By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 15: China’s re-election to the United National Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday during the 75th General Assembly Session at the UN headquarters in New York is marred by reduced support from member states.
Despite a rigorous campaign from activist groups to vote out China from the Human Rights Council, China won the seat with 139 votes indicating that 52 member states did not vote for China; it had received 167 votes in 2009, 176 in 2013 and 180 votes in 2016.
The activist group International Tibet Network (ITN) noted that the 30% drop in yes-votes shows the number of governments choosing not to shy away from their responsibility to hold China accountable is growing, “While 139 UN Member States voted to allow China a seat on the Human Rights Council, over a quarter of the international community took a stand to not reward the Chinese government’s assault on freedoms in the secret ballot.”
CTA President Lobsang Sangay remarked that China’s election to the council is an “indelible stain” on the credibility of the UNHRC, “The human rights violations in Tibet have gone from bad to worse with reports of over half a million Tibetans subjected to forced labour camps in Tibet. And yet China is elected to one of the most important UN bodies tasked with the protection of human rights . . . However, we should also acknowledge the fact that 41 countries who had voted in favour of China in 2016 have changed their votes and this clearly shows that China’s power is on the decline.”
Mandie McKeown from ITN said that China’s position to the council will shield its record of widespread human rights abuses in Tibet, East Turkistan, Southern Mongolia and China, “China has excluded independent members of civil society from playing important roles in promoting and protecting human rights at the national and international levels. China’s successful election to the Council for a fifth term will only further undermine the ability of the HRC to promote and protect human rights.”
There were five contenders for the Asia-Pacific region and only four seats that were won by Pakistan (169 votes), Uzbekistan (164 votes), Nepal (150 votes), and China who emerged fourth by winning over Saudi Arabia (90 votes). UNHRC has 47 member states elected to the three-year term, and after two consecutive terms, no member state is eligible for another re-election.