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China in overdrive to defend its UN-battered rights record ahead of review report

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan25’24) As the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group at Geneva prepared to finalize on Jan 26 its recommendations on the basis of its Jan 23 hearing, China has put itself in an overdrive to defend its record. This followed news reports and reports by rights groups that despite its efforts to stymie discussions, China received scathing criticism for its record especially in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, with a record number of participants expressing serious concern on the situation in Tibet.

China claimed that more than 120 countries “spoke highly” of its “human rights progress”. They “fully acknowledged China’s effort and historic achievements in advancing and protecting human rights,” said China’s official Xinhua news agency Jan 24, citing the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson that day.

The remark from spokesperson Wang Wenbin had come in response to a question from a representative of an official Chinese media group, the Hubei Media Group, during a regular press conference, who asked: “Representatives attending the meeting spoke highly of China’s human rights development path and historic achievements in human rights cause. Can you share more details with us?”

Also, China’s official chinadaily.com.cn Jan 25 published an open letter addressed to the President of the UN Human Rights Council, signed by a total of 73 so-called Chinese civil society organizations. The open letter criticized Tibetan and other groups that had contributed reports or made presentations during the review hearing. It accused them of having “spread false information and cause trouble on a large scale, with the purpose of attacking and smearing China.”

The open letter especially named “so-called International Federation for Human Rights, International Campaign for Tibet (Xizang) and Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy”. It accused them of “inciting other countries to attack and criticize China” on issues “such as colonial boarding school system”, “repression of Tibetan Buddhism”, “systematic attacks on the Tibetan language”, “limit the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of peaceful association and assembly”, “denial of the legal rights of detainees and prisoners”, and “torture and other forms of ill-treatment”.

The open letter maintained that the success of the reports of these groups at the reviewwill significantly impact the credibility of the Human Rights Council, seriously disrupt the enthusiasm and expectations of normal participation by countries worldwide and global NGOs in the working mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, greatly harm the sentiments of the 1.4 billion people in China including Xizang, and severely misguide the global populace’s accurate understanding and international public opinion of Xizang.”

The open letter especially focused on the reports on the situation in “Xizang”, the term China recently began to use in place of “Tibet” in furtherance of its policy-objective of Sinicizing the Tibetan identity of the Tibetan Plateau region.

Apparently seeking a set of recommendations that would praise rather than call for improvement in its human rights record, the letter said: “We strongly urge the Human Rights Council to remember the original intention and mission of establishing the universal periodic review mechanism, eliminate confusing noises, prevent lies and false accusations impacting the Council’s consideration of significant human rights issues with genuine practical significance.”

The open letter’s long list of “civil society” signatories included a number of educational and research centres, especially from the Tibetan regions, as well as chambers of commerce and an assortment of other entities, all of them government-backed or government-run.

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