By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, APR 8: China’s appointment in the Consultative group of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), an organ of the UN General Assembly, drew scores of criticism amid claims of silencing doctors and media during the ongoing outbreak worldwide. Jiang Duan, a Chinese mission official in Geneva was nominated and elected for the post from regional Asian grouping on Apr. 1.
China has been one of the consistent members of the council as it previously held a seat as a UNHRC member from 2006 to 2019 on four consecutive terms. The appointment raises concern as the panel oversees recommendations for UN Human Rights experts and China has repeatedly denied basic freedom to Uyghurs, Tibetans, HongKongers, and other ethnic minorities.
The consultative panel exercises power over recommending candidates according to directives of “Special Procedures”, “Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, and the “Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Development”. It consists of five ambassadors, each representing five UN regional groups.
There has been an international outcry about human rights in China after the strict measures taken during the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr. Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who succumbed to his infection to Covid-19, tried to warn the world about coronavirus but authorities summoned and compelled him to sign a statement his warning was “illegal behaviour”. Other reports of disinformation spread by the Chinese media have been surging over the internet, accusing China of mishandling the crisis.
U.S. Representative Chris Smith, a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and ranking member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, condemned Jiang Duan’s appointment to the UNHRC’s Consultative Group. “There is no justification whatsoever in empowering a Chinese government official, Jiang Duan, to investigate human rights abuses until there is a reckoning with regard to China’s own record,” Smith said.
Pro-Tibet advocacy group ICT has put out a statement on Monday criticizing the appointment, “China has demonstrated a hostile attitude toward the universality and interdependence of international human rights standards for Tibetans, Uyghurs and the Chinese people themselves… ICT believes China’s membership in the Consultative Group is a severe blow to the credibility of the international human rights system.”