China has been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), straining the credibility of the organisation’s reputation given Beijing’s dismal human rights record.
The People’s Republic is under scrutiny for its oppression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, its imposition of a National Security Law in Hong Kong and its imposition of the Chinese language in Mongolian schools.
Russia, which was also elected, faces continued scrutiny over allegations that Moscow was behind the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexi Navalny, its illegal occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its involvement in the Syrian civil war on behalf of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Other countries elected on Tuesday include Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, raising alarm among human rights groups that say the repression of freedoms in those countries threatens the legitimacy of the international body.
The newly elected countries will serve for three years on the 47-member UN body, which is supposed to uphold human rights and address violations around the world.
The body has long drawn criticism for hypocrisy for putting representatives of countries with gross human rights violations in leadership positions.
“Serial rights abusers should not be rewarded with seats on the Human Rights Council,” Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch told Al Jazeera.
Human rights groups had earlier raised the alarm about repressive governments campaigning to join the council, saying the inclusion of “dictatorships” China, Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia should be opposed.
In the event, Saudi Arabia failed to secure enough votes to rejoin the council after a year of absence despite a relentless campaign.
Thor Halvorssen, president of the nonprofit Human Rights Foundation, said last week, “The troubling fact that totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba are even eligible to stand for election to the council represents a rebuke and indictment to the very existence of this ‘human rights’ body.”