The UN Fails Again on Human Rights in China

The UN’s failure on China illustrates a problem that goes far deeper among human rights advocatesCommentary The United Nations’ visit to China’s Xinjiang region elicited outrage among human rights advocates and Western government officials. Yes, U.N. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet should long have been more forceful in her denunciations of Beijing for its genocide against the Uyghurs. Yes, she should have refused a visit to the region unless she was going to really investigate. Yes, Bachelet mouthed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talking points. Yes, she hyped what she saw rather than acknowledged that to which she was denied access. Yes, the United Nations is overly influenced by China. And yes, she should resign so somebody with a true moral backbone can take her place. The U.N. human rights chief should never sacrifice truth for access, which Bachelet did. Bachelet should have called for international sanctions against China for its human rights abuse. But instead, she agreed with Beijing on more high-level discussions and “working groups,” which fit the CCP’s take-and-talk strategy of faits accomplis while providing the illusion of progress through an active diplomatic schedule. A security person watches from a guard tower around a detention facility in Yarkent County in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on March 21, 2021. Allegations of human rights abuses in China’s northwest Xinjiang region are the dominant issue on a visit by the United Nations’ top rights official that starts on May 23, 2022. (Ng Han Guan/AP Photo) Bachelet is a product of her milieu, composed of heads of state and U.N. ambassadors who are more concerned with increasing trade and profit in their own countries than human rights abroad. She is apparently attempting to change China through persuasion rather than the force of economic sanctions. This is unrealistic, as she should know. It leads to the increasingly dangerous illusion of progress. Thus, the outrage among human rights organizations and Western governments who expect more of the United Nations. But all of this, and the prediction that the United Nations would not do enough against China’s human rights abuse, should have been obvious decades ago. In 1989, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) killed as many as 10,000 pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. That was 33 years ago. It has since only gotten worse and more hidden. Those who are surprised by Bachelet apparently still haven’t learned. It took just a couple of years after 1989 for American, European, and British businesses to convince their governments to green light their trampling of the dead and rush to keep making more money in China. Criticism of our own corporate complicity and influence on our democratic governments—which give Beijing and Bachelet a pass to continue operating under a fig leaf of U.N. respectability in New York, Geneva, Paris, and Rome—is missing among mainstream human rights advocates, just as real criticism of the genocide is missing from Bachelet’s press conference and promised but unforthcoming U.N. report on Xinjiang. Until we grapple with corporate influence in maintaining the fiction of progress by Western and U.N. human rights organizations, and their self-serving elision of the depth of genocide in China that goes beyond Uyghurs and Tibetans to Falun Gong and forced organ harvesting, we will not address the CCP’s human rights abuse in a fully honest way. Those so-called human rights advocates who refuse to highlight the role of the CCP, refuse to call Beijing’s regime totalitarian, refuse to acknowledge how the West’s corporate political influence enables human rights abuse, refuse to offer prescriptions to finally defeat the CCP, and refuse to acknowledge the CCP’s rights abuse against other groups in addition to the Uyghurs, including Christians, Taoists, and Falun Gong, are like Bachelet, part of an elite milieu that prefers the illusion of human rights advocacy rather than the harsh reality of unmitigated truth in all of its completeness. Falun Gong practitioners participate in a parade marking the 30th anniversary of the spiritual discipline’s introduction to the public in New York on May 13, 2022. (Larry Dye/The Epoch Times) Human rights groups do highlight some of China’s problems, as Bachelet did in her virtual press conference from China. She called on Beijing to increase the representation of women in politics and business, repeal arbitrary detentions, abolish the death penalty, allow for more judicial independence, transparency, and oversight, and prioritize informing Uyghur families of the whereabouts of their missing loved ones in China. Bachelet said the treatment of lawyers, academics, the press, and human rights defenders, including in Hong Kong, is “deeply worrying.” She supported non-governmental organizations in China that advance gender equality and the rights of LGBTQ and the disabled. She supported broader p

The UN Fails Again on Human Rights in China

The UN’s failure on China illustrates a problem that goes far deeper among human rights advocates

Commentary

The United Nations’ visit to China’s Xinjiang region elicited outrage among human rights advocates and Western government officials.

Yes, U.N. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet should long have been more forceful in her denunciations of Beijing for its genocide against the Uyghurs.

Yes, she should have refused a visit to the region unless she was going to really investigate.

