The UN is Broken: China Showered with Praise at its 2024 UN Human Rights Record Review

GENEVA, July 5, 2024 — Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted its Universial Periodic Review report on China. The Universal Periodic Review is supposed to be an opportunity for every country in the UN to thoroughly review each other’s human rights records and provide genuine recommendations for improvement. Instead, China and other autocracies have hijacked the mechanism to create a platform for dictators to shower each other with praise and legitimize their rule as sanctioned by the UN.

During yesterday’s debate, all but two countries (the US and the UK) praised China, including for its supposed “dedication to protecting human rights.” Russia, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Tunisia and Algeria were among some of the countries that praised China’s efforts in protecting and promoting human rights including by commending its “promotion of development and diversity in Xinjiang.”

The first part of China’s review process took place earlier this year on January 23rd and mirrored the same dismal results.


  • 80% of countries who spoke chose to praise China.
  • 100% of Islamic-majority countries that spoke praised China, despite its continued repression and persecution of its Muslim population. 
  • Only 20% of the countries that spoke mentioned the Uyghurs or Xinjiang.


Kuwait praised China for “continuing to bolster religious tolerance in Xinjiang” while Pakistan “appreciates China’s continued commitment to guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion or belief.” Meanwhile, over 1 million Uyghur Muslims are currently detained in Chinese concentration camps.

Russia essentially endorsed the forced erasure of minority cultures and languages in China, recommending that the government “consistently improve the understanding of citizens to use spoken and written Chinese in Xinjiang,” while Somalia completely ignored the perpetual attack on minority communities, commending “China’s protection and inheritance of ethnic minority cultures.”


China also employed dubious tactics to undermine the process and prevent legitimate criticism of its abuses. While there are close to a hundred seats for Press and NGO representatives in the main Human Rights Council room, many were not able to enter the room as hundreds of pro-Chinese groups and students descended on the UN to overwhelm the event. Only a few NGOs were allowed in the room, and that was only after a member of the UN Secretariat staff intervened. Inside the room, former UN staffer, Emma Reilly, who previously uncovered a scheme where the UN was handing names of dissidents to China, reported that there were mysterious ‘reserved’ signs that were put on seats in the NGO section further restricting attendance in the room.

It is also alleged that the Chinese government sought to limit NGOs and other parties from hosting side events or press conferences by using its proxy groups to book up available rooms in the Palais de Nations leaving them empty throughout the scheduled booking. When a legitimate side event did take place it was reported that a Chinese delegate in attendance caused disruptions and disrespected one of the organizers.


Some Chinese activists who were at the UN during the session reported feeling intimidated by pro-Chinese attendees. While attending meetings with different delegations at the Serpentine cafe inside the Palais, one activist who will remain unnamed for the safety of her family back in China, reported being pointed at and followed. This was not the first time she had faced intimidation and reprisals for speaking out at the UN. When she first testified in New York back in 2015 she was put under 24-hour police protection following threats. In addition, there have also been reports of several incidents of pictures being taken of activists by purported representatives of the Chinese government, which is strictly against UN rules. Uyghur activist, Rushan Abbas, witnessed this while standing in line waiting to be let into the Human Rights Council room. It took repeated pleas from multiple parties for UN security to eventually confront the delegate and ask him to delete the pictures. In the council room, she also witnessed a pro-Chinese representative sitting behind a Tibetan NGO representative seemingly spying and taking notes of her computer screen. Again this is not the first time a Chinese operative has been caught doing this at the UN.


UN staff also seemed to have caved under Chinese pressure. Despite continued requests for the past several months by Tibetan and Uyghur groups to speak with Volker Turk, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, they were told he was unavailable at the last minute due to what his team called “an unfortunate and unintended scheduling conflict.” China also reportedly sent out a note verbal before the UPR urging the UN to prevent ‘anti-China separatists’ from attending the UPR and strictly preventing the distribution of material they did not like. While Chinese propaganda proliferated around the Palais, posters put up by activist groups that denounced Chinese violations were removed by UN staff. When confronted, one staff member cited an arbitrary rule, referring to a cartoon image of a child on one of the posters, which is not in the official guidelines. For other posters, they provided no explanation.


In the somber words of one activist: “That day at the UN felt like I was back in mainland China. And it was terrifying.”



UN Watch