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A UN body refuses to discuss China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, a blow to the West

A UN body refuses to discuss China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, a blow to the West
  • A narrow defeat seen as a blow to the West and the credibility of the United Nations
  • First attempt to put China’s rights record on the agenda
  • Muslim countries such as Pakistan reject the proposal
  • China lobbied hard against the debate on the sidelines

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to reject a Western-led proposal for a discussion on allegations of human rights abuses by China against Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang, in a victory for Beijing as it sought to avoid more. audit.

The defeat – 19 against, 17 against, 11 abstentions – is only the second time in the council’s 16-year history that a proposal has been rejected, and is seen by observers as a setback to both accountability efforts, the West’s moral authority over human rights and the credibility of the UN itself.

The United States, Canada and Britain were among the countries that made the proposal.

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“This is a disaster. This is really disappointing,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, whose mother died in a camp and lost her two brothers.

“We will never give up, but we are really disappointed with the reactions of Islamic countries,” he added.

Qatar, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan rejected the proposal, citing the risk of alienating China. Phil Lynch, director of the International Service for Human Rights, described the vote’s record as “shameful” on Twitter.

New goals “tomorrow”

China’s envoy had warned before the vote that the proposal would create a precedent for examining human rights records in other countries.

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“Today’s China is being targeted. Tomorrow any other developing country will be targeted,” Chen Shuo said, adding that the discussion would lead to “new confrontations.” Read more

Jamal Rihi cheers with others during a rally to cheer Canada and other countries as they contemplate China’s treatment of its Uyghur population and Muslim minorities as genocide, outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, US on February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

The United Nations Human Rights Office on August 31 released a long-awaited report that found serious human rights abuses in Xinjiang that may constitute crimes against humanity, adding to the pressure on China.

Rights groups accuse Beijing of committing abuses against the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority of about 10 million people in the western region of Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labor in internment camps. The United States accuses China of genocide. Beijing strongly denies any violations.

huge pressure

The proposal is the first time that the rights record of China, a powerful permanent member of the Security Council, has been on the council’s agenda. The provision caused divisions and a diplomat said countries were under enormous pressure from Beijing to support China.

Countries such as Britain, the United States and Germany pledged to continue working for accountability despite Thursday’s result. Read more

But activists said defeating such a limited proposal, which fell short of pursuing an investigation, would make it difficult to put it back on the agenda.

That was a “serious miscalculation,” Mark Lemon of Universal Rights Group said, citing the timing that coincides with a proposal to lead the West to move on Russia.

“It is a serious blow to the council’s credibility and a clear victory for China,” he said. “Many developing countries will view it as an adjustment away from Western hegemony in the UN human rights system.”

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The event has raised political dilemmas for many poorer nations on the 47-member council who are loath to openly challenge China for fear of inflating investment.

Others may have wanted to avoid future scrutiny themselves.

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(Reporting by Emma Farge) Editing by Miranda Murray, Nick McPhee, Bernadette Baume and Jonathan Otis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.