BEIJING (AP) — China said Wednesday its reelection to the United Nations Human Rights Council, despite stiff opposition from leading democratic states and rights groups, was proof of the international community’s “high recognition” of its achievements in the field.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also dismissed criticism of China’s election Tuesday from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “very absurd,” while attacking Washington’s own record and accusing it of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs using human rights as a pretext.
“This (election) fully reflects the international community’s high recognition of the development and progress of China’s human rights cause and China’s participation in global human rights governance,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
Rights groups criticized China’s election to the UNHRC, alongside Russia, Cuba, Pakistan and Nepal, citing Beijing’s rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and government critics.
The U.S. announced its withdrawal from the council in June 2018, partly because it considered the body a forum for hypocrisy about human rights, though also because Washington says the UNHRC is anti-Israel.
Amid the criticism, China won reelection with 139 votes, 30% fewer than the 180 it garnered in 2016. That reflects “the growing international consensus that China’s brutal assault on human rights cannot, and must not, go unchallenged,” Pema Doma of the rights group Students for a Free Tibet said in an emailed statement.
Human Rights Watch had pointed to an unprecedented call by 50 U.N. experts on June 26 for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China,” a call echoed by over 400 civil society groups from more than 60 countries.