Singapore: China faces being censured by the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time in its history, after a UN report detailed mass detention and persecution in Xinjiang.
The Human Rights Council will begin almost a month of meetings in Geneva on Tuesday AEST and is expected to debate a resolution that would formally condemn China’s actions against members of the Uyghur Muslim minority in the north-western Chinese region. The meetings will escalate pressure on Western governments, including Australia, to expand their sanctions against China in a febrile global environment.
US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has been pushing for China to be made accountable for its actions “as soon as possible” but any formal majority vote against China is likely to be one of the closest fought resolutions since the council was formed in 2006. The council is divided between the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Americas, and currently includes China’s close economic partners Brazil, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as well as US allies such as France and Britain. The council’s resolutions are not legally binding, but the evidence collected can be presented to international courts.
China has denied the allegations of human rights abuse in Xinjiang where up to 1 million Uyghurs have reportedly been put through the Chinese government’s re-education programs. Beijing has threatened to withdraw its co-operation from the UN Human Rights Council over findings by former UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who two weeks ago reported credible claims of torture and that China’s actions may constitute a crime against humanity.
China’s ambassador to the UN Chen Xu said any kind of “anti-China action is again doomed to failure”. “We will strongly oppose any move to move this assessment report, launch any kind of motion or joint actions against us,” he said.
Beijing is also facing a number of economic measures against its exports out of Xinjiang. Suppliers for companies including Apple and Nike have been based in the region. Reuters reported on Saturday that the European Union was preparing to ban products made with forced labour in a series of measures designed to follow the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act in the United States and Canada.
Human Rights Watch has urged the Australian government to strengthen its legislation on forced labour and use its sanction powers against Chinese officials under the Magnitsky Act passed last year.
“Australia should impose targeted sanctions against Chinese government officials who are implicated in crimes against humanity and other grave abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
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