Why Did China Object to Tribute for Dead Dissident Cao Shunli at UNHRC ?

Last Updated: March 22, 2024, 17:34 IST

Beijing used procedural moves to object to a statement presented on behalf of dozens of rights groups paying tribute to Cao Shunli. (Image: @CHRDnet/X)

China attempts to block UN Human Rights Council tribute to dissident Cao Shunli, detained and died a decade ago. Global rights groups demand accountability

China on Friday tried to block a statement before the UN Human Rights Council about a dissident who was detained and died after trying to travel to the council in 2014.

Beijing used procedural moves to object to a statement presented on behalf of dozens of rights groups paying tribute to Cao Shunli, who was detained as she attempted to travel to Geneva ahead of a UN review of China’s rights record.

After being held for several months without charge, she fell gravely ill and died a decade ago. “Cao’s courage inspires defenders globally, so let her legacy and name resonate in this room until there is accountability for all victims of reprisals,” said a Chinese human rights defender whose identity was not given.

Speaking on behalf of 37 non-governmental organisations, she included a short silence, which she said was in honour of Cao. China’s representative, Han Xincheng then demanded the floor, complaining that the NGO speaker was using her time “to observe silence and provoke confrontation”, and asked the council president halt her intervention. He was backed by the representatives of Cuba, Venezuela and Russia.

The European Union and Britain defended the NGOs’ right to speak. Human Rights Council members “have no authority to dictate the content of NGO statements”, US representative Kaitlin Sandin told the gathering. “It is essential to protect freedom of expression in this forum, which includes the right to express oneself through silence,” she said, also highlighting that the NGO speaker had not requested that others join in a moment of silence.

Council president Omar Zniber of Morocco said the procedural rules needed to be clarified, but in the end allowed the NGO speaker to complete her statement. She did so, speaking in Chinese. “Dearest Big Sister Cao, rest in peace; there will be light at the end of the night,” she said, to loud applause. China’s effort Friday to block the statement mirrored its response 10 years ago to another NGO attempt to hold a moment of silence in the council for Cao, although that time the disruption lasted for over an hour.

(With agency inputs)

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