The reputation of UN agencies took another blow this week, after a year in which widespread criticism of the WHO’s handling of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in China and its acquiescence to Beijing’s stonewalling as the outbreak became a pandemic has perhaps crippled that agency forever.
This week, the UN General Assembly saw fit to once again elect China to serve on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), starting in January next year, after an absence of a year from the council.
Council members serve three-year terms and cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. China sat on the council from its founding in 2006 to 2012, and again from 2014 to last year.
Seats on the council are apportioned based on region and a lot of horse trading goes on, but it is still disappointing that 139 out of 193 nations voted for China, even if that was 41 fewer votes than it received in the 2016 election, and fewer than Russia (158) or any of the other successful candidates garnered in Tuesday’s election.
That China again won a place at the table, despite all of the proof of its genocidal policies in the Xinjiang region, its move to established a similar program in Tibet and the imposition of a scandalous National Security Law on Hong Kong — which threatens the human rights not only of the territory’s residents, but of supporters worldwide of Hong Kong’s democracy movement — makes a mockery of the UNHRC’s raison d’etre.
That the vote came as several Taiwanese who had naively entered China over the past few years were being pilloried on Chinese state television for allegedly being spies for Taipei made it even more galling for most people on this side of the Taiwan Strait.
China’s mission to the UN was quick to post on Twitter on Tuesday to hail the election results, and to promise to promote and protect human rights, but apparently not all members of Beijing’s foreign service saw it. Twitter is banned in China, but several high-ranking diplomatic personnel have established accounts over the past few years — such as Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu (叢培武), who on Thursday issued a not-so-subtle threat to Canadians and Canadian firms in Hong Kong.
At a news conference in Ottawa to mark the 50th anniversary of Canada re-establishing diplomatic ties with China, Cong told his hosts not to offer asylum to Hong Kong activists fleeing Beijing’s persecution, saying that they should support efforts to “fight violent crimes” if they really cared about the “good health and safety” of the 300,000 Canadian passport holders in the territory, and the large number of Canadian companies operating there.
So just as China threatens to prosecute those who back Hong Kong’s democracy movement — regardless of where they might be in the world — Cong’s words are proof that Beijing is willing to expand its policy of state-sanctioned kidnapping into hostage-taking.
People such as China-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai (桂民海), the Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and the four Taiwanese scapegoats paraded on China Central Television are among those who have fallen victim to such machinations.
It is no wonder that a Pew Research Center study published earlier this month found that China is becoming widely disliked around the world and that distrust of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has hit a new high.
It is increasingly important that Taiwan and other democracies push back against China’s efforts to impose the Chinese Communist Party’s paranoid and authoritarian mindset outside its own borders, while continuing to provide moral and other support to those willing to stand up to the party.
One thing is clear this week: People around the world cannot count on the UNHRC to do so.
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