CHINA: China’s disturbing influence on the UN: A threat to advance human rights

A presentation by Christine Mirre, director of CAP/ Liberté de Conscience at the conference organized by Human Rights Without Frontiers at the Press Club in Brussels on 29 February under the title “Unveiling Authoritarianism: Assessing China’s Governance and Human Rights Landscape” (Excerpt)

HRWF (06.03.2024) – Advocating for religious freedom in China is a complex and sometimes a risky endeavor, perhaps more so than in any other country.

As Sir Geoffrey Nice and Mr. Introvigne explained the Chinese government tightly controls religious expression, particularly targeting minority religious groups and unregistered churches. Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, the Church of Almighty God and many more face heavy persecution.

The implementation of policies such as ” sinicization ” of religion and the promotion of state-approved interpretations of faith have further eroded religious liberty.

China has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR and the Chinese Constitution theoretically guarantees freedom of religion but the reality on the ground tells a different story.

The major UN bodies through which we have denounced human rights violations in China are the Human Rights Council (HRC), the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Moreover, we our ECOSOC status, we are able to participate in the deliberations of member states in these various UN bodies and, most importantly, to raise human rights issues and violations.

CAP/LC Religious Freedom Advocacy in China at the UN

CAPLC at the Universal Periodic Review

This year, China is undergoing its 4th Universal Periodic Review.

CAPLC has participated in the last 3 sessions.

In 2013, CAP LC co-signed a submission denouncing crimes against Falun Gong members and forced organ harvesting.

This first submission on China had an impact on CAP LC’s ECOSOC status, as I will discuss later in the section on China’s subversion of UN bodies.

Then, in 2018, CAP LC led the submission of a coalition of a dozen international NGOs, including CESNUR, to denounce the persecution of the Church of the Almighty God (CAG) and other religious minorities, and to denounce forced labor camps for Uyghurs.

Our denunciations covered the following issues:

– Freedom of religion or belief

– Torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment

– Extrajudicial executions

– Arbitrary arrest and detention

– Freedom of expression, assembly and association

– Freedom from discrimination, right to work, right to education

A side event on the margins of this UPR was organized with HRWF and CESNUR to denounce these same violations by China.

In February 2024, we organized a conference on the sidelines of the 4th UPR cycle on China.

This conference brought together a dozen international experts on the issue of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong members.

I would like to thank Mr. Benedict ROGERS, who was one of these experts.

CAP LC at the Human Rights Council

We also denounced China at several Human Rights Council sessions:

At every session of the Human Rights Council since 2016, CAP LC has intervened through written and oral statements on the issue of religious freedom in China. We have denounced the persecution, arbitrary detention, and torture of members of religious minorities, the forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong members, and the treatment of Uyghurs in forced labor camps in Xijiang.

We also organized several side events on the sidelines of the Human Rights Councils, where we gave the floor to experts, academics, and numerous Uyghur victims, Falun Gong members, and members of the Church of Almighty God.

In February 2022, we organized two side events on forced organ harvesting, where experts and politicians from around the world came to testify about this crime against humanity. At the end of these conferences, a coalition of NGOs launched the Universal Declaration on Preventing and Combating Forced Organ Harvesting, which has now been signed by hundreds of personalities.

As a result of these numerous advocacy activities and alerts carried out in coordination with other NGOs, several Member States and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights decided to take up the issue of religious freedom violations in China.

China’s disturbing influence on the UN: A threat to advance human rights

China’s growing influence within the UN poses a significant risk of reshaping the organization to suit its own interests, potentially undermining its core functions.

Currently, Chinese nationals head four of the UN’s 15 specialized agencies and contribute 12% of the UN’s regular budget, making China the second-largest financial contributor after the United States.

China’s expanded leadership role has raised concerns about its agenda, particularly its integration of the Belt and Road Initiative into UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), stifling criticism of its human rights record, and leveraging financial incentives to garner support from member states.

Under China’s influence, key UN positions, such as the under-secretary-general for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, (ECOSOC) have been held by Chinese diplomats since 2007.

As I mentioned at the beginning, our application for ECOSOC status was blocked for more than four years by China, which put us on its “blacklist” of NGOs because of the submission we signed on the persecution of Falun Gong.

It was only thanks to the absence of the Chinese representative at the last review of our NGO that we were granted the status.

Even today, we are under constant pressure from China when we submit our quadrennial reports: China postpones the validation of our reports until the following sessions, asking ridiculous and insignificant questions such as “What have you done for religious freedom at the UN?”

Moreover, China’s exertion of pressure within the UN has led to restrictions on human rights groups’ participation:

I was myself violently interrupted during an oral statement to the Human Rights Council on the persecution of Church of Almighty God members by the Chinese representative, who shouted in Chinese to the stunned assembly that I should, and I quote: “stop my circus and that I was in the pay of a devil cult.”

During the last HRC session on Thursday, March 23, I witnessed China attempted to prevent prominent Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, from addressing the Human Rights Council as he called on the body to urgently investigate serious human rights allegations against China.

He was immediately interrupted by the Chinese delegate, Mao Yizong, who questioned his legitimacy as a speaker and referred to him in Chinese as an “anti-Chinese, separatist and violent element.

The President of the Council rejected the Chinese representative’s request, and Dolkun Isa was able to finish his speech, in which he regretted that the issue of Xinjiang and the Uyghurs was not on the agenda. He also criticized the damning conclusions of the report by Ms. Bachelet, former High Commissioner for Human Rights, which highlighted “credible” allegations of widespread torture, arbitrary detention, and violations of religious and reproductive rights.

We have also observed in recent years that China uses an unfair trick to mobilize the speaking time allocated to NGOs during Human Rights Council sessions: GONGOs (Governmental Non-Governmental Organizations) register in large numbers to glorify the Chinese model, thus preventing any critical statements by human rights defenders.


In my view, the UN remains an important space for human rights advocacy because, as we have seen, it has special mechanisms for reporting human rights crimes and violations.

I think it’s important to do whatever we can to protect that institution from being “sinicized” and to continue to expose China’s crimes there, despite the political pressure from Beijing.

It is the responsibility of all human rights defenders, civil society and member states to protect this ideal conceived in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to keep the space of expression provided by the UN open to all victims deprived of their rights.

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website