China underwent scrutiny of its human rights record at a United Nations meeting on Jan 23, with mostly Western countries calling for protections for Xinjiang Uighurs and greater freedom in Hong Kong that Beijing dismissed as guidance based on lies.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN in Geneva was the first since the global body’s top rights official released a report in 2022 saying the detention of Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region may constitute crimes against humanity.
Beijing denies any abuses.
China, which sent a large delegation with dozens of officials, had been lobbying non-Western countries to praise its human rights record ahead of the meeting by sending memos to envoys in recent weeks, diplomats told Reuters.
China’s delegation in Geneva said on Jan 23 that it has made progress since its last UN review in 2018, lifting nearly 100 million people out of poverty.
Ambassador Chen Xu said at the meeting: “We embarked on a path of human rights development that is in keeping with the trend of the times and appropriate to China’s national conditions, and scored historic achievements in this process.”
Some 163 countries spoke at the Jan 23 session.
Many countries lauded China’s efforts on human rights, including Ethiopia and Cameroon.
A few dozen – mostly Western – countries raised concerns, with Washington’s envoy Michele Taylor repeating a US accusation of genocide. “We condemn the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and transnational repression to silence individuals abroad,” she said in a quick-fire speech to pack all her reform proposals into the 45-second limit.
Britain and others called for China to repeal a controversial national security law in the former British colony of Hong Kong that critics say has been used to crack down on dissent.
Mr Eric Chan, Hong Kong’s chief secretary, praised the law for restoring stability after sometimes violent pro-democracy and anti-China street protests in 2019.
In closing comments, China’s Mr Chen said he would study countries’ recommendations but criticised those who “groundlessly accuse and smear China based not on facts but on ideological bias and unfounded rumours and lies”.
Mr Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress whose brother is detained in Xinjiang, voiced disappointment in the meeting.
“My feeling is we have witnessed China’s disinformation campaign very successfully… Most of them closed their eyes on the current situation,” he told reporters.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day that it hoped all parties at the UN reviewing China’s human rights record would be “constructive” and “non-politicised”.
China upholds a people-centred human rights philosophy and has made “historic progress” in human rights issues, said ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin when asked about what the diplomats said.
“I want to stress that China always does its work in participating in the UPR according to UN procedures,” Mr Wang said.
“The Universal Periodic Review is an important platform under the UN framework for fair and candid exchanges, constructive dialogue and cooperation on human rights issues,” Mr Wang said.
“We hope that all parties in their participation in the review will follow the UPR mechanism’s principle of being constructive and non-politicised.”