(UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré )
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports Chinese officials sent a letter to UN ambassadors warning them “in the interest of bilateral relations and continued multilateral cooperation,” they should not “co-sponsor, participate in or be present at” a panel event critical of China’s human rights record in Xinjiang.
Delegates from the global South further reported Chinese diplomats had personally approached them and advised them not to attend the panel event on 13 March.
The panel was established in response to credible reports of the arbitrary detention of an estimated one million Turkic Muslims (Uighurs) in China’s Xinjiang. It was hosted by the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom during the UN Human Rights Council’s fortieth regular session which concluded on March 22.
John Fisher, Geneva Director for HRW, said in a statement, “For years China has worked behind the scenes to weaken UN human rights mechanisms […] the growing global outcry over its mistreatment of Xinjiang’s Muslims has sent China into panic mode, using public as well as private pressure to block concerted international action.”
During this session, China’s human rights record was placed under scrutiny with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a regular review of the rights record of each UN member state. HRW reports the UPR session raised several concerns over China’s attempts to crush criticism and manipulate their record.
- “Pressuring UN officials to remove the UN country team and certain nongovernmental organization submissions from UPR materials;
- Providing blatantly false or misleading responses on critical issues, such as on violations of religious freedom; mass detention centers, and lack of due process safeguards in Xinjiang;
- Urging delegations to sign up for the UPR to praise China’s rights record;
- Approaching delegations that criticized China’s rights record to warn of negative consequences to their bilateral relationship;
- Prevailing upon member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to commend China for its treatment of its Muslim population;
- Flooding speaker lists with government-organized nongovernmental organizations (GONGOs) to uncritically endorse China’s rights record, while not allowing any opportunity for independent China groups to participate in any government consultation or make submissions without fear of reprisals;
- Seeking to block accreditation of a Uyghur activist, Dolkun Isa, and publicly denouncing him without basis as a “terrorist” during an event held by a nongovernmental group, and denouncing a Uyghur panelist at the state-led side event, ominously citing details of the whereabouts and status of his family members;
- Exhibiting a massive week-long photo display outside UN meeting rooms depicting Uyghurs as happy and grateful to the Chinese authorities; and
- Seeking to silence a nongovernmental group from speaking on Xinjiang at the council by raising points of order”.
Read HRW statement here.