UN Human Rights Council Scolds Hong Kong Activist After She Slams China

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By Patrick Goodenough | September 17, 2019 | 4:22 AM EDT

Hong Kong legislator and activist Tanya Chan addresses the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

(Adds comment from HRC vice president)

(CNSNews.com) – A Hong Kong legislator and pro-democracy activist went to the U.N.’s top human rights body in Geneva this week to appeal for action in the face of alleged police brutality, only to be reprimanded by the presiding officer.

Human Rights Council vice president Carlos Mario Foradori told Tanya Chan that her statement did not fall within the parameters of the agenda item being discussed – “Promotion and protection of all human rights.”

In her statement, delivered during a segment of the session devoted to non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, Chan accused Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed authorities of endorsing “police abuse” against pro-democracy protestors.

“The police call protesters ‘cockroaches.’ Brutal crackdowns and pre-emptive violence against them are hence regarded as acceptable pest control, to curb free speech.”

Chan, a founder the pro-democracy Civic Party, urged the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to support holding an urgent HRC session on the situation in Hong Kong, and the establishment of a commission of inquiry.

She ended by asking bluntly, “Why is China sitting here as a member of this Human Rights Council?”

Instead of offering the customary thanks and moving to the next speaker on the list Foradori, the ambassador of Argentina, said, “I would like to appeal to the speaker to frame the statement within the context of the agenda item, strictly.”

The agenda item for the meeting (agenda item 3), was: “Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.”

In response to queries, Foradori said by email he had called Chan out because at the end of her statement she questioned “the condition of a member of the HRC.”

“That was precisely the only reason why it was out of the context of the agenda item 3,” he said. “Therefore, as presiding officer at the time, and following the council rules, I read out the standard line I did.”

HRC spokesman Rolando Gomez offered as explanation the fact that Chan’s statement had dealt with a particular country situation.

“Essentially, statements during agenda item 3 should address thematic issues and should refrain from citing specific country situations,” he said. “Had the statement been delivered during general debate item 4, the president/vice president would not have had to made that comment.”

(Agenda item 4 is “human rights situations that require the council’s attention.”)

“Nevertheless,” Gomez added, “the speaker was allowed to finish her statement.”

Communist-ruled China is a member of the 47-member HRC, and has been for virtually the whole of the council’s 13-year existence, having been elected to three-year terms in 2006, 2009, 2014, and 2017.

Chan spoke on Monday as an invited guest of U.N. Watch, an NGO accredited to the U.N. body.

Reacting to Foradori’s reprimand, U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer called for an apology.

“Nothing could be more pressing or fitting for a human rights debate than eyewitness testimony about police brutality against Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, journalists and regular citizens,” he said.

“The U.N. should apologize for siding with the perpetrator, instead of with the victims and with human rights heroes like pro-democracy leader Tanya Chan.”

Neuer recalled that U.N. Watch last July invited another Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner, Denise Ho, to address the HRC, and that China’s representative had repeatedly interrupted her statement.

On that occasion, the Chinese delegate accused U.N. Watch of abusing its accreditation, violating U.N. rules for NGO participation, and engaging in “slandering and accusations on China’s sovereignty and internal affairs.”

Abusive regimes take their seats

According to Reuters, China’s mission in Geneva tried to have Chan blocked from speaking this week. The wire agency said that, according to a letter it had seen, the Chinese mission called Chan a “convicted criminal.”

Chan was convicted last April on charges of incitement to cause public nuisance, arising from pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2014.

U.N. Watch frequently clashes with rights-abusing regimes, which have been elected onto the HRC despite an appeal in the council’s founding resolution for U.N. member states to consider candidates’ contributions “to the promotion and protection of human rights,” when voting to fill its seats.

 

 

Elections are by secret ballot, and some of the world’s most repressive regimes have been voted onto the council, usually by large margins. (When Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez regime stood for a seat in 2012, member-states ignored human rights campaigners’ appeals to deny it a seat. Venezuela received more votes than did the United States in that election.)

Current HRC members include China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Qatar, Pakistan and Egypt. Past members include Russia, Vietnam, Algeria, Congo, Mauritania, and Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.

Next year, Libya, Iraq, Sudan and Venezuela’s Maduro regime are expected to join.

The presence and conduct of regimes with poor human rights records was one of the main reasons cited by the Trump administration for its decision to withdraw from the HRC in mid-2018, following what it said were unsuccessful attempts to reform it.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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