Washington’s resolution against China at the UN’s rights body is bound to be embarrassing
The United States called on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on September 26 to discuss alleged human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Washington’s request comes after a recent UN report that warned of possible crimes against humanity in the Chinese territory.
The resolution brought forth by the US was also co-sponsored by the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway. The 47-member UNHRC will vote on the resolution this week, with Western countries apparently afraid that it might not pass. If it does, a debate on the issue will be scheduled for the council’s next session in February.
Indeed, a joint statement delivered by Pakistan on behalf of 68 states during the 51st session of the UNHRC called out Western countries for having double standards on the issue of human rights and stressed that Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet-related issues were strictly China’s internal affairs.
Looking at the list of current council members, it appears at first glance that China has more support than the West, and 16 of these countries signed onto the aforementioned statement. So the likelihood of the US resolution being tossed out is quite high. It’s also important to note how mild the action from Washington was, given the fact that it probably knew anything more than a “discussion” would surely have zero chance of passing.
While the prospects of this not passing are already embarrassing enough for Washington and represents a tidal shift in global power, in a way it would almost be less embarrassing. That’s because opening up a discussion on human rights would not bode well for Uncle Sam.
If we just look at the accusations commonly leveled against China in Xinjiang, such concerns as “forced labor”, “forced disappearances,” and infringements on other rights found in the UN report are commonplace in the US. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Starting with “religious, cultural and linguistic identity and expression,” it’s quite obvious that a country that committed one of the worst genocides in human history, the US, ought to keep its mouth shut on this. But we should note that Washington’s genocide against the Native population and its suppression of Native identity is ongoing.
Take for instance a widely reported incident involving a Native American man, Darrell House, who was at his people’s ancestral lands and got tased by a federal government agent while praying. Of course, the parks service said at the time that it was “reviewing” the incident – but such instances happen all the time. In fact, Native Americans are at the center of constitutional law debates time and time again mainly over their religious practices.
Moving on to the “rights to privacy and freedom of movement,” again, we can see that the US routinely violates this. As we learned with the leaks from National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US operates the world’s largest global spy network in the world and collects bulk data on its own citizens without their consent.
As for freedom of movement, the case of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger is notable. He won a lawsuit where he represented Ecuadoreans against oil giant Chevron for polluting their country. Then the company fought the ruling, never paid a cent in restitution and lobbied the federal government to pursue trumped up racketeering charges against Donziger. He was under house arrest for more than two years.
“Reproductive rights” have been all over the news in the States after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Now women’s rights are under serious threat across the country as states begin implementing punitive anti-abortion laws.
“Employment and labor issues” is interesting given the fact that it is widely known that, as of last year, a full-time job in the US at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 can’t pay the rent anywhere in the country. Workplaces are also extremely unsafe, which is evident by the prevalence of Covid-19 in the country. The ongoing pandemic is, more than anything, a workplace safety issue – and the federal government allowed itself to be influenced by employers to undermine workers’ safety.
Of course, there’s no one more exploited than prisoners because the US still allows for slavery as a form of punishment in its constitution. A June report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that incarcerated workers in the US earn an average wage of between 13 to 52 cents per hour – despite producing nearly $11 billion worth of goods and services annually.
That’s, of course, well below the minimum wage – and the state can take up to 80% of this already measly pay for room and board, court costs, restitution and other fees, ironically such as prison maintenance and construction. Almost 70% of prisoners polled said they can’t afford basic necessities – and, damningly, 76% said “they are required to work or face additional punishments such as solitary confinement, denial of opportunities to reduce their sentence, and loss of family visitation.”
On “issues of family separation and reprisals,” of course most people are familiar with the terrible stories of “kids in cages” at US migrant detention camps. The US routinely separates migrant families at its border – and, according to internal documents seen by The Intercept, its federal agents have at least discussed reprisal against pro-immigrant activists.
With the issue of “enforced disappearances,” the US government notably runs a camp at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba dedicated to literally just that. It has detained 780 people there since 2002 – and many of them without any formal criminal proceedings. The torture techniques used there have included psychological abuse and threats to harm the families of detainees, which certainly falls under the category of “intimidations, threats and reprisals.”
That covers every single accusation in the UN report, showing just how hypocritical Washington would be on this issue if it really decided to open a debate at the UNHRC. We can see that with the most minimal effort, China and other countries could rip Uncle Sam’s moral superiority to shreds.