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Author: Harsh Mangal, III year of B.A.,LL.B. from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

Recently in October, China was reelected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for another three-year term. This development was criticized globally by various human rights experts and various organisations.

China always claims that they work for the betterment of human rights conditions, and they support this claim with the fact that since 1971, China has been an active participant in the system of the United Nations. China is one of the five permanent members in the United Nations Security Council, the sixth-largest contributor to the regular budget of the UN. Besides this China is the party to the six core human rights treaties of the UN, namely-

  1. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[1],

  2. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)[2],

  3. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT)[3],

  4. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)[4],

  5. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)[5],

  6. International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)[6].

During UNHRC campaigning, China also claimed that-

  1. The Chinese government protects the right to vote and express.

  2. Actively cooperates in International human rights affairs.

  3. Fulfils international human rights obligations.

  4. China gave the topmost priority to people’s health and lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  5. China was transparent in giving information regarding COVID-19.

Though these claims did not seem to be valid, as-

- People of China are not free to choose their leadership, as their elections are not conducted lawfully and the President is elected by the leadership of the Communist party.[7] Freedom of speech and expression is also violated by the Chinese government. According to the committee which was formulated to protect the journalists, China is among the top 10 countries of the world with most censorship and jailing of journalists, human rights activists and WeChat users is a common practice for the Chinese government.[8] [9]

- It is also noticed that China does not take criticism from civil society at meetings of the United Nations. NGOs were not allowed to attend President Xi’s speech when he addressed the UN in Geneva in January 2017. In 2017 only, Chinese-Uighur rights activist Dolkun Isa was thrown out from a meeting by UN security officials at New York headquarters.[10] In 2018, Zeid Hussein, then-High Commissioner for human rights shown his disappointment at China’s increasing efforts to stop independent civil society members from engaging with human rights mechanism.[11]

- It was seen that Chinese government tried to cover up the COVID-19 outbreak in the initial stages and in-fact those who tried to give correct information and save lives were punished, like Dr. Li Wenliang of Wuhan.[12] China did not give important information regarding COVID-19 outbreak to WHO on time[13], and this in one of the main reasons for the uncontrollable spread of this disease.

This was the false claims made by the Chinese government, but besides this, it is also seen that they believe what they do is right according to their historical conditions and is important for their national interest. According to them the idea of western constitutional democracy has been hyped recently and it is imposed on the developing countries like China which is an attempt to sabotage the current Chinese system of governance and leadership. According to China, promoting civil society is used as a political tool by the anti-China forces of the west to disrupt the social foundation of the ruling party of China. They believe that the media should work to maintain the spirit of the ruling party and anti-China forces try to promote the western idea of journalism under the pretext of “freedom of the press” and this undermines the basic principles of their country.

China believes that human rights cannot be universal and differs from country to country according to historical conditions. Reelection of China to the United Nations Human Rights Council encourages the concept of China’s own human rights policy. The UN should show some intent to keep away countries like China from its bodies like UNHRC which was formulated to protect the human rights of people across the world, and till then democracies like India should not take everything coming from UNHRC seriously and should not rely on it much.















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