What the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council achieved

By Mauro Gia Samonte

WHILE the alleged violations of the human rights of the Uyghur Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, China happened more than a year ago, it came to the fore once more when the United States raised it in the recently concluded 51st UN Human Rights Council session which took place from September 12 to Oct. 7, 2022. The US and a small group of Western countries, including Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, presented a draft proposal to hold a special debate over the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang region at the council’s next session in early 2023.

Satellite images of factories in Xinjiang in Northwestern China taken by the United States and passed on to the world as concentration camps for Uyghur Muslims. PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE

The readers must be reminded of just how untiring the US is in its hegemonic designs so that what is otherwise an insignificant incident already overtaken by events must be revived once more. The US proposal at the Human Rights Council session was complete with satellite images which the US took and promoted worldwide as concentration camps for some 2 million Uyghur Muslims from 2015 up to 2020. Also in the proposal were reiterations of allegations of atrocities committed against the Uyghur consisting of: “interrogation and torture, corporal punishment, religious persecution, sexual violence, inhumane medical treatment, indoctrination, prohibitions on detainees speaking their native tongue, compulsory labor, forced birth control, abortion, among other abuses.”

Beijing certainly was enraged the first time the US raised the Xinjiang issue, and as ultimate proof of the false propaganda, it opened up the doors of the Xinjiang region to investigating teams from the United Nations. The UN contingent confirmed that the establishments alleged by the US propagandists to be concentration camps were factories where the Uyghur work for their living. Not content with these findings, the US pressured UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to go see for herself. Probe the allegations of violations of human rights which, according to the US, are tantamount to genocide. Bachelet made a six-day visit to China in May this year, but found nothing to the US satisfaction. Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard veritably served as the US spokesman in this regard:

“The high commissioner’s visit has been characterized by photo opportunities with senior government officials and manipulation of her statements by Chinese state media, leaving an impression that she has walked straight into a highly predictable propaganda exercise for the Chinese government.”

Bachelet took offense at this and declared that she was no longer interested in serving another term as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Of what worth would she be really if she had to kowtow always to US wishes? Definitely, she must not have seen any of what the US wanted her to say. Why fault her for not saying what she did not see?

So, by the US’ own action at the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, the old issue of alleged violations of human rights committed against minorities in the Xinjiang region needed to be attended to again by the countries of the world.

In fact, as far as the Human Rights Council is concerned, the Xinjiang human rights issue is an entirely new one. If approved, the debate demanded by the US proposal would be the first time those alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang would be on the agenda of the council. That in itself would be a signal victory for the US at this stage of its confrontation with China. So, the US resorted to veritable arm twisting of council members to pass the proposal. Nonetheless, what do we get? In the deliberations, China did not need to do much talking. Other countries did the talking for it. For instance, on behalf of 70 countries, a representative from Pakistan made a joint statement calling for a stop to interfering in China’s internal affairs on the pretext of human rights.

One report goes that 20 countries also made statements to support China’s stance at the Human Rights Council, making 100 the total number of China’s supporters. In contrast, those supporting the United States were, in the words of Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, “a handful.”

“Certain Western countries use the Human Rights Council as a tool for political manipulation. They blatantly apply double standards and have gone so far as to name and shame some developing countries, and openly pressure them. This has poisoned the atmosphere and led to aggravated confrontation at the Human Rights Council, which is detrimental to international human rights cooperation,” Wang said.

He also noted: “The fact that nearly 100 countries have expressed their understanding and support for China’s legitimate position in various ways at the Human Rights Council showed that the attempts of a handful of Western countries to use so-called human rights issues to attack and smear China have failed time and again. This speaks volumes about who enjoys broad support and who doesn’t.”

True enough, on the issue of human rights violations, how does China stand vis-à-vis the United States?

Take it from this report on the six-day visit by High Commissioner Bachelet to China: “On Saturday, May 28, the high commissioner held a virtual press conference in Guangzhou, where she spoke about her mission to China. She met with government officials, the business community and members of civil society. In regard to Xinjiang, she spoke about how counterterrorism measures should not result in human rights violations and need to be subjected to independent oversight. She also mentioned linguistics, religious, cultural and education rights in Tibet and other human rights issues… she admired China’s efforts in protecting human rights.”

As to the United States, its very formation is anchored on the virtual extinction of the entire original inhabitants of North America, the Indian race which the Mayflower Pilgrims from Europe, the American forebears, completely supplanted, grabbing the entire Indian territory; on thousands upon thousands of Filipinos slaughtered by American troops in their annexation of the Philippine islands in the 1800s; on thousands upon thousands of Japanese civilians incinerated by American atomic bombs that rained ruin on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War 2; on thousands upon thousands of Americans sacrificed in the 9/11 Twin Towers crash to justify the subsequent American war against terror in the Middle East; oh, the list is long.

Ah, irony of ironies, the US raises the specter of human rights violations against China, not realizing that by doing so, the specter is unraveled to be itself.

This must be the hallmark achievement of the 51st session of the Human Rights Council.

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