) As for certain other countries, Vice Minister Le said, “We will not accept the politically driven accusations from a few countries that are fraught with biases, and in total disregard of facts; even less will we entertain attempts to use human rights as an excuse to interfere in China’s internal affairs or undermine its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” (@3:08:14)

China Finds its Human Rights Path for the New Era

In the PRC’s National Report submitted for its 2013 UPR (2013 Report), the section that lays out the government’s human rights theory is titled, “The concept and theoretical system of human rights under socialism with Chinese characteristics.” There is no mention of “human rights with Chinese characteristics.” As noted above, the government stated at that time it was “working to explore paths for human rights development.” (para. 5.) The 2013 Report further states that China:

“respects the principle of universality of human rights and is of the view that all countries have a duty to take measures, commensurate with their national conditions, continuously to promote and protect human rights in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the basic spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the relevant international human rights instruments.” (para. 4)

By the time of its 2018 UPR, the PRC had finished its exploration and discovered a “distinctively Chinese” path (@6:35), a path that abandons international human rights norms. The relevant section of the 2018 Report is titled, “The concept and theoretical system of human rights with Chinese characteristics.” There is no mention of the principle of universality of human rights; indeed, the only mention of “universal” is in the negative: “There is no universal road for the development of human rights in the world.” (para. 4) Nor is there a mention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), or “relevant international human rights instruments.” Australia noted the change from 2013 in an advance question to China, and asked:

“Does China still accept the principle of universal human rights, and if not, can China explain how its conception of human rights fits into the international human rights regime built on the concept of universality? Can China explain how “human rights with Chinese characteristics” differs from universal human rights, and if it does not, why it wishes to introduce this distinction?” (Advance Questions, Addendum 3)

This is clearly a human rights path grounded in Xi Jinping’s New Era. Not only are fundamental norms of the universality and interdependence of human rights jettisoned, the Chinese government has also dispensed with any mention of theories articulated by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao. While the 2013 Report contains references to Hu’s “scientific outlook on development” and “harmonious society,” they are absent from the 2018 Report. The Report states:

“[T]he cause of human rights must be promoted on the basis of national conditions and the needs of the people of that country, and cannot be defined on the basis of a single authority. Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, China attaches great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights, ever acting as an advocate, practitioner and promoter of the cause of protecting human rights and always following the road of developing human rights with Chinese characteristics.” [2018 Report, Para. 4, emphasis added]

The translated phrase “on the basis of a single authority” is a curious rendering of the classical phrase 定于一尊 (dingyuyizun). The meaning is more along the lines of “no one (path of human rights development) should be regarded as the only choice,” or superior to all other choices.

In its 2018 Report, the Chinese government argues, in effect, that the international human rights framework is just one choice among others, and that it should not be taken as the highest authority. What, then, is the highest authority, or “the right system”? For China’s human rights development, there is only one “correct path”–– and it lies with Xi Jinping. The report describes the five-pronged path as the “road of developing human rights with Chinese characteristics” ­­–– a road that “takes national conditions as the foundation”; “takes the people as the centre”; “takes development as the priority”; “takes the rule of law as the criterion”; and “takes openness as the motivator.” (paras. 5-10.)

The PRC’s “Development First” Agenda Gains Further Ground in the HRC

Development, and the right to development, were front and center during the interactive dialogue portion of the UPR, punctuated by strong concerns raised by a smaller number of States about the mass detention of Muslim minorities in “vocational training centers” in Xinjiang, and a wide range of other human rights abuses in China.

