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China flexed its muscle on Thursday and succeeded in blocking a debate at the Human Rights Council on the situation of the Uyghur minority, following the publication of a UN report confirming serious violations against this community perpetrated by Beijing.
A group of Western countries – led by the U.S. and Norway – submitted to the UNHRC a draft resolution of apparently modest content, since it only proposed that at the next session of this body – to be held between February and March 2023 – there should be a discussion on the conclusions of this report.
China expressed its “strongest opposition” to the idea, saying that the report “lacks any value”, a position supported by several developing countries in a vote in which they won by 19 votes against the debate, 17 in favor, and 11 abstained.
“This is not a matter of procedure, but of substance. The US and other countries want to put on the agenda of this Council a problem that does not exist in Xinjiang,” said the Chinese ambassador to the UN headquarters in Geneva, Chen Xu, during the discussion of the Western proposal.
According to the diplomat, the real intention of the initiative was to take advantage of UN bodies “to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
“This is not in favor of human rights, but a political manipulation. In Xinjiang (the Chinese province where the Uyghurs are settled), there is not a human rights problem, but a problem of separatism and the fight against terrorism. Xinjiang has finally been safe from terrorist attacks for the past five years,” he argued.
France, Finland, the Netherlands and other European countries considered that the findings presented in the report on Xinjiang should not be left without follow-up and that it is legitimate to analyze such allegations.
The U.S. noted that the proposal provided “a neutral forum for discussion and for China to present its point of view.”
The report on Xinjiang noted that some of the human rights violations against the Uyghurs were so serious that they could be considered crimes against humanity.
The result of the vote provoked a bitter reaction among human rights organizations.
“Today a vote was taken to protect the perpetrators of violations rather than the victims. It is an outcome that makes a mockery of the UN’s top human rights body by making it ignore an investigation by its own Human Rights Office,” Amnesty International said.
For Human Rights Watch this result was “an abdication of the duty to protect Uyghur victims”, although the difference of only two votes between “yes” and “no” also shows that many countries want light to be shed on what has happened in Xinjiang, where it has been corroborated that at least until 2019 Uyghur internment centers were in operation.
Research indicates that up to one million members of this Muslim minority were confined in these compounds for various periods, while Beijing claims it was in order to “de-radicalize” them.