China says suspending Russia from UN human rights body sets 'dangerous new precedent'

·3 min read

China has called the move to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council an act of "politicisation" that will set a "dangerous new precedent".

The US-led resolution to unseat Moscow from the council was passed on Thursday after hundreds of civilians' bodies were found following Russia's retreat from the outskirts of Ukraine's capital.

In Beijing on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the drafting of the resolution was "not open and transparent" and that the move could worsen the conflict in Ukraine.

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"The decision [to suspend Russia] from the UN Human Rights Council will only exacerbate the division among member states ... and set a dangerous new precedent," Zhao said in a regular press briefing.

"China firmly opposes the politicisation ... of human rights issues and using human rights issues to put pressure on other countries."

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says the move will exacerbate division among member states. Photo: AP alt=Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says the move will exacerbate division among member states. Photo: AP>

The vote in the UN General Assembly, which oversees the Geneva-based council, achieved the two-thirds majority needed to pass, with 93 in favour and 24 against, including China. India was among the 58 members that abstained.

Under the council's 2006 founding documents, a member can be suspended when it "commits gross and systematic violations of human rights".

Ahead of the vote, Chinese ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun had reiterated Beijing's position on Moscow's war in Ukraine, which it has refused to condemn, and criticised Western sanctions on Russia, saying they would "create new and complex problems".

Zhang also hit out at countries with "double standards" on human rights issues and said the draft resolution was "a hasty move".

"[It] was not drafted in an open and transparent manner, nor did it follow the tradition of holding consultations within the whole membership to heed the broadest opinions," Zhang told the General Assembly on Thursday.

"Such a hasty move ... is like adding fuel to the fire, which is not conducive to the de-escalation of conflict, and even less so to advancing the peace talks."

Zhang said it would have an "impact on the UN governance system, and produce serious consequences".

The latest move to put diplomatic pressure on Moscow follows two General Assembly votes supported by some 140 nations that condemned the war.

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield led the call to exclude Russia after photos, videos and satellite imagery showed corpses lying in the Ukrainian town of Bucha and nearby communities, eliciting a global outcry and calls for tougher sanctions on Russia. Moscow has denied responsibility, claiming that the Ukrainians themselves were responsible.

Russia's deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin told the General Assembly before the vote that the resolution was "an attempt by the United States to maintain its dominant position and total control to continue its attempt at human rights colonialism in international relations".

Calling on member states to support the resolution, Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said the situation in Bucha "would be equated to war crimes and crimes against humanity".

Russia is the second country to be suspended from the Human Rights Council, after a similar move against Libya in 2011 following social upheaval in the wake of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi being deposed.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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