GENEVA (AP) — An unusually large group of independent U.N. human rights experts on Friday urged the international community to “take all appropriate measures” to monitor China and “act collectively and decisively” to ensure its government respects human rights.
Dozens of experts, who work on various mandates from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council, raised a litany of concerns, including Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Tibet and the western Xinjiang region, allegations of excessive force against protesters and reports of retaliation against people who spoke out about the coronavirus outbreak.
The experts flagged in particular recent concerns about a new draft security law for Hong Kong that would “introduce poorly defined crimes that would easily be subject to abuse and repression” and could allow Beijing to encroach upon the city's special status.
The Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva, on its website, accused the experts of “trespassing their mandates” and said “a few” of the experts had joined in on the “erroneous statement against China.”
“China categorically rejects and strongly condemns the statement,” it said, insisting that “nearly 1.4 billion people live in prosperity, peace, freedom and happiness in China.” It said the rights of people in Xinjiang and Tibet are “fully protected" and touted China's “major progress” in fighting the coronavirus.
The experts expressed concern that China hasn’t granted the same level of access to the country for them that 120 other governments have.
They urged the 47-member state council to “act with a sense of urgency to take all appropriate measures to monitor Chinese human rights practices.” They floated ideas like convening a special council session about China or creating a “mechanism” to scrutinize China’s rights situation annually.
The experts are independent and do not speak for the United Nations, though they receive some administrative and other support from the U.N. human rights office. It is unusual for so many of the experts to come together for a single appeal.
The call came a day after former U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein joined a group of former U.N. rights experts warning of a potential “humanitarian tragedy” linked to the security law on Hong Kong.