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China survives on United Nations rights council

HONG KONG (SE): “Voting to put China on the council again would be like picking a fox to guard the henhouse, while still wiping the feathers away from his mouth after his last meal,” Yang Jianli, wrote in the Washington Post on October 24 in an op-ed piece calling on the United Nations (UN) not to reelect China to the Human Rights Council.

The UN General Assembly was set to choose new members for the council on October 28, but human rights advocates had been saying that counties like China, Russia, Cuba and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that have dubious human rights records should not be considered.

In the wash up, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia retained their spots, but Russia, which has been a member since the council’s inception in 2006, lost out to Croatia.

Yang, who is a veteran of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and a stint in prison from 2002 to 2007 for fomenting labour unrest, wrote, “By any stretch of the imagination, no reasonable person could really believe that China’s inclusion in the Human Rights Council would cause it to behave—that is, to meet its obligations to respect and protect human rights—not only under the several international treaties it has signed, but also under its own constitution.”

Yang pointed to the past three years, saying that China has continued its repressive policies against Christians, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, Falun Gong practitioners and Hong Kong democrats.

The Human Rights Defenders network said that it is high time that the international community sent a message to China that its human rights record is not acceptable.

Radio Free Asia reported that China uses its spot on the Human Rights Council to thwart the development of human rights mechanisms and promote its own views and principles, which have little to do with those of the UN.

The network accused China of manoeuvring to undermine human rights norms and deliberately weaken UN institution-building.

Radio Free Asia also quoted the China Human Rights Defenders as accusing China of continually ignoring requests from international organisations for data and specific information, in addition to failing to implement recommendations made after its review by the UN working groups, especially in the area of torture and the rights of women and children.

He also pointed out that China has failed to ratify a raft of international covenants protecting political, civil and economic rights, which it signed in 1998 in its scramble to look good in its bid for host the Olympic Games in 2008.

However, Yang believes that the international community is letting itself down, by allowing its fear of China’s economic power to overrule its sense of right and wrong in the field of human rights.

“Today, many of the world’s leading democracies are afraid of China’s economic power,” Yang wrote in the Washington Post. “So they make little or no effort to bilaterally press China on human rights issues.”

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