After a walkout, the United States is set to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council.
Three and a half years after its dramatic withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, the United States is returning, giving China an opportunity to establish greater influence.
On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly elects new members of the UN’s top human rights body, with countries beginning their three-year council term on January 1.
The election is a non-contest, with 18 candidate countries competing for 18 seats, despite the fact that member states are chosen by secret ballot.
The council’s mission is to improve the promotion and protection of human rights around the world, as well as to address abuses and provide suggestions.
In 2018, the US, led by former President Donald Trump, resigned from the council, accusing it of dishonesty and a fixation with chastising Israel.
When President Joe Biden takes office, however, Washington will face an empowered China that took advantage of the US absence to exercise its muscles.
“The Chinese, like everyone else who is genuinely opposed to human rights as we know them in Europe, oppose economic, social, and cultural rights. Although it is not a new practice, it is certainly gaining traction “AFP quoted a European diplomat as saying.
“China’s purpose is obvious,” according to another, “to demolish the concept of universality of human rights and promote a vision consistent with its political system.”
China and its allies, including Belarus and Venezuela, have issued unified declarations in recent years defending Beijing’s activities in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet, as well as condemning “human rights crimes” in Western countries, especially against indigenous Canadians.
Faced with rising polarization, others fear that Washington’s return will exacerbate the trend, resulting in the council being controlled by pro-US and pro-China antagonism.
Since re-engaging with the council as an observer early this year, Marc Limon, executive director of the Universal Rights Group think-tank in Geneva, said the US has “essentially focused on just one item, which is China.”
Those attacks, as well as Beijing’s retaliation, are “sucking the air out of all of the Human Rights Council’s other critical work,” he said.
“A lot of countries are fed up with the multilateral system being held prisoner by these enormous geopolitical power games,” says one official.
He urged the US to broaden its focus in order to reclaim support from developing countries that had warmed to Beijing while the US was absent.
Chen Xu, China’s UN ambassador in Geneva, told reporters on Wednesday that he hoped Washington would “have a constructive discourse” and avoid using human rights as a political tool. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.