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Member states should NOT vote for China in the upcoming UN Human Rights Council elections

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

This blog was authored by Carmen Lau, International Advocacy and Program Associate of the Hong Kong Democracy Council and Co-founder of Hong Kong March, exiled and wanted former District Councillor of Hong Kong

The United Nations Human Rights Council elections are scheduled for October 10th in the General Assembly for the membership term of 2024-2026, with 18 states vying for 15 seats. Unsurprisingly, the Asia-Pacific region elections are uncontested, featuring four candidates for four seats, which raises concerns in itself (which is another issue that requires attention). The candidates from this region include China, Indonesia, Japan, and Kuwait, respectively. With the exception of Kuwait, the other candidates have served on the Council for five terms, while Kuwait has held one term.

The United Nations General Assembly established the Human Rights Council as the intergovernmental body responsible for overseeing and addressing various human rights violations worldwide. As its mandate involves "strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights," Council members must adhere to the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, and meeting specific criteria for membership, including cooperation with various United Nations (UN) mechanisms.

However, China, seeking re-election for the sixth time, is unsuitable to continue holding its position on the Council. Throughout its current term on the Human Rights Council, Chinese authorities have been repeatedly reported, documented and investigated in all UN mechanisms, for committing human rights violations against marginalised groups, including the abuse of the rights of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, and others.

The implementation of the Beijing-imposed National Security Law in Hong Kong in 2020 systematically eroded the basic rights of Hong Kong residents, rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as its own Bill of Rights Ordinance and Basic Law Article 39. The crackdown on civil society and the judicial system has triggered a significant wave of emigration, along with economic damage to Hong Kong. The report that the Hong Kong Democracy Council recently submitted to the Human Rights Council for the fourth cycle of Universal Periodic Review on China comprehensively documented a myriad of human rights abuses that affect every Hong Konger.

Furthermore, Chinese authorities have extended their reach beyond their borders to perpetrate human rights violations. Recently, the Hong Kong government has put bounties on eight overseas Hong Kong activists in the name of "national security", while pursuing dissidents through overseas police service stations. The Hong Kong diaspora is acutely aware of this series of transnational reprisals and intimidation and its impact on our advocacy efforts.

Other ongoing human rights violations, such as the operation of Tibetan colonial boarding schools and Uyghur concentration camps, coupled with China's reluctance to cooperate with UN mechanisms’ investigations, communications, and state visits, highlight the Chinese government's stance on human rights, which is incongruent with the Human Rights Council's mandate and the Human Rights Council membership criteria.

The United Nations has consistently stood alongside human rights defenders and oppressed groups. I hope that member states will vote in line with their commitment to defend human rights under the United Nations.

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