In an election held in New York today, the United Nations General Assembly elected China to the 47-member Human Rights Council, the UN's top human rights body, for a three-year term (2014-2016).
“China must uphold the highest human rights standards not only required by international human rights law but also required for membership in the Council,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “These are also the same standards demanded by Chinese citizens themselves, whose growing calls for greater protection of their basic rights are loud, widespread, and cannot be ignored.”
China received 176 votes, or 91.7 percent of the total 192 votes cast. China, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam were elected to the four vacant seats allocated to the Asia-Pacific region. China had previously served two consecutive terms from 2006-2012.
On November 5, 2013, HRIC delivered an open letter to China’s permanent mission to the UN in New York, calling for the unconditional release of rights defenders, including Cao Shunli (曹顺利), Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), and Xu Zhiyong (许志永), as a first step to be taken by China to demonstrate its commitment to uphold the mandate of the Human Rights Council and honor the pledges it made to support its candidacy. To date, HRIC has received no response from Chinese authorities.
“Although China participates in UN human rights mechanisms and numerous bilateral human rights dialogues, its performance as a member of the Council will ultimately be judged by its ability to meet citizens’ demands for human rights protection and rule of law reforms at home, and its willingness to engage in a constructive and genuine dialogue with its own people on these critical issues,” said Sharon Hom.
The General Assembly created the Human Rights Council in 2006 to replace the former Commission on Human Rights. The Council has a broad mandate, including promoting and protecting human rights for all, addressing situations of human rights violations, making recommendations to states, and coordinating the work of various human rights mechanisms within the UN system.
The UN requires countries elected to the Council to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “fully cooperate with the Council.” When electing Council members, the General Assembly also requires all UN Member States to “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments.”
The Council Member States are elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly. Council members serve for a period of three years and cannot be re-elected immediately after two consecutive terms.
For more information on the UN Human Rights Council, see:
For more information on the rights defenders mentioned above, see: