By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Apr. 2: China has used warnings and pressure as a means to suppress criticism of its poor human rights record during the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that was held in Geneva last month, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
The international human rights watchdog said that China had “no credible response” to concerns raised about the government’s rights violations by member states other than to “twist arms and mount propaganda displays” to counter legitimate criticism.
John Fisher, Geneva director of the HRW, said, “For years China has worked behind the scenes to weaken UN human rights mechanisms. But the growing global outcry over its mistreatment of Xinjiang’s Muslims has sent China into panic mode, using public as well as private pressure to block concerted international action.
“It speaks volumes that China felt it necessary to twist arms and mount propaganda displays to try to suppress scrutiny of its rights record,” Fisher added.
Human Rights Watch cited a letter that China sent to delegates, warning that they should not “co-sponsor, participate in or be present” during a panel event on March 13 on human rights violations in Xinjiang, hosted by the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
The letter explicitly stated that “bilateral relations and continued multilateral cooperation” between their governments and Beijing is at stake. Some delegates have also reported to have been warned in person to not attend the event.
During China’s routine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) assessment, member states raised number of concerns about China’s efforts to curtail criticism and to portray its rights record in a better light.
The concerns raised included China’s attempt to coerce member states into providing false or misleading responses on critical issues, such as on violations of religious freedom; mass detention centers, urging delegations to sign up for the UPR to praise China’s rights record; approaching delegations that criticized China’s rights record to warn of negative consequences to their bilateral relationship; seeking to silence a nongovernmental group from speaking on Xinjiang at the council by raising points of order, among others.