UNITED NATIONS -- As the U.N.’s General Assembly rumbled on this week, a small group of silent protesters meditated across the avenue, surrounded by banners that called for the end to “forced organ harvesting” in China.
Knelt down, eyes closed and each with a single arm raised across their chests in meditative postures, the members of Falun Gong -- a banned Chinese spiritual movement that has been subjected to a brutal crackdown in the already bloody history of China’s communist regime -- called on the U.N. to call out President Xi Jinping's "appalling" human rights record.
Reports of torture, murder and the harvesting of organs of Falun Gong advocates have continued to surface. The government has said it has used executed prisoners’ organs in the past but has since stopped.
One woman, Jane, quietly told Fox News Wednesday of how her husband was taken and killed by the regime when their daughter was just 9 months old. Her daughter is now 19, she said as tears fell down her face.
Meanwhile, in the main corridor of the U.N., as delegates and officials from international governments scurried from meeting to meeting, an art display sponsored by the government showed pictures of President Xi beaming, along with pictures of dictator Mao Zedong.
A note nearby said that the artworks are not a sign of endorsement by the U.N., but the display is symbolic of China’s growing dominance at the globalist body as the U.S. backs away from some of its involvement at Turtle Bay.
Axios noted this week that China is now the second-largest contributor to the U.N. budget, accounting for 12 percent of the organization's funding, up from just 1 percent 20 years ago. In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized unilateralism (a likely swipe at the U.S.) and called for a “new type of international relations."
“As a founding member of the United Nations, we will work with other countries to build a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind,” he said. “We will be resolute in upholding the stature and role of the United Nations, the international system underpinned by the U.N. and the international order anchored upon international law.”
The U.S. meanwhile was trying to rally criticism for China's human rights record, from its crackdown on protests in Hong Kong to its treatment of minorities in mainland China. In the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen called out China over its treatment of the Uighurs in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
"Men, women and children in Xinjiang have been subjected to torture, forced labor, and invasive arbitrary surveillance solely on the basis of their religion and ethnicity," he said. "China, like all nations, has every right to respond to actual terrorist threats, but counterterrorism cannot be used as an excuse to repress the peaceful religious practices of Chinese Muslims and an entire minority group.”
The U.S. has also been warning of growing Chinese influence at the U.N. for some time. Not only does it represent one of the permanent five members on the Security Council, but it has also recently been creeping further into U.N. institutions.
“There is no question that China is using any means possible to increase its influence in international organizations and across the greater international system,” a State Department official told Fox News in July. “China’s concerted push has more to do with advancing its self-serving interests and authoritarian model than demonstrating genuine leadership consistent with the principles and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the U.N Charter.”
Chinese officials now run four out of 15 specialized U.N. agencies after a Chinese official was elected as the next director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization this summer. Additionally, the U.N. and its officials are proving a receptive fertile ground for China’s big government, internationalist approach -- particularly as the U.S. increasingly embraces more nationalist policies and a more skeptical stance toward the U.N.
The New York Times reported this week on the careful effort by Beijing to limit criticism of its human rights record at the U.N., while it has also been persistent in pushing its cooperation with U.N. bodies on issues such as multilateralism, environmental work and infrastructure.
Specifically, the government has found a welcome reception for its “Belt and Road Initiative,” a massive trillion-dollar Beijing-led infrastructure project across Europe, Asia and Africa. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence last year took aim at the project, saying it was saddling developing nations with loans they can’t afford and forcing low-quality ventures onto them.
"Know that the United States offers a better option. We don't drown our partners in a sea of debt, we don't coerce, compromise your independence," Pence said. "We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road. When you partner with us, we partner with you and we all prosper."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, however, has praised the project. In remarks at a ceremony of a “Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation” convened by Xi in April, he hailed China for “its central role as a pillar of international cooperation and multilateralism.”
He went on to say that the Belt and Road Initiative “offers a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the creation of a more equitable, prosperous world for all, and to reversing the negative impact of climate change.”
He then connected the Beijing project to the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals and said that the U.N. was “an important space where green principles can be reflected in green action.”
“United Nations country teams stand ready to support Member States in capacity and governance building, and in achieving a harmonious and sustainable integration of the Belt and Road projects in their own economies and societies in accordance with national development plans, anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.
Jorge Chediek, the director for the U.N.'s Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), has been just as positive. In an interview with China.org in April, he hailed China’s vision as a “new vision for the world.”
“The vision of China, based on the development of infrastructure, cultural connectivity, and intellectual connectivity, in conjunction with the work of the private sector, has promoted a new vision for the world, a new vision of prosperity, a new vision of sustainability, which is extremely compatible with the ideas and the best practices of the United Nations,” he said.
“The obligations taken on by this great country are also a call for the world to do more -- not only governments, but also the private sector, civil society and academia,” he said.
This week, a readout of Guterres' meeting with Wang Yi said that Guterres "thanked China for its contribution to the United Nations, including in the areas of peacekeeping and sustainable development and expressed the will of strengthened cooperation in all areas of activity of the United Nations, peace and security, sustainable development, climate change and human rights."
China is picking up on this message and promoting it in its rhetoric too. In his speech on Friday, Wang Yi called for “complementarity” between the SDGs and the Belt and Road Initiative, and called it a “road to cooperation.”
“Let us work tirelessly to promote the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter and together build a community with a shared future for mankind,” he said.