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How do you punish a country which doesn't regret unleashing a global pandemic, takes pride in the repression of religious and ethnic minorities at home, and is disturbing world peace with its nefarious expansionist designs? You give it the charge of a United Nations human rights panel.
How do you reward someone who has ignored a country's brutalities, gross abuses of human rights and instead praised its aggressive expansionist projects? You appoint the person to monitor free speech in the world.
Shocking but true—this is exactly what the United Nations has done in the past few months while the world has been busy tackling a pandemic.
Quietly and shrewdly, China has climbed to the top of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) panel; it is now calling the shots, including picking the world body's human rights investigators.
Jiang Duan, Minister at the Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China, to the Human Rights Council's Consultative Group from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, had earlier this year justified the repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
A few weeks after being elected to the council, Jiang was appointed as the head of the five-nation panel which appoints independent human rights experts under the special procedure of the UNHRC.
"Allowing China's oppressive and inhumane regime to choose the world investigators on freedom of speech, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief. It's absurd and immoral for the UN to allow China's oppressive government a key role in selecting officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide," Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization based in Geneva that closely monitors the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, and a leader in speaking out at the UN for victims in China, had said immediately after Jiang's appointment.
The UN Special Procedures had been one of the few elements of the UN's human rights machinery that has been substantially raising the Uyghur crisis and holding China accountable for its crimes against humanity. Quite obviously, the disappointment in the Uyghur community was also on the expected lines.
"We have already been witnessing China's growing influence and attempts to undermine human rights in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Despite the fact that China has been committing crimes against humanity against Uyghurs for over three years, the UN Human Rights Council has not been able to debate this topic or take any meaningful action. China, along with a group of authoritarian states have been targeting the human rights council, forming a coalition to collectively attack human rights. The Chinese government is consistently acting against the founding principles of the UN and is wielding its power and influence to undermine human rights and silence criticism of its human rights record," commented Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC).
However, the criticism has hardly bothered China. It continues to influence the selection of UN human rights mandate-holders known as special procedures, who investigate, monitor, and publicly report on either specific country situations, or on thematic issues in all parts of the world, such as freedom of speech and religion.
Last week, China picked Bangladesh-born attorney Irene Khan, a former secretary general of Amnesty International, as the UNHRC spokesperson on free speech. Experts have alleged that Khan, who will be taking up the position in a few days from now, was chosen as she has showered praise for the Chinese regime in the past, especially on its Belt and Road Initiative.
<p dir="ltr" lang="en">2015: Amnesty International complains that expert won appointment to U.N. Human Rights Council by illicit aid of country on 5-nation vetting panel.</p>
2020: Amnesty's ex-chief Irene Khan—a China admirer—wins appointment as UNHRC free speech expert after China chairs vetting panel. <a href="https://t.co/FUjv95grbF">pic.twitter.com/FUjv95grbF</a>
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) <a href="https://twitter.com/HillelNeuer/status/1286054609602187265?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 22, 2020</a></blockquote>
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Aesop, the great Greek storyteller, once said "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." China's story at the United Nations is pretty similar — a totalitarian, brutal dictatorship picking human rights investigators is as silly as it can get..