Western countries and China are waging an influence battle over the UN Human Rights Council, with China pushing aggressively to stop the organization from acting on its human rights abuses in Xinjiang this week.
The HRC will open for business Monday for the first time since a UN report acknowledged abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang in late August. While China’s abuses against Uyghurs have been widely documented, the report was the first time the UN specifically investigated the matter.
Western democracies are considering a resolution condemning China and calling for further investigation, but China may hold enough sway over the body to defeat such a move, Reuters reported Sunday.
“The developing world will reject all anti-China initiatives initiated by Western countries,” China’s UN ambassador, Chen Xu, argued last week. “Any kind of anti-China effort is doomed to failure.”
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As an international organization, the HRC has little power to take action against sovereign states. Its role is typically to build consensus or push for the opening of investigations.
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The U.S. has already condemned China’s actions in Xinjiang as “genocide,” one of the few points of agreement between President Joe Biden’s administration and former President Donald Trump’s.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pushed for further action when the UN released its report Aug. 31.
“The United States welcomes … this important report, which describes authoritatively the abhorrent human rights treatment of the Uyghurs and other minority communities by the People’s Republic of China government,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at the time. “The report deepens our grave concern regarding the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity that China is perpetrating. Our position on the atrocities in Xinjiang has been clearly demonstrated with our words and in our actions.”
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China, meanwhile, argues the UN report is a fabrication and continues to insist it is not committing crimes against Uyghurs.