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China elected to UN Human Rights Council

China given seat on council despite oppression of Uighurs, Hong Kongers, Mongolians, Tibetans

Chinese leader Xi Jinping addressing the UN General Assembly from Beijing 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping addressing the UN General Assembly from Beijing  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday (Oct. 14), but support for Beijing's admittance to the body was down more than 20 percent compared to the 2016 vote.

The UN General Assembly also elected Russia, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Malawi, Cuba, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, France, and the UK to the 47-seat council, Reuters reported. Senegal, Pakistan, Nepal, Ukraine, and Mexico were also elected for a second three-year term; council members are not allowed to serve more than two consecutive terms.

Carried out by secret ballot at the UN headquarters in New York, the vote was to fill 15 vacant seats, which are split between five regions, according to The Guardian. All 193 member-states of the UN can vote on each region.

Typically, countries within a given region hold private negotiations on who will stand so that candidates run unopposed within their region. The new members will begin their term on Jan. 1, 2021.

The only contested region in this year’s election was the Asia-Pacific, with five countries — China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Nepal, and Uzbekistan — vying for four seats. China received 139 votes, down from 180 the last time it stood for election, in 2016, while Saudi Arabia failed to make the council with its 90 votes.

Each nation on the council is expected to promote and protect human rights. Candidate countries are asked to publish a statement explaining to the rest of the UN why they are qualified to join the body.

In its statement, Beijing emphasized economic emancipation but said it “guarantees the freedom of all ethnic groups to use and develop their own spoken and written languages,” The Guardian reported. It also added: “There is always room for improving human rights. There is no universally applicable model, and human rights can advance only in the context of national conditions and people’s needs.”

China has been heavily criticized internationally for its record on human rights. Most recently, Beijing has been panned for its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, its response to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, its plan to replace the Mongolian language with Mandarin in Inner Mongolia schools, and its continued oppression of Tibetans.