GENEVA — The United States and several Western allies on Monday put forward a proposal for the UN’s top human rights body to hold a special debate on reported abuses and rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang in China.
A core group of countries, including Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, were behind a draft resolution at the Human Rights Council which would call for a debate on Xinjiang at the next council session in early 2023, diplomats said.
This is the latest geopolitical salvo between the West and Beijing following recent tensions over issues like Taiwan’s future. If approved, the resolution will mark the first time that human rights concerns in China have been formally placed on the council’s agenda.
Diplomats in Geneva, where the 47-nation council is based, have been exploring whether Western countries could muster enough political capital to present and push through a resolution on Xinjiang before the council’s current session ends on October 7. .
The draft resolution would only convene debate within the council – which debates issues all the time – and stop before calling for more powerful tools in the council’s arsenal to monitor rights violations, such as convening independent experts to review country activities.
Although less intrusive than it might have been, the draft proposal is likely to antagonize China, which has pushed back against attempts to isolate it and hold it to account over the issue of Xinjiang rights. It would also set an official date for the council to review Xinjiang.
Some Western countries have sought to put pressure — or at least keep it up — on China after the office of former UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released a long-running report last month. delayed suggesting that “crimes against humanity” and other wrongs have taken place against Uyghurs. and other Muslim minorities as part of China’s campaign against violent extremism in Xinjiang in recent years.
The draft resolution sets the stage for clandestine horse-trading and a diplomatic showdown for support between the countries: China tore up Bachelet’s report, vowed not to work with the UN rights office and staged an intense public relations campaign to defend its policy in Xinjiang. .
The council currently has both China and the United States among its members. The draft resolution arrives two days before the deadline for submitting these drafts expires, so that diplomats can discuss, refine and possibly vote on them before the end of the session.
Some Western diplomats have expressed concern that presenting a tough resolution could alienate or pressure some countries that have strong political and economic ties with China, and they fear that the political gamble of presenting a resolution does not backfire – giving Beijing a chance to show what support it can muster internationally.
Human rights groups have accused China of dragging a million or more people from minority groups into detention camps where many said they were tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to give up their lives. language and their religion.
China has championed the camps — which it says have been largely closed — as vocational training centers aimed at providing economic opportunities and skills to people who have been on the fringes of China’s booming economy. China in recent years.