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They were among the 14 newly elected members to the 47-member UN human rights body at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly ( UNGA).
The UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, Switzerland, works to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
China was elected as a founding member of the Council in 2006 and was re-elected for another three-year term in 2009.
“The Chinese government attaches great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights. It has made remarkable achievements and has vigorously developed international cooperation in the field of human rights,” said Wang Min, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, after the election.
The newly elected countries will be on the council from 2014 through 2016.
The US-based Human Rights Watch expressed its disappointment with some of the names.
“With the return of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, human rights defenders will have their work cut out for them at the Human Rights Council next year,” Peggy Hicks, a HRW expert was quoted by Reuters.
Some analysts, however, believe this could be instrumental in putting pressure on these governments to better their domestic human rights record.
“We are soberly aware that China still faces many difficulties and challenges in promoting and protecting human rights,” said Wu Hailong, head of the Chinese delegation, in his opening statement at the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on China by the Human Rights Council in October.
In a pointed reference to China, and Russia, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has said the newly elected members of the council include “some that commit significant violations of the rights the council is designed to advance and protect”.
Lode Vanoost, former deputy speaker of the Belgian Parliament says US criticism of China and Russia’s membership into the UN Human rights council is an instance of the pot calling the kettle black.
“The human rights situation in China and Russia is highlighted on a regular basis in western media. But The US has supported and is supporting some of the worst human rights violators in the world: Saudi-Arabia and Uzbekistan to name but a few. Then there is Guantànamo and the drone attacks,” Vanoost told The BRICS Post.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia rejected the UN Security Council seat, a decision which observers believe is directed towards the US for the latter’s inability to intervene militarily in the Syrian crisis.
With inputs from Agencies