China has just been appointed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, giving it a large element of control over choosing candidates to investigate and report on issues such as freedom of speech and movement in countries worldwide.
According to Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO, “allowing China’s oppressive and inhumaneregime to choose the world investigators on freedom of speech, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief”.
Acknowledging the way China has contained Covid-19 domestically and expressing gratitude for assistance given to Ireland must not cloud our recognition of the fact that this vast country is governed by an increasingly totalitarian government that routinely imposes draconian censorship on its people and brutally silences dissenting voices.
Oppression by the authorities in China did not start or end with the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of civil rights protesters; it still goes on.
There are many documented cases in China of forcibly disappeared residents and the virtual enslavement of up to 1m Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory of deserts and mountains in northwest China that is home to many ethnic minority groups.
The appointment undermines the credibility of the United Nations itself.
The council consists of 47 member states, most of them non-democratic. Created by the UN General Assembly in 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights, the council is headed by Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, an Austrian lawyer and diplomat.
She is on record as saying that one of her main areas of concern is the restriction of freedom of expression where people can be monitored by their government day and night. A perfect example of that is China.
“Added to this is the problem of facial recognition, which is being introduced across the board in some countries,” she said, in an interview with, a weekly newspaper based in Brussels that covers EU affairs. Ditto China.
This appointment comes at the same time the council takes Ireland to task, rebuking the Government here for the introduction of the public services card (PSC).
It complains of the “lack of transparency” with regard to the use of the card.
The PSC may deserve all the criticism it gets, but you won’t find much transparency in China, or anywhere from Afghanistan and Angola to Venezuela and Zambia — all countries which either currently are or have been members of the council.
Phillip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights — a special function of the UN’sOffice of the High Commission on Human Rights, wrote to the Irish mission in Geneva fretting over what he described as the “confusing” 20-year history of the PSC project.
Not half as confusing as the proliferation of past and present UN human rights bodies, among them the UN Commission on Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees — also a human rights body.