The nations on the U.N. Human Rights Council voted on Thursday against discussing China’s ongoing genocide of Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic people in East Turkistan, a decision aided by the abstentions of nations such as Ukraine and Brazil.
The resolution that the parties on the Council voted on would not have condemned China or acknowledged the genocide. Instead, the resolution would have allowed for a discussion “on the situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.” “Xinjiang” is the Communist Party’s name for East Turkistan.
China is a current member of the Human Rights Council and voted against discussion of the issue. Kazakhstan also voted against the resolution despite ethnic Kazakhs being one of the primary victims of the genocide. The Muslim nations on the Council, save for Somalia, also opposed discussing the topic even though the vast majority of the targets of the genocide are fellow Muslims.
Chinese dictator Xi Jinping has led a genocide against the indigenous people of East Turkistan since at least 2017, when evidence first surfaced of China building concentration camps to imprison millions of non-Han people. At their peak, the camps housed up to 3 million people. Survivors say the camps forced them into communist indoctrination and subjected them to harrowing torture including gang rapes and rape with electric batons. Outside of the camps, China has engaged in mass sterilization campaigns and separating Uyghur children from their parents to sever cultural ties with their people, as well as the demolition of historic sites and cemeteries used to help trace family lineages. Leaks of Chinese government data have indicated that Xi personally ordered the genocide.
The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent panel of human rights law experts, deemed China guilty of genocide “beyond a reasonable doubt” over its actions in East Turkistan last year.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights has been much more conciliatory with China. Former High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, formerly a socialist president of Chile responsible for trade policies that have allowed China to dominate its market, praised Xi Jinping for “tremendous progress” in human rights during his rule while visiting China this summer. The report based on her visit did not use the term “genocide” and referred to the concentration camps as “Vocational Education and Training Centers” (VETCs), the preferred Communist Party euphemism for them.
A vote to discuss East Turkistan failed on Thursday as 17 nations agreed to approve it, but 19 voted “no” on the debate. Another 11 members of the Human Rights Council abstained from voting, essentially enabling the resolution’s failure.
— UN Human Rights Council 📍 #HRC51 (@UN_HRC) October 6, 2022
The United States, United Kingdom, and European allies such as the Netherlands, Germany, and France voted to discuss the genocide. Honduras, currently under a leftist regime, also notably voted in favor, as did South Korea.
Most of the serial human rights abusers on the Human Rights Council voted against the discussion, paramount among them China itself. Cuba, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, and Pakistan voted against the resolution. Notably, the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, also voted for defend China.
The abstention list included Argentina and Mexico, both under leftist regimes. Brazil, currently under self-proclaimed conservative but pro-China President Jair Bolsonaro, failed to vote on discussing the genocide. India, the country to most recently engage in military conflict with China, also abstained. Of particular note is the abstention of Ukraine, currently being invaded by China’s closest major power ally, Russia.
Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, colonizing its Crimean peninsula and fueling an ongoing war with pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region. Russia became the subject of major Western sanctions this year after expanding the war to formally include the Russian military. China has blamed the United States for the war while refusing to take sides and lightly chastised Russia for refusing to acknowledge Ukraine’s sovereignty. Asked to compare Russia’s claims over Ukraine to China’s illegal claims over the nation of Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials have insisted, “Taiwan is for sure not Ukraine,” rejecting Vladimir Putin’s claims that Ukraine has “no tradition” of being a country.
Putin himself acknowledged following a meeting with Xi Jinping last month that China has “concerns” about the invasion.
Ukraine is a member of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a debt-trap global infrastructure program that offers poor countries predatory loans meant to be used for development projects. For most countries, the loans go to profiting Chinese companies and the repayment conditions make them impossible to fulfill, resulting in China seizing the properties as well as the profits from building them.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invited China to rebuild post-war Ukraine.
“It’s a very powerful state. It’s a powerful economy … So (it) can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is [also a] permanent member of the U.N. Security Council,” Zelensky told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post in August, adding that he hoped to see “Chinese businesses” help rebuild Ukraine and urging Xi to schedule a one-on-one conversation with him.”
Chinese Ambassador to Ukraine Fan Xianrong appeared to suggest that China was interested in such an agreement in March.
“China will never attack Ukraine, we will help, in particular in the economic direction,” Fan said at the time. “In one year, our country imports goods from around the world worth more than three trillion dollars. We are ready to help you develop. In this situation, which you have now, we will act responsibly.”
Brazil’s situation is far less urgent than Ukraine’s, and Bolsonaro’s efforts to portray himself as a staunch anti-communist have been at odds with his tenure at the helm of the country. In 2018, as a candidate, Bolsonaro warned that China was eroding Brazilian sovereignty under past socialist presidents, particularly Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula led efforts to turn China into Brazil’s top trade partner during his presidency and is currently Bolsonaro’s rival in the October 30 presidential election.
“China isn’t buying in Brazil. China is buying Brazil,” Bolsonaro said in 2018. “We will do business with the Chinese — but we will not hand our territory over to anybody.”
As president, Bolsonaro made Beijing one of his first international stops, signing eight agreements ranging from closer economic cooperation to allowing more Chinese students into the country, a known espionage threat. During that visit, Bolsonaro claimed thiat his conservative administration and the brutal Communist Party of China were “completely aligned, in a way that reaches beyond our commercial and business relationship.”
In June, a top Brazilian diplomat suggested that Bolsonaro would consider joining the Belt and Road Initiative.
Bolsonaro’s overtures to China have not resulted in any overt support from Beijing; state media outlets warned this week that Bolsonaro’s supporters could organize a “January 6”-style riot in response to him entering a runoff election against Lula.