Human rights groups want China checked

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 10 Sep 2020

More than 300 rights groups and other organizations yesterday called on the United Nations to launch an investigation into Beijing's alleged human rights abuses and to take "decisive action."

In an open letter to secretary-general Antonio Guterres, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet and to member states, 321 civil society groups called for international scrutiny of "the Chinese government's human rights violations."

Joshua Rosenzweig of Amnesty International, one of the signatories, said in an accompanying joint statement: "The international community can no longer sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad."

The letter pointed to a call in June from dozens of independent experts for urgent action by the UN Human Rights Council to address the repression of fundamental freedoms in China.

That statement highlighted rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and against the Muslim Uygurs in Xinjiang, suppression of information in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and government critics across the country.

The NGOs also said they were deeply concerned by "the impact of China's rights violations worldwide," pointing among other things to the targeting of rights defenders, internet censorship and digital surveillance.

They pointed as well to allegations that China was suppressing academic freedom in countries worldwide.

And they charged Beijing was working to "distort" the mandate of the Human Rights Council, saying: "A state that tries to hold itself above any kind of scrutiny presents a fundamental threat to human rights."

Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights, which also signed the letter, said in the joint statement that "China's disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens. Its support for dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever."

Asked about the letter, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the "claims made by these organizations are groundless and not worth refuting."

The NGOs want the Human Rights Council to host a special session to evaluate China's rights violations and to "establish a mechanism to monitor, analyze and report annually on the topic."

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