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Human rights

Does the UN really care about human rights?

Room XX at UN headquarters, where the council meets. Fabrice Coffrini/Getty

Anybody who still thinks the UN Human Rights Council cares about human rights must be either a “pathological optimist”, says The Wall Street Journal, or an idiot. Last week in Geneva, the council voted on whether it should debate China’s appalling abuse of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The ballot fell 19-17 against even discussing it. And it wasn’t just the usual Beijing “lackeys” like Cuba and Venezuela. The world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia, voted to “ignore the documented persecution of a Chinese Muslim minority group”, as did Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, where Islam is the state religion.

Such is the fear of offending Beijing that even some countries not on the hook as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative abstained, including India, Mexico and Ukraine. Ok, perhaps President Zelensky is hoping to keep China from giving military aid to the invading Russian army, but still, “this wasn’t Ukraine’s finest hour”. Mexico under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has “never met a left-wing dictatorship it didn’t support”. Cold-blooded pragmatists might be pleased that the motion failed by only two votes, even after a “fierce lobbying campaign” by Beijing. “But what a disgrace.” Everyone knows the Human Rights Council is a “sinkhole of moral equivalence”. But if it can’t pass a motion merely to open discussion on China’s abuses in Xinjiang, “there is no reason for it to exist”.