April 10, 2020

RSF concerned about China's entry into UN Human Rights Council Consultative Group

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about the appointment of a Chinese diplomat to represent the Asia-Pacific region in the Consultative Group of the UN Human Rights Council, which could allow Beijing to influence the selection of experts appointed to investigate its own abuses.

Unfortunately, this is not an April fool: Chinese diplomat Jiang Duan was appointed on Wednesday April 1 to represent the Asia-Pacific region in the Consultative Group of the Human Rights Council (HRC), a 5-member body of the United Nations (UN) whose role is to evaluate candidates for the posts of special rapporteurs, independent experts and members of working groups charged with investigating human rights violations.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an organisation with consultative status in the UN, is concerned that the Beijing regime, known for its systematic and large-scale violations of freedom of information and active exportation of its practices to the world, may have the potential to influence the selection of those who will investigate its own abuses.

"The work of United Nations investigators is essential for the international community to be able to document, and one day punish, those responsible for human rights violations such as infringements upon the freedom of the press," said Cédric Alviani, RSF East Asia bureau head. "Democracies must unite to denounce this ludicrous designation and exercise the utmost vigilance in the future so that the Beijing regime cannot undermine the human rights work carried out by the UN bodies.”

During its one year mandate, China will participate in the evaluation process of 17 expert positions whose impartiality is crucial, including the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and three members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a body which RSF regularly calls upon to formally recognize the arbitrary detention of certain Chinese journalists.

In December, the Chinese delegation to the United Nations accused the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, of "inappropriate interference" for writing an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post in which she calls for an international investigation into police brutality, toward both protestors and journalists, that occurred during last year’s Hong Kong protests. In October, China also objected to providing the UN with full access to Xinjiang where many journalists are detained, including Ilham Tohti, winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

China is the world's largest prison for journalists, with at least 108 detainees, and ranks 177th out of 180 in the 2019 RSF World Press Freedom Index.