As it’s done in the past, the Chinese government seemingly rounded up its friends and beneficiaries to engage in what could be taken as an example of offline “flooding”: the UPR, whose purpose is to review the human rights obligations and actual human rights on the ground of the State under review, was inundated by comments and recommendations from countries praising China’s development, requesting China share best practices, expressing gratitude for aid, and asking for more.  Many developing countries and members of the so-called Like-Minded Group (including, e.g., Russia, Syria, China, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.), which are decidedly not human rights-friendly, offered recommendations to China such as the following:

Namibia: “Continue sharing experiences and best practices in implementing people’s right to development.” (Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: China (11/8/18); A/HRC/WG.6/31/L.3, para. 6.128)

Pakistan: “Continue to promote discussions in the Human Rights Council on the role of development in promoting and protecting human rights” (para. 6.33); “Continue to promote the Belt and Road Initiative to help other developing countries in their development endeavours” (para. 6.45).

And in an advance question to China before the review, Pakistan asked: “China has made tremendous achievements in implementing the right to development. Could China share relevant experience?”  (Advance Questions to China First Batch –Rev)

Lao People’s Democratic Republic: “Continue to communicate with other developing countries on the experience of the state governance, including promoting and protecting human rights” (para. 6.52).

Nigeria: “Sustain its efforts in the global fight against terrorism and extremism” (para. 6.145).

Venezuela: “Continue to forge a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation and building a community with a shared future for human beings” (para. 6.36).

It’s worth noting that Venezuela didn’t quite get the New Era lexicon right during the interactive dialogue, and its recommendation was amended in an early version of the draft report for political correctness. Venezuela did not utter the CCP’s “win-win” slogan during its oral statement, and it described the future as a “shared future for human beings,” neglecting the “building” of “a community.”  The Spanish-to-English interpreter used “forms” instead of “type” (as in “new type of international relations”) and “equity” instead of “fairness.” These “mistakes” were subsequently fixed, in what seems to be another example of PRC influence and discourse management at the UN.

 

UPR session, Nov 2018, Suisse

You may listen to a country’s recommendations for China by selecting the country from menu on the right. http://webtv.un.org/search/china-review-31st-session-of-universal-periodic-review/5858293845001/?term=&lan=english&page=7#player

 

Money Matters and OHCHR  

In its 2018 Report, the PRC notes that it donated $100,000 to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development mandate, a new special procedure created in September 2016 (para. 76). At first glance, it’s puzzling that this mandate was created in the first place when a Working Group on the Right to Development already exists, but it turns out to have been another move by the PRC to promote development within the HRC, and occupy more “space” and resources focused on the right to development. Not surprisingly, Venezuela introduced the resolution creating the mandate on behalf of China and the Non-Aligned Movement, which was adopted by a vote of 34-2, with 11 abstentions. France and the UK voted against the resolution. The first (and current) special rapporteur, Mr. Saad Alfarargi of Egypt, participated in the first South-South Human Rights Forum held in Beijing in December 2017, by invitation from the Chinese government. During the UPR, Vice Minister Le said that the PRC will invite the Chair of the Working Group on the Right to Development to visit China (@10:24).

At the 2013 UPR, the PRC announced a dramatic increase in its funding for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Special Envoy of the MFA, Wu Hailong, said that China would increase its annual donation to OHCHR from $50,000 to $800,000 for the next four years (@17:30). During the 2018 review, Vice Minister Le announced that China would (again) donate $800,000 annually to the OHCHR for the next five years (@10:20).  The PRC stated in the 2018 Report that it “maintains constructive contacts with [OHCHR], encourages them to perform their duties objectively and impartially, and attaches importance to the concerns of developing countries” (para. 76).

The Chinese government clearly has influence at OHCHR, which it uses to shield its human rights record from scrutiny, mute criticism, and control access to information it would rather keep hidden. The extent of the PRC’s influence, and the different tactics and leverage it uses to exert it, awaits an investigative journalist to thoroughly unravel, but in its groundbreaking report on China’s interference in UN human rights mechanisms, Human Rights Watch provides several examples of Chinese pressure on the OHCHR and special procedures, quoting one UN official as saying:  “China keeps bullying us, saying, ‘Don’t do that,’ ‘Don’t do this,’ or ‘We urge you not to do this.’”

