China shuns cooperation with U.N. rights office over report

AP file photo
China’s ambassador in Geneva Chen Xu makes a media statement criticising the U.S. for attacking China’s candidate to head a United Nations agency that tracks intellectual property in the digital age in Geneva on Feb. 26, 2020.

GENEVA (AP) — China can’t cooperate with the U.N. human rights office after it released a report criticizing Beijing’s policies against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in western Xinjiang, a top Chinese diplomat said Friday.

However, Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to U.N. institutions in Geneva distinguished between not working with the human rights office and cooperating with the world body overall.

Chen said the report issued last week – which said some rights violations under China’s anti-terrorism policies could amount to crimes against humanity — offered up “groundless blame” of China’s policies and practices.

“We cannot, on the one hand, conduct cooperation with the office, while at the same time it issued such a kind of assessment,” Chen told U.N. Geneva press association ACANU. China believes the report “constitutes a threat,” and cannot “conduct cooperation as if nothing happened,” he said.

In the waning minutes of her last day in office on Aug. 31, the office of Michelle Bachelet, then U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a report accusing China of serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups. It called on the world community to give “urgent attention” to the situation in Xinjiang.

Human rights groups have accused China of sweeping a million or more people from the minority groups into detention camps where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted, and forced to abandon their language and religion.

China has repeatedly said the “assessment” was a fabrication cooked up by Western nations.

Chen said China — one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — will continue to work with the United Nations overall, calling the world body the “core” of international relations.

“We will continue the cooperation. But as I said, the office cannot represent the United Nations by delivering such an assessment, in such a nature,” he said.

Chen also said China would take an “active part” in activities of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council in its upcoming four-week session starting Monday.

The council works closely with the U.N. human rights office, which falls under the office of U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly chose Austria’s Volker Türk as Bachelet’s successor.