10/07/2022, 14.10
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The UN’s useless Human Rights Council turns down debate over Xinjiang abuses

by Emanuele Scimia

The UN body refuses to discuss its own report about human rights violations that might constitute crimes against humanity. Many Muslim majority countries vote against the motion. China’s lobbying campaign proves effective. The UN system is a "diplomatic bazaar" that solves nothing.


Rome (AsiaNews) – A motion before the United Nations Human Rights Council to start a debate on the fate of Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic-speaking minorities in China’s Xinjiang region fell short of two votes yesterday.

In doing so, the UN body rejected its own report. After several postponements, the document was released on 31 August, the last day in office of then Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile.

According to the report, accusations by experts, humanitarian groups, and international media that China is guilty of crimes against humanity vis-à-vis its Muslim minorities are "credible".

Abuses include holding almost two million people, mostly Uyghurs, in actual concentration camps, and forcing them to perform forced labour.

China has rejected the charges, claiming that people in Xinjiang are enrolled in vocational training centres and are taking part in projects to reduce poverty and fight terrorism and separatism.

Sponsored by the United States and other mostly Western states, as well as Turkey, the motion sought to start a discussion about the report’s content, not opening an official investigation, at least for now.

Some 19 countries voted against it: Bolivia, Cameroon, China, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.

Only 17 voted in favour: Czechia, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Montenegro, Netherlands, Paraguay, Poland, South Korea, Somalia, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Ukraine abstained.

Several Muslim-majority countries backed China, fearful of harming political ties and trade relations with the People’s Republic. Such a choice could have domestic repercussions.

Turning a blind eye to what is happening in Xinjiang, these countries will leave the ground to Islamic extremists and terrorists, who can champion the Uyghur cause and even threaten China.

The recent call to arms against Beijing by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State is an example of that.

Kazakhs protesting in front of the Chinese consulate in Almaty for more than 600 days against the imprisonment of their relatives in Xinjiang, eliciting no response from Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and his government, may take notice.

With a greenlight from the Biden administration to act as a mediator in the Russo-Ukrainian War, Erdogan's Turkey felt strong enough to propose the discussion even though it is not a member of the Human Rights Council and so could not vote.

For its part, China conducted an effective lobbying campaign, "warning" that a debate on Xinjiang would turn into Western meddling in the domestic affairs of developing countries.

Now a real discussion should start on the usefulness of the entire UN system, which is wasting taxpayers’ money from member states to draft official reports that are not even debated.

The United Nations appears powerless to solve problems, serving more like a bazaar where the main global players weave diplomatic cobwebs to boost their power position. Ukraine, North Korea, Iran and Xinjiang, to cite but the latest cases, are lessons to take home.

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