One of the main functions of OHCHR is to provide support for the work of the HRC, including the UPR, and, as mentioned earlier, it is responsible for drafting the compilation of UN information, and the summary of stakeholders’ information. In the run-up to the 2018 UPR, OHCHR was involved in machinations that point to PRC interference in the Office’s work. The details of the disappearing and reappearing NGO submissions on the OHCHR website, inputs from groups the Chinese government views as particularly “troublesome,” and exclusion of their information from the stakeholders’ summary prepared by OHCHR, are explained in a joint statement signed by concerned NGOs, which include, among others, the Uyghur Human Rights Project, World Uyghur Congress, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Demosistō, and the International Service for Human Rights. The NGOs stated that despite the OHCHR’s belated fix of most of the issues (mere days before the review), they “remain very concerned that the removal of these reports gives further credence to well-documented NGO concerns of China’s growing influence within the UN human rights system, and the deliberate silencing of critical voices.”

After China’s success in the HRC in June 2017 with its resolution titled, “The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights,” I wrote, “What this means, in short, is that China will continue to promote, and attempt to expand, the importance of the right to development and economic rights, while at the same time endeavoring to curtail and weaken the enforcement of civil and political rights.” And so it has. During the UPR, the Chinese government touted its self-described “correct” human rights path, and by presenting a depraved defense of its “vocational training centers” in Xinjiang demonstrated that it was wholly unconcerned with civil and political rights, and the truth. Despite strong, rights-based recommendations from the human rights-friendly countries that participated in the review, China was nonetheless able to use the global stage of the UPR to further advance its “development trumps all” agenda at the expense of the established international human rights framework.

 

 

Andrea Worden croppedAndrea Worden is a human rights activist, lawyer, and writer. She has worked on human rights and rule of law issues involving China throughout much of her career, and previously held positions as the Acting Executive Director of Asia Catalyst, Advocacy Director with the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), and Senior Counsel at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). Her essays and articles on human rights issues in China have appeared in such publications as the The Pro-Democracy Protests in China: Reports from the Provinces, Yale-China Review, Georgetown Journal of International Law, South China Morning Post, and China Rights Forum, among others.

Follow her on Twitter @tingdc

 

 


Andrea Worden’s UN human rights series on China Change:

China Pushes ‘Human Rights With Chinese Characteristics’ at the UN, Andrea Worden, October 9, 2017.

As the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders Turns 20, China Wages a Multi-Pronged Attack on Rights Defenders, Andrea Worden, March 14, 2018.

With Its Latest Human Rights Council Resolution, China Continues Its Assault on the UN Human Rights Framework, Andrea Worden, April 9, 2018.

China Fails in its Gambit to Use the UN NGO Committee to Silence the Society for Threatened Peoples and Uyghur Activist Dolkun Isa, July 10, 2018.

 

 

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China Is Not A Normal Country

By Chang Ping, published: December 22, 2014

 

On 19 April this year, at the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review held in Geneva, while Ti-Anna Wang, the daughter of the democracy activist Wang Bingzhang, whom a Chinese court had sentenced to life imprisonment, was giving testimony on her father’s behalf, a man photographed her using a concealed camera. After investigating the matter, the UN cancelled this man’s UN pass. This incident revealed an “open secret” – the man who photographed Ti-Anna enter the conference room as a representative of a Chinese non-governmental organization (NGO), he and his organization in fact work for the Chinese government, and their work includes taking intimidating photographs.

The Chinese government did not have to pay much of a price for this action and, moreover, China still dispatches these so-called NGO’s to attend similar conferences. These Chinese NGO’s do not have to dissemble. As long as they do nothing more serious than intimidation, the international agencies will accept them. On 23 October, when the UN convened in Geneva a review on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, a member of the review comittee asked Chinese officials about the cocoperation between Chinese government and NGO’s. A Chinese official replied that China’s government cooperated with the All-China Women’s Federation (中华全国妇女联合会). Some NGO members at the conference expressed surprise, and asked if the Chinese official could give a different example of such cooperation. How could anyone not know that the All-China Women’s Federation was not a real NGO? Someone replied that the Chinese government deliberately makes this claim so that constant repetition of this claim would force the international community to accept the argument that the All-China Women’s Federation is a NGO.

