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Vaccine-blackmail compels Ukraine to withdraw from UN rights criticism of China

(TibetanReview.net, Jun26’21) – Ukraine has decided to withdraw from a Jun 22 joint statement at the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which expressed grave concern on the human rights situation in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong after China threatened to withhold from it Covid-19 vaccines made by it, reported the AP Jun 26. Meanwhile Belarus is yet to provide the names of the 64 countries on whose behalf it claimed to have read a statement in support of China at the Council. 

The joint statement on behalf of 44 democratic countries was presented by Canada and it also urged China to allow immediate access for independent observers to Xinjiang where genocide of Uyghur Muslims is widely reported to be taking place.

On Jun 24, Ukraine pulled its name off the list of supporting states after China warned Kyiv that they would block a planned shipment to it of at least 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines unless it did so, the report cited diplomats from two western countries as saying.

Ukraine had agreed to purchase 1.9 million doses of CoronaVac vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech. As of early May, it had received 1.2 million doses, the report cited Health Minister Maxim Stepanov as saying.

The Chinese pressure is seen as an escalation of intense recent efforts by Beijing to push back against criticism of its rights record, this time by potentially jeopardizing health – even lives – as a way to minimize international attention to it, the diplomats were cited as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

One of the Western diplomats has called it a sign of “bare-knuckles” diplomacy by China. The other diplomat has cited “reports of significant pressure in Kyiv,” adding, “last night the delegation told us they needed to pull out.”

Ukraine was briefly country No. 45 in support of the statement before its withdrawal.

The situation could still change. Under the practice of the 47-member council, countries can add their names to statements or resolutions up to two weeks after the end of a session. The current 3 1/2-week session that began Jun 21 runs until Jul 13.

Belarus had read a joint statement – supposedly by 64 countries – speaking out in defense of China’s right to manage its own internal affairs such as with Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

However, a spokesman for the council’s secretariat was cited as saying Belarus had not provided a list of those 64 countries.

China also claimed that over 90 countries had, through various means, voiced their support for China on Xinjiang, Hong Kong or Tibet related issues at the on-going 47th session of the UN rights body. This claim now also looks dubious.

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