Last Friday, 22 members of the Commission on Human Rights passed a no-action motion, blocking a US-backed resolution on the situation of human rights in China.
Analysis: After extensive consultations, the wording of the draft resolution was extremely moderate, calling on the government of China to,
• “ratify in the near future the international covenant on civil and political rights;”
• “improve the impartial administration of justice;” and
• “protect the distinct cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious identity of Tibetans and others.”
In accordance with available procedural mechanisms, the Chinese delegate requested a vote on a no-action motion; a move that, if successful, would block consideration of the resolution. The Chinese delegate said the resolution was unjustified because:
• China had made significant progress in civil and political rights.
• The rights of Tibetans had improved rapidly.
• The US tabled the resolution to serve domestic political purposes.
• The US was using double standards, since US human rights violations were well documented.
In a speech thick on rhetoric, the delegate from Pakistan spoke in defense of China, for which he was rewarded with gleeful applause. The Pakistani delegate referred to the US-backed China resolution as a disease that had afflicted the Commission for too many years, and suggested the US was using the resolution to exact economic concessions from China. He also made an implicit threat that if the resolution passed, China would cease to participate in any UN human rights fora.
Also taking the floor, the Cuban delegate dismissed the resolution as a transparent attempt by the US to manipulate the Commission for its own political ends.
The final result of the vote of the 53-member Commission was 22 in favor of no-action on the resolution against China, 17 against, with 14 abstentions. All this, while a group of Tibetan youth continued their hunger strike outside the gates of the UN.
We accept that the Commission on Human Rights is a political body. Political debate and negotiations are crucial to achieving human rights compliance. But when political debate slips into moral relativism at the expense of basic human freedoms, the entire process is discredited.