The All-China Women’s Federation is in essence an official government agency, but the Chinese government insists on marketing it to the international community as an NGO, and the international community has to accept this. At a minimum, I did not hear public disagreement about the status of the All-China Women’s Federation at the UN review on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women from either the UN review committee or other NGOs. Accepting the All-China Women’s Federation as an NGO makes the review somewhat false, at that moment, the UN Conference Hall became just like the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

This is an example of what I have recently experienced, but it is not an isolated example. In fact, the Chinese government is in the act of using similar methods to redefine the rules of civilization.

The meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shintaro and Xi Jinping at the APEC Summit in Beijing allowed people to once again raise the concept of Japan as an abnormal country. It refers to the restrictions imposed on Japan militarily and diplomaticly since World War II. I would like to point out that, in an overarching sense, China is an abnormal country. Japan’s abnormality is punishment for invasion and military defeat, and this punishment hurts the self-esteem of some Japanese patriots. China’s abnormality lies in its challenges to, and revisions of, the rules of civilization, and these challenges and revisions hurt all of mankind and the international order.

The Fourth Plenum of the 18th CCP Congress, which just ended last month, had as its theme “the overall advancement of governing the nation according to law,” and promulgated a 17 thousand word “Decision” that proclaimed “wield state power according to the constitution,” and “govern the nation according to law.” Just as world opinion was analyzing any new changes in this “Decision” and wondering why people like Liu Xiaobo and Ilham Tothi, who called for constitutionalism and rule of law, were thrown into jail, the Chinese communist’s official media stated emphatically that China’s “wielding state power according to the constitution” differed from the West’s constitutional democracy. Not only is it different, in fact it is completely opposite: western constitutionalism seeks to restrict and balance the exercise of political power  to limit the power of political parties, while China’s “wield state power according to the constitution” means the “integration of the leadership of the party, of people be the masters of the country, and governing the nation according to law,” that is the consolidation of the power of the only ruling party.

The Party’s media took it a step further, glibly criticizing western constitutionalism as “sacrificing the people’s basic interests, splitting democracy and the rule of law to realize the selfish interests of a single party and even of a single person.”

The National People’s Congress convenes in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People in March of every year. Although the whole world knows that this Congress is less than even a rubber stamp congress (real major policies are all announced by conferences of party representatives), still the media gather pretentiously, and specialists analyze the Congress’ themes, the ratio of minority representatives, the percentage of women’s representatives, and the number of workers’ representatives. It’s not that these data do not have significance, but that, when people cite these data, they completely forget, or intentionally avoid, this fact: this meeting is not a real Congress, and these representatives are not congressional representatives. The Political Consultative Conference is even more unrepresentative: although it was established under the rubric of participating in governing the state and deliberating on government affairs, nonetheless, it has not one iota of decision-making power. When officials from the National People’s Congress and the Political Consultative Conference visit western countries, however, they always request their hosts treat them as members of a congress or a senate, and basically that is how they are treated.

From its inception, the Xinhua News Agency has always been a Chinese communist propaganda organ, and in this it has never changed. Still, Xinhua claims to be one of the “world’s four great news agencies,” along with the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse. Xinhua has established more than one hundred branches throughout the world, publishing its press releases in many languages. Not only are Xinhua journalists controlled by the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but also they have such responsibilities as disinformation campaigns, collecting intelligence, and even engaging in espionage. Nonetheless, they still pass through the world as freely as journalists from normal news agencies.

