Chinese state-run media published several articles yesterday touting strong international support for its new national security law for Hong Kong. The tallies come from competing statements at the UN Human Rights Council. One group of 53 countries led by Cuba signed a statement supporting China’s new law. A smaller group led by the UK signed a contradictory statement criticizing the law. As far as China’s delusional state media is concerned that was a big win:
The landslide victory was seen by experts as showing that China’s achievements in human rights have won more supporters and become known by wider audiences. The double standards of some Western countries that tried to politicize the UNHRC and to use human rights-related issues as weapons to attack China, brought themselves more criticism within the international community.
On behalf of 53 countries, Cuba made a joint statement in Geneva on Tuesday, expressing support for China’s passing the national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The representative from Cuba said that not interfering with a sovereign state’s internal affairs is the basic principle of the UN Charter and the international order. The National Security Law for Hong Kong is China’s legitimate power. This is not a question about human rights and it should not be discussed at the human rights council, the Cuban representative said.
Pointing to Cuba as an example of human rights should be laughable but of course it’s not to other authoritarian states around the world who also want to protect their right to rule and suppress their people as they see fit. Axios published a complete list of all the countries that supported China as well as those who opposed it.
The list of 53 countries was not initially published along with the statement, but has been obtained by Axios. It is made up primarily of autocratic states, including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Zimbabwe…
Supporting: China, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, UAE, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Opposing: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.
Here’s a chart created by Axios showing the two sides:
The U.S. isn’t included in the opposition list because we dropped out of the Human Rights Council in 2018. But obviously, even if we’d been included it wouldn’t change the numbers much. And that brings us to the really worrisome aspect of this. The Global Times piece quotes a Chinese political science professor who suggests the Chinese “alternative” view of human rights is winning converts.
Western countries now see the UNHRC as a platform to serve their own political purposes, and although the US has withdrawn from the council, it still has strong influence over many members in the organization, thus its allies are trying to speak for the US on the UNHRC, Zhu Ying, a professor of international law at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times…
Zhu said that as China’s influence projected worldwide has grown stronger, more countries are recognizing China’s system of human rights, believing it provides an alternative model of how to improve people’s lives and secure sovereignty.
The UNHRC has become more polarized as countries vie to voice support for either Chinese style human rights or the Western type, said Zhu.
Obviously Professor Zhu’s view that China just has an “alternative” system of human rights is nonsense. China is an authoritarian hellhole which silences, bullies, threatens, disappears, jails, re-educates, sterilizes, abuses and murders anyone who they consider a threat. That’s not a different version of human rights, it’s the absence of human rights.
The point here is not that Zhu is telling the truth about human rights but that he is to some degree telling the truth about the choice the rest of the world has to make in response to China’s record. There really are clearly lots of authoritarian countries around the world who eagerly support China because they also want to be left alone to pursue the same alternative form of human rights. That’s easy to see in places like North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, places where torturing and murdering those who oppose the government has become standard practice.
As China has become more openly authoritarian under Xi Jinping it is also attempting to openly make the case for others to adopt similar repressive measures. After all, you don’t have to worry about complaints about a lack of human rights if you don’t tolerate any complaints. It’s not surprising that so many countries opt for that “alternative” view but it is worrisome. It’s especially worrisome when some U.S. corporations and normally outspoken supporters of human rights seem ready to go along with that.