By Emma Farge
GENEVA (Reuters) -China underwent scrutiny of its human rights record at a U.N. meeting on Tuesday, with mostly Western countries calling for protections for Xinjiang Uyghurs and greater freedom in Hong Kong which Beijing dismissed as guidance based on lies.
The review at the U.N. in Geneva is the first since the global body’s top rights official released a report in 2022 saying the detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region may constitute crimes against humanity.
Beijing denies any abuses.
China, which sent a large delegation with dozens of officials, has been lobbying non-Western countries to praise its human rights record ahead of the meeting by sending memos to envoys in recent weeks, diplomats told Reuters.
China’s delegation in Geneva said on Tuesday it had made progress since its last U.N. review in 2018, lifting nearly 100 million people out of poverty.
“We embarked on a path of human rights development that is in keeping with the trend of the times and appropriate to China’s national conditions and scored historic achievements in this process,” Ambassador Chen Xu said at the meeting.
Some 163 countries spoke at the Tuesday session.
Many countries lauded China’s efforts on human rights, including Ethiopia and Cameroon. A few dozen mostly Western countries raised concerns, with Washington’s envoy Ambassador Michèle Taylor repeating a U.S. accusation of genocide.
“We condemn the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and trans-national repression to silence individuals abroad,” she said in a quick-fire speech to pack all her reform proposals into the 45-second limit.
Britain and others called for China to repeal a controversial national security law in the former British colony of Hong Kong which critics say has been used to crack down on dissent.
Eric Chan, Hong Kong’s chief secretary, praised the law for restoring stability after sometimes violent pro-democracy and anti-China street protests in 2019.
In closing comments, China’s Chen said he would study countries’ recommendations but criticised those who “groundlessly accuse and smear China based not on facts but on ideological bias and unfounded rumours and lies”.
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress whose brother is detained in Xinjiang, voiced disappointment in the meeting. “My feeling is we have witnessed China’s disinformation campaign very successfully… Most of them closed their eyes on the current situation,” he told reporters.
A protest is planned on Tuesday outside the U.N. building with Tibetan, Uyghur and Hong Kong activists and Chinese dissidents.
(Reporting by Emma Farge, Editing by William Maclean and Nick Macfie)