The Global Times, an off-shoot of the CCP’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily, is a political tabloid given to demagoguery. It regularly quotes western media out of context to produce reports and criticisms that completely skewer the meaning of the original; it also publishes fictional interviews and fabricates reports. This kind of a newspaper is nonetheless treated as a serious media outlet. Global Times, together with well regarded international agencies, have organized media forums whose invitees include such German media as Deutsche Welle, North German Radio and Television, and Times Germany, to discuss world events.

What is more deceptive are education and scholarship. The Chinese government has never attempted to hide the fact that it has always implemented a Chinese communist ideological education program in kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, colleges, and academic institutions at all levels. Education in utilitarianism and populism are all the rage. If teachers criticize current affairs, they may be reported by their students, suspended from teaching, or even dismissed from teaching. The government controls the expenditures for scientific research, and it’s no secret that the approval system is widely corrupt. Even in such famous institutions as Peking University, students surfing foreign internet sites are charged by the hour. Overseas Chinese students organizations are heavily influenced by Chinese embassies. Mainland students studying at tertiary institutions in Hong Kong must report to and sign up with the Central Liaison Office, the main CCP organization in Hong Kong. If they do not sign up, their degrees will meet with all kinds of restrictions when they return to the Chinese mainland.

On 10 July, 2014, the People’s Daily published an essay titled Take a Closer Look at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) – Raise High the Banner of Marxism, Make Scholarship for the People. According to this essay, CASS’s strength is “demonstrated in its academic attitude of having a strong political stance” and “making scholarship for the people.” CASS announced that it was taking political discipline as the primary factor in evaluating its members, and that CASS was strictly implementing a one vote veto system whereby those being evaluated for political adherence could have their evaluation failed by a single nay vote among evaluators. Is an academic institution that takes political discipline as a priority still a normal academic institution? No wonder Chinese netizens ridiculed CASS’ Director Wang Weiguang for his essay Domestic Class Struggle Will Never Be Extinguished.

But CASS does appear to be a magnificent academic institution: “39 research institutes, 180 research centers, nearly 300 disciplines, nearly 4000 researchers, an average of 300 academic publications per annum, more than 3,890 kinds of scientific papers, more than 510 research reports, and more than 1,200 important policy recommendations have been submitted….”

Abnormal power structures result in abnormal social forms. For this reason, citing abnormalities in Chinese society is an impossible task because the list will have no end.

But different from previous and present autocracies loathed by people,  China’s communist regime has been working to export its abnormalities. As the recent APEC meeting made it clear, China wants to be considered equal to the other great nations. But China does not want to do what it did in earlier years any more when it used concealment and deception to accord with, and mix into, international society. At present, China declares in a lofty tone its opposition to western constitutional democracy, berates “foreign hostile forces,” while at the same time compelling the world to accord with and become accustomed to China.

The original purpose of the west’s diplomatic tactics, such as engagement, negotiations and cooperation, are all meant to allow civilization to influence barbarism, to let in enlightenment, and to allow the normal supercede the abnormal. However, many a times, these efforts in reality have worked as an endorsement of an abnormal country, making the abnormal normal. When people choose not to see China’s abnormalities, the world itself has already become abnormal.

 

————-

Other essays by Chang Ping on this site:

How Brainwashing Works in China

The Triumph of Propaganda

Chinese Communist Party as the Mafia Boss

Tiananmen Massacre not a “Passing Lapse” of the Chinese Government

Without the Right to Remember There Can Be No Freedom to Forget

 

Chang Ping.

Chang Ping.

Chang Ping (长平) was the former chief commentator and news director of Southern Weekend whose work was censored by the Chinese government until he was expelled and all his writings censored in China in early 2011. He lives in Germany now and is a current affairs commentator for South China Morning Post. This essay is written exclusively for China Change.

