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China's human rights record under fire at UN review as diplomatic tensions stray into courtrooms, again

Photo: United Nations

Red Notice Monitor Webinar | China's Misuse of INTERPOL: Targeting Uyghurs Abroad | 1 February 2024 | 11:00 GMT | Register Here


China faced sharp criticism on its human rights record during a rare review at the United Nations, with the UK and the US leading the charge. The UK urged China to halt the persecution of Uyghurs and Tibetans, advocating for freedom of religion and cultural expression without fear of surveillance or violence. The US called for the release of arbitrarily detained individuals and an end to forcible assimilation policies in Tibet and Xinjiang. Notably, the UK also called for the repeal of Hong Kong's national security law and the dropping of charges against pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.


These recommendations were part of the UN Human Rights Council's universal periodic review, where 163 countries had a brief 45 seconds to address China's human rights practices since 2018.


China's response, delivered by UN Ambassador Chen Xu, dismissed concerns as misunderstandings or misinformation. He accused some countries of baselessly accusing and smearing China due to ideological bias.


The meeting showcased a clear divide, with Western nations condemning Beijing's actions in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, while non-Western states expressed support for China's progress in various areas. Reports revealed China's pre-meeting lobbying efforts, securing backing from several non-Western countries.


Amnesty International criticised the review, asserting that it became a "fig leaf" for China, with some countries seeking closer ties with Beijing. The organization's China director, Sarah Brooks, emphasized the missed opportunity for a genuine reckoning on human rights violations in China.


Media mogul and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai went on trial for national security charges in Hong Kong in December. Accused of colluding with foreign forces and publishing seditious material, Lai's trial took a surprising turn on January 2, 2024 as prosecutors accused two prominent UK citizens, Luke De Pulford and Bill Browder, of colluding with Lai.


Coinciding with the UN review Red Notice Monitor announced that editors Ben Keith and Roger Sahota have submitted a request to INTERPOL on behalf of Browder and De Pulford to remove any Red Notices issued by Hong Kong against them.

By including the plight of Lai in its UN submissions the UK lends support to ongoing efforts to clamp down on China’s transnational repression, such as that against Browder and De Pulford.


Overall, the UN review highlighted global concerns about China's human rights practices and seemingly deepened diplomatic tensions between Western nations and China and those countries susceptible to China’s influence. Against this backdrop, the unexpected turn in Jimmy Lai's trial has brought international figures into the fray, prompting questions about the interference of political forays in international law.


Red Notice Monitor are hosting an online discussion on the pressing issue of China's misuse of Interpol in targeting Uyghurs abroad. In the wake of the UN review, we will explore the alarming trend of using Interpol as a tool for the repatriation and repression of Uyghurs. Find out more and register for the event, here.



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