‘Political censorship’: United Nations removes submissions from int’l civil groups at China’s human rights review

6 November 2018 18:37
Kris Cheng

International civil groups have expressed concern after the United Nations removed their submissions from papers relating to China’s human rights review. In response, the UN said that it must respect the “sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity” of China.

The United Nations Human Rights Council conducted its Universal Periodic Review on China on Tuesday. It welcomed constructive contributions from civil society on human rights issues to be submitted by March.

However, international civil groups, including Hong Kong’s Demosisto, have said that they were dismayed after at least seven submissions were completely removed from the final document. The document is presented to UN member states so they may draft recommendations as part of China’s review.

According to the groups, the organisations concerned reached out individually to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) last month.

They then received a response from the office, which said: “As a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly, the HRC and the UPR Working Group (UPR WG), must adhere to the official United Nations position and terminology as reflected in relevant General Assembly resolutions and within the context of the UN Charter, and therefore, must respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the State concerned.”

The groups said further requests for answers went unanswered.

‘Clearly political pressure’

Joshua Wong, secretary-general of Demosisto, said he understood that Beijing has been pressuring delegates from other countries not to meet with Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who visited Geneva.

“There is clearly political pressure from Beijing,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “This is political censorship.”

Demosisto’s submission mentioned political incidents in Hong Kong including the disqualification of lawmakers, the jailing of activists and the disappearance of booksellers, among other issues. Wong said the submission did not mention any issues relating to China’s sovereignty.

The groups issued a joint statement expressing their deep concern. The statement was signed by Demosisto, Human Rights Watch, International Service for Human Rights, Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and World Uyghur Congress (WUC).