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Human rights

China loses critic as United States pulls out of UN Human Rights Council, analysts say

With Washington no longer there to stand up to Beijing, it ‘will only increase its power’, Amnesty International researcher says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 11:39pm

While many foreign nations expressed regret at the United States’ decision to pull out of the United Nations’ top human rights body, the move could be a boon for China as it leaves it with one fewer critic in the group, analysts said.

The US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the decision to leave the Human Rights Council was taken because of its “chronic bias against Israel”. She also lamented the fact the 47-member group included accused human rights abusers like China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The United States’ commitment to human rights would not allow it to remain part of a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights”, she said.

William Nee, a China researcher with Amnesty International in Hong Kong, said Washington’s departure would leave the way clear for Beijing to promote its views.

“The US had been one of the few countries willing to stand up to China,” he said.

“Without the US, China and other authoritarian states will only increase their power in the Human Rights Council.”

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China expressed regret at Washington’s decision, but vowed to continue upholding multilateralism.

“China will continue working with all sides to make its contribution to the healthy development of human rights around the world via constructive dialogue and cooperation,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

An article in the official publication of China’s anti-corruption agency said the decision will jeopardise the United States’ image as a defender of rights.

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Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said the US’ withdrawal undermined the efforts of rights groups around the world that relied on the support of international institutions.

“The US should be working to strengthen those institutions, not eviscerate them,” she said.

Zhang Guihong, a professor of international organisations at Fudan University, said that while the departure of the US was not good for the multilateral system used by the UN, it would not distract other Western nations from their agendas.

“The US leaving will not stop other countries from promoting Western human rights ideas at the council,” he said.

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Ni Feng, deputy head of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, however, that Washington’s decision was evidence of the United States’ broader dissatisfaction at China and developing countries aligning against it on international platforms, including the UN.

“America believes its opinion is difficult to voice within these organisations, and that they are biased against the US and Israel,” he said.

The US departure from the Human Rights Council comes before its term ends in 2019. China is currently serving its second consecutive three-year term, and had previously served two back-to-back terms from 2006 to 2012.