 

(Translated by Ai Ru)

 

 

PRC–the Party Representatives of China–Does Not Pass the Minimum Test

By YANG Jianli, President, Initiatives for China, former political prisoner of China (2002-2006)

Published: November 9, 2013            

 

 

Dr. Yang Jianli

Dr. Yang Jianli

Last night, I was on the phone with Ms. Zhang Qing, the wife of Guo Feixiong (pen name for Yang Maodong). Guo, who was imprisoned from 2006 to 2011 for peacefully demonstrating in defense of journalists’ rights, was arrested again on August 8 by Chinese authorities on “suspicion of gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.” Since Guo’s arrest, his lawyers had been unlawfully prohibited from seeing him on eight occasions—unlawful according to China’s own legal code.  During Guo’s previous incarceration he was severely tortured, which makes the family suspect that he is being tortured now as well, or that he may even be dead.   

On the phone Ms. Zhang Qing was crying.  She had called me in desperation, thinking that the connections I’ve made over the years with many of the world’s democratic governments would enable me to rally international support for Guo.

I was hoping to do just that. But right now the international situation regarding China and human rights is in a particularly Kafkaesque moment. China, the world’s most notorious human rights abuser, is vying to become a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, the organization charged with protecting human rights around the world.  The UN General Assembly vote is Tuesday, and it’s not looking good for believers in human rights, or human decency.

I cannot help asking the question: What would these democratic governments, including that of the U.S., say to the Guo family if they do vote to place the world’s leading human rights abuser on the body charged with protecting human rights?  What level of shame will they feel knowing that more than 13,000 Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians have had the courage to sign their real names to a petition urging a “no” vote, thus putting themselves, ordinary, defenseless citizens, squarely in harm’s way?

These governments know that China’s human rights record has been and continues to be, simply abominable, outside the norms of civilized nations. They know that China has failed in the recent UN universal periodic review of its human rights situation to demonstrate any commitment to addressing its dismal record.

Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄)

Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄)

One argument for including China on the Human Rights Council is that membership may pressure it to bring its record more into line with acceptable international norms of moral behavior. But China was on the Council before, from 2009 to 2012, and did not for a moment ameliorate its policies of brutality and suppression. China is the only country today incarcerating a Nobel laureate (Peace Prize winner Liu Xioabo). China’s failed ethnic policies have ignited large scale deadly incidents in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. In recent years there have been more than 130 Tibetan self-immolations. Rights activists such as Guo Feixiong commonly find themselves imprisoned and their families hounded. China’s past Council memberships did not stop it for a single day from perpetrating widespread suffering through its policies of forced abortion, forced sterilization, forced eviction, land grabbing, illegal disappearances, black jails, and torture.

Should any government still feel persuaded to ensconce China on the Human Rights Council, I propose the following thought experiment.  Assuming that the barest of minimum criteria for any government to be on the council would be that it allow the distribution of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights in its country.

Now, 1:  Imagine you are a citizen of China.

2. Imagine you travel to the Czech Republic, Japan, or Canada.

3. Imagine that you go to a public place in the capitals of these countries and distribute copies of the Declaration of Human Rights, thus exercising your rights under articles 18, 19, and 20 of the Declaration pertaining to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

4.  Imagine the reaction of the authorities in those countries.

5.  Now imagine going to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, your own capital, and doing the same thing.

6.  Now imagine where you will be the next day, and very likely for the next X number of years.

Imagine these things, then imagine the scope of the travesty of naming the Peoples Republic of China as one of the world’s protectors of basic human rights.

It is important to note nowadays nobody can even walk through Tiananmen Square without fear. It is more so today since it is being even more heavily secured for the on-going Third Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.  Just like for the Party’s 18th Congress a year ago, indeed for any important event in the Party’s life, the ruling Party’s monstrous stability maintaining system is now treating people as enemies and placing many dissidents, rights defenders and petitioners under even tighter control. In the PRC, people, as potential enemies of the State, no longer share a common political life with the Communist Party and in effect PRC stands for the Party Representatives of China.  Democracies’ allowing a seat for such a PRC on the UNHRC is truly farcical.

 

Related reading:

Denied Meetings, Lawyers Fear for Advocate Guo Feixiong