Yes, Bachelet mouthed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talking points.

Yes, she hyped what she saw rather than acknowledged that to which she was denied access.

Yes, the United Nations is overly influenced by China.

And yes, she should resign so somebody with a true moral backbone can take her place. The U.N. human rights chief should never sacrifice truth for access, which Bachelet did.

Bachelet should have called for international sanctions against China for its human rights abuse. But instead, she agreed with Beijing on more high-level discussions and “working groups,” which fit the CCP’s take-and-talk strategy of faits accomplis while providing the illusion of progress through an active diplomatic schedule.

Epoch Times Photo
A security person watches from a guard tower around a detention facility in Yarkent County in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on March 21, 2021. Allegations of human rights abuses in China’s northwest Xinjiang region are the dominant issue on a visit by the United Nations’ top rights official that starts on May 23, 2022. (Ng Han Guan/AP Photo)

Bachelet is a product of her milieu, composed of heads of state and U.N. ambassadors who are more concerned with increasing trade and profit in their own countries than human rights abroad. She is apparently attempting to change China through persuasion rather than the force of economic sanctions. This is unrealistic, as she should know. It leads to the increasingly dangerous illusion of progress.

Thus, the outrage among human rights organizations and Western governments who expect more of the United Nations.

But all of this, and the prediction that the United Nations would not do enough against China’s human rights abuse, should have been obvious decades ago. In 1989, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) killed as many as 10,000 pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

That was 33 years ago. It has since only gotten worse and more hidden. Those who are surprised by Bachelet apparently still haven’t learned.

It took just a couple of years after 1989 for American, European, and British businesses to convince their governments to green light their trampling of the dead and rush to keep making more money in China.

Criticism of our own corporate complicity and influence on our democratic governments—which give Beijing and Bachelet a pass to continue operating under a fig leaf of U.N. respectability in New York, Geneva, Paris, and Rome—is missing among mainstream human rights advocates, just as real criticism of the genocide is missing from Bachelet’s press conference and promised but unforthcoming U.N. report on Xinjiang.

Until we grapple with corporate influence in maintaining the fiction of progress by Western and U.N. human rights organizations, and their self-serving elision of the depth of genocide in China that goes beyond Uyghurs and Tibetans to Falun Gong and forced organ harvesting, we will not address the CCP’s human rights abuse in a fully honest way.

Those so-called human rights advocates who refuse to highlight the role of the CCP, refuse to call Beijing’s regime totalitarian, refuse to acknowledge how the West’s corporate political influence enables human rights abuse, refuse to offer prescriptions to finally defeat the CCP, and refuse to acknowledge the CCP’s rights abuse against other groups in addition to the Uyghurs, including Christians, Taoists, and Falun Gong, are like Bachelet, part of an elite milieu that prefers the illusion of human rights advocacy rather than the harsh reality of unmitigated truth in all of its completeness.

Epoch Times Photo
Falun Gong practitioners participate in a parade marking the 30th anniversary of the spiritual discipline’s introduction to the public in New York on May 13, 2022. (Larry Dye/The Epoch Times)

Human rights groups do highlight some of China’s problems, as Bachelet did in her virtual press conference from China. She called on Beijing to increase the representation of women in politics and business, repeal arbitrary detentions, abolish the death penalty, allow for more judicial independence, transparency, and oversight, and prioritize informing Uyghur families of the whereabouts of their missing loved ones in China.

Bachelet said the treatment of lawyers, academics, the press, and human rights defenders, including in Hong Kong, is “deeply worrying.” She supported non-governmental organizations in China that advance gender equality and the rights of LGBTQ and the disabled. She supported broader political participation and freedom of expression. She called for more religious, educational, and linguistic freedom in Tibet.

Bachelet called on Beijing to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. She also called on China’s civil society to monitor Beijing’s compliance with International Labor Organization requirements and “highlight gaps.”

Beijing would not have welcomed any of these messages. Bachelet did not, therefore, only mouth CCP talking points.

But as human rights advocates are falling over themselves to reiterate, none of this is enough. What she and they are doing is one step forward, two steps back. Things are getting worse in China and the world, and the business-as-usual approach to human rights must end. On a matter this important, we need the full and unmitigated truth, along with clear advocacy for the tough economic sanctions that have at least a chance of actually making a change.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


Follow

Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).