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China lobbied countries to praise its rights record at UN’s universal review meeting

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(, Jan23’24) – Even as it demanded that the issue be not politicized, China has been lobbying non-Western countries, asking them to praise its human rights record ahead of a UN group’s Jan 23 meeting in Geneva where it was going to face questions and criticism over its widely reported and documented record especially in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

China’s mission at the United Nations in Geneva had been sending memos to envoys in the build-up to the review of its record by the UN Human Rights Council meeting, Reuters Jan 22 cited four diplomats as saying.

In early January this year, a diplomatic note sent by China’s diplomatic mission to countries read: “I would kindly request your delegation to render valuable support to China and make constructive recommendations in the interactive dialogue … taking into account the friendly relations and cooperation between our two countries,” the report said.

Other notes sent to at least three non-Western countries included specific speaking points to raise, including comments praising China’s record on women’s rights and disability, the report added.

As a result of China’s lobbying efforts, an extraordinarily high number of 163 countries — some critics of Beijing, some allies — have registered to take part in the review meeting. That means each will have no longer than 45 seconds to speak, noted the AP Jan 23.

Apart from a wide-range of reports already available to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, and the speeches made during the meeting, member-countries could also send advanced questions. The United States, which sent two pages of advanced questions, asked China to cease what it called human rights abuses including unjust detention, forced labour and reprisals across the country and in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Reuters cited UN documents as showing.

China, whose delegation will be led by its top ambassador in Geneva, Chen Xu, could field a delegation that had up to 70 minutes to make its case, the report noted.

But China routinely rejects all criticisms of its human rights record, calling them a pretext to interfere in its internal affairs.

Still, “these are all opportunities for countries to offer congratulations, criticisms and recommendations. Only recommendations expressly formulated as such … are taken into account in the review report,” Pascal Sim, the top spokesperson for the council has said.

The “universal periodic review” involves all UN member states coming up for scrutiny by other countries roughly every five years. The hours-long discussion aims to offer constructive criticism that underpins a written report that will offer recommendations, not criticism.

China is one of 14 states to be reviewed by the UPR working group between Jan 22 and Feb 2.

China’s human rights record was previously reviewed by the UPR in 2009, 2013 and 2018.

Both the reviews’ many recommendations and China’s implementation of them have been criticized by rights groups, the former for being “weak, vague, or based on flawed assumptions” and the latter for rejecting most of the recommendations, rendering the review process an exercise in futility.


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