Western States Condemn China’s Human Rights Record during UN’s Universal Periodic Review

Chen Xu, Ambassador of the Permanent Representative Mission of the China to the UN Geneva, who is leading China’s delegation, arrives for the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group meeting to review China’s human rights record, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)


An unusually high number of more than 160 countries registered to attend the United Nations universal periodic review of China’s human rights record. The “universal periodic review” puts all U.N. member states up for scrutiny by other countries every five years. The forum aims to offer constructive criticism as well as to yield a report with policy recommendations. 

Western delegates used this opportunity to express harsh criticism over China’s alleged repressive treatment of ethnic minorities and over violations of the freedom of expression. Canada’s Ambassador Norton urged China to end “enforced disappearances targeting human rights defenders, ethnic minorities and Falun Gong practitioners.” Japan’s deputy permanent representative called for increased protection of the rights of minorities in Tibet and northwestern China’s Xinjiang region. U.S. Ambassador Michele Taylor cited many concerns, concluding, “We condemn the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and transnational repression to silence individuals abroad.”

China’s ambassador in Geneva, Chen Xu retorted that “China upholds respect for and protection of human rights as a task of importance in state governance. We have embarked on a path of human rights development that is in keeping with the trend of the times and appropriate to China’s national conditions and so-called historic achievements in this process.” 

At the same time, certain states praised China. Representatives from Iran applauded China’s “national action plan for human rights”, while Bolivia commended China’s efforts to reduce deforestation. Russia’s diplomatic mission advised China “to consistently improve the understanding and capacity of citizens to use standard spoken and written Chinese in Xinjiang.”

The Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, Hilary Power, called it “utterly shameful” that many states opted to “use their platform at the UN’s top human rights body to praise Beijing’s rights record, or stay silent in the face of well-documented grave crimes.”

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