Senators urge UN to suspend China appointment to key human rights panel

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A group of Republican senators has written to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging him to suspend the appointment of a Chinese official to a key panel on the Human Rights Council and to condemn the appointment of an official from a regime with a record of human rights abuses.

“China should not occupy a position of prestige or influence on the UN Human Rights Council while it engages in human rights violations of the worst kind both at home and abroad,” said the letter from Sens. John Cornyn from Texas, Marco Rubio from Florida, James Inhofe from Oklahoma, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Martha McSally from Arizona, Ted Cruz of Texas and Kevin Cramer from North Dakota.

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Jiang Duan, minister at the Chinese Mission in Geneva, was appointed to the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Consultative Group, where he will serve as the representative of the Asia-Pacific states. He will serve as one of five representatives for blocs of countries and is joined by delegates from Spain, Slovenia and Chad.

China has been criticized over the way it handled the coronavirus outbreak, with the U.S. and others accusing the communist country of a secretive approach that punished doctors, threw out reporters, suppressed information and ultimately downplayed the seriousness of the virus -- leaving the world blindsided and unable to adequately respond to what later became a global pandemic.

U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based human rights watchdog, first reported the development in Geneva and reacted furiously to the move, saying it was “absurd and immoral” for the U.N. to allow the Chinese regime to have a key role in selecting human rights officials.

The lawmakers told Guterres that Jiang “will provide China with the opportunity to play a central role in picking at least 17 human rights investigators, including those who look at freedom of speech, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, rights abuses which the Chinese regime routinely perpetrates.”

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“In addition to its willful deceit and gross negligence regarding its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, China is guilty of widespread and well-documented cases of human rights abuses targeting the Uyghur Muslim community in Xinjiang province,” the letter says.

The letter urges Guterres to intervene and suspend Jiang’s appointment to the consultative group -- and to implore member states to condemn the human rights violations by the Chinese.

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The Human Rights Council has come under intense scrutiny for its membership. The U.S. left the council in 2018. Then-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley called it “a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias."

The letter comes as the ties between China and U.N. -- particularly the World Health Organization (WHO) -- are under renewed scrutiny. President Trump and a number of Republican lawmakers have floated the possibility of defunding the organization over its alleged pro-Chinese actions.