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U.N. headquarters Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. © AP Photo/Jeenah Moon

(Geneva) – The United Nations should urgently create an independent international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations, a global coalition of 321 civil society groups said today in an open letter. The groups hailed from more than 60 countries around the world – from Azerbaijan to Zambia, from Morocco to Malaysia, from Vietnam to Venezuela.

The signatories stressed the need to address rampant human rights violations across China, including in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang. They also highlighted the impact of China’s rights violations worldwide, including the targeting of human rights defenders; global censorship and surveillance; and rights-free development that has caused environmental degradation. 

“This global coalition of organizations, 50 UN experts, and dozens of governments are all demanding an end to China’s impunity at the UN Human Rights Council,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN needs to act on the growing chorus of voices calling for China to be held accountable for its rights abuses.”

The groups’ call echoes an unprecedented statement by more than 50 UN human rights experts, who in June 2020 detailed the Chinese authorities’ serious rights violations and called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.”

“China’s disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens – its support for dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever,” said Sarah Brooks, Brussels Liaison at the International Service for Human Rights. “This joint statement, for the first time, unites organizations from around the world fighting for their own communities with common cause”.

In their statement, the coalition highlighted China’s efforts to distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council by persecuting activists from China who use UN mechanisms to seek redress, and opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world. China typically rejects UN consideration of its human rights record as “gross interference.”

“China has systematically persecuted rights defenders in reprisal for their cooperation with UN human rights operations – torture, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, and stripping licenses from lawyers,” said Renee Xia, director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “The UN system should no longer tolerate such treatment.”

The coalition endorses the UN experts’ calls for a special session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and an impartial and independent UN mechanism focused on China. The groups also urge the UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights to take responsibility for publicly addressing China’s sweeping rights violations.

“The international community can no longer sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China team. “Without decisive action now, things will only get worse. It is urgent for UN member states to work together and ensure that violations committed by Beijing are officially monitored and meaningfully challenged. No state should be above the law.”

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