China, Pakistan re-elected to UNHRC

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The UN General Assembly on October 12, 2020 elected Pakistan, China, Russia and 12 other countries to serve as members of the UN Human Rights Council for three-year terms starting from January 1, 2021.


  • China was re-elected to the UNHRC after it defeated Saudi Arabia in the elections to win a seat by the smallest margin. Pakistan and Nepal have also been re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council. 
  • Following the election results, Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau tweeted saying that the voting shows more states are disturbed by China’s abysmal rights record.


Key Highlights

  • This year's elections to the Human Rights Council saw 16 candidates from four regional groups - African, Asia-Pacific, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean and Western European - competing for a seat at the Geneva-based body.
  • Countries needed to get the required majority of 97 votes to be elected to the council. China received 139 votes in the UN General Assembly voting and will be serving at the council along with Nepal, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
  • China managed to secure a win despite its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority and opposition of several countries and human rights groups. However, its number of votes have gone down, in comparison to its 180 votes in 2016. They were also the lowest among all countries that got elected. 
  • Though Saudi Arabia has also been criticized for its human rights record, its defeat was a surprise as it had received 152 votes in the 2016 elections when it was last elected.
  • Russia, which was defeated in 2016 by two votes, received 159 votes in favor this time and will join the Eastern European group along with Ukraine, which was re-elected for a second term with 166 votes.


Countries protest against China's treatment of Uighur Muslims

  • Thirty nine countries led by Germany had issued strong criticism against China last week at the United Nations expressing concern regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the recent developments in Hong Kong.
  • China has reportedly been held responsible for closing, demolishing many major shrines, mosques and other holy structures across Xinjiang region in recent years. China has also been accused of keeping millions of Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, where they are systematic persecution.
  • As per a report by Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), around 8,500 mosques across Xinjiang have been completely demolished since 2017and over millions of Uighurs have been arrested and put in concentration camps which Beijing calls “re-education camps”.


US slams UN for electing authoritarian regimes

  • The United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo slammed the United Nations for electing “authoritarian regimes” such as China, Russia and Cuba into the UN Human Rights Council. He added saying that the US' decision to withdraw from the council has been “validated”.
  • Pompeo in the statement also accused the global human rights council of "anti-Israel bias and membership rules that allow the election of the world's worst human rights abusers to seats on the Council."
  • He stated that after the US' exit, the nation has urged the UN member states to take immediate action to reform the Council before it became irreparable but unfortunately, those calls went unheeded, as once again the UNGA elected countries with abhorrent human rights records including China, Russia, and Cuba. Another such nation, Venezuela was elected to the UNHRC in 2019. 
  • Pompeo further stressed that the US' commitment to human rights consists of far "more than just words". He emphasised that the US has punished human rights abusers in Xinjiang, Myanmar, Iran, and elsewhere. 
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