Human rights not a tool to humiliate or pressure other countries: Ambassador

Editor’s Note: 

Ambassador Chen Xu (Chen), China’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office at Geneva and  other International Organizations in Switzerland, recently received an exclusive interview with Global Times reporter Liu Xin (GT) in Geneva. The ambassador shared his views on the result of the director general election of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the situation of COVID-19 in China and in the world, as well as the ongoing 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council.

A portrait of Ambassador Chen Xu Photo: Liu Xin/GT

Not frustration, but a new start

GT: Daren Tang, a Singaporean official, outperformed five candidates, including China’s Wang Binying, and was elected as new director general of WIPO on Wednesday. Did you expect the result? 

Chen: Firstly, we congratulate Daren Tang of Singapore for being nominated for the post of director general of WIPO. We also thank the member states which gave firm support to us.

Regarding expectations of the result, many international media, especially some US magazines, newspapers and senior officials, started to make reports attacking China’s policies and practices in intellectual property protection since the beginning of this year. 

For example, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and John Robert Bolton, former diplomat and national security advisor, made fierce accusations against China. A few days before the election, Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, also released a long article to criticize China in this regard. 

The US has exerted much power to block our candidate in every way. Considering all of these moves, we had expected the difficulties and challenges of the election. 

GT: Some media described the election result as a “frustration” to China. What do you think about this?

Chen: After the result was unveiled, I went outside the meeting venue, and many reporters asked me whether I think this is a frustration to China or “is the Chinese delegation disappointed with the result?” 

I think the result cannot simply be described as “disappointing” or “frustrating.” Our participation in the election is a gesture to demonstrate China’s willingness to make more contributions to multilateral cooperation with a more active attitude.

The result does not mean an end for our cooperation with the international intellectual property organization. It is a new start for us and we would take more cooperation with the agency to advance international development on intellectual property protection. We have the willingness as well as the confidence. 

GT: What kind of experience does China gain from the election? 

Chen: It has been nearly 50 years after China’s restoration of the lawful rights in the UN in 1971. For the past five decades, we have been in the process of learning the UN multilateral mechanism. We did not take a very active role in participating in the mechanism at the beginning of the 1980s. Our involvements with international affairs have to go with our pace of reform and opening-up.

I believe that with China’s improving comprehensive strength, with the purpose of bringing happiness to the people and contributing to global development, we will take a more active and concrete role in participating in international affairs. And the fields should extend from the political and the economic to those specialized areas.  

A common enemy 

GT: The number of confirmed COVID-19 in Europe is increasing but we see few people are wearing masks in the UN’s Geneva office. Are you nervous about the situation? Many people from developing countries come here for UN meetings. Will this increase the risk of bringing the virus to more countries?

Chen: I’m not too worried about it now. As for the question about wearing masks, Switzerland has made its own measures in accordance with suggestions given by WHO as well as its own laws and regulations. 

More people have paid high attention to the question considering the rapid spread of the virus.

Switzerland has taken some practical measures. It has not suspended schools or closed the border but emphasized that every citizen should pay attention to personal prevention, including washing their hands regularly.

The UN has not given specific requirements and people work in the UN office as usual. But COVID-19 is a frequently discussed issue. 

It is normal for some people to worry about how to deal with the virus if it becomes widespread in developing countries, especially in African countries where the medical systems are comparatively vulnerable.

Four patients of COVID-19 are discharged from a hospital in Huaian, East China’s Jiangsu Province on March 4.

GT: The UN Human Rights Council has canceled some side events due to COVID-19. Is it normal for the UN to take such measures?

Chen: I’ve never experienced this in my time working here. But under certain extreme circumstances, the UN will take similar actions. For example, I was working in the UN headquarters in New York City when the 9/11 tragedy happened, and the UN evacuated people from the building.  

The UN may also take some limited measures over other factors, for example, the shortage of money. The US, which contributes the largest amount of membership fees, failed to pay its bill and the UN had to suspend the elevators to save money. These circumstances brought inconvenience. Of course, this is another topic but defaulting on paying membership fees brings no good for multilateral cooperation.  

GT: In your experience, how have diplomats from other countries evaluated China’s work on controlling COVID-19?

Chen: Diplomats from countries in Africa, Latin America, Europe or even the US have all praised China’s efforts and expressed their support. They appreciate China’s effective work to control the virus, which has earned time for other countries to deal with it. 

Some international media are also concerned about whether China could help countries with vulnerable medical systems. We are considering the issue – aside from better handling the epidemic within China, we also would like to offer our help. For example, China has donated testing kits and prevention gear to Iran and Africa. 

We do this not only for international friendship but also out of a concept that the epidemic is a common enemy to human life.

Arranging visit to China 

GT: Have anti-China forces increased their attacks against China at the Human Rights Council in recent years? How do you deal with the situation?

Chen: Some forces have not stopped making groundless accusations against China in recent years and they usually change their methods. China wants to bring a better life for its people, however, some forces, out of various reasons, do not want China to become strong. We should keep alert to this.

Our current work at the Human Rights Council includes promoting mutually beneficial international cooperation. Many people have noticed that some Western countries start anti-China campaigns every year, for example, signing joint letters to the Office of the High Commissioner to attack China’s policies in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region or making joint statements at the Human Rights Council to make groundless accusations against China’s human rights policies and practices. Some Western countries also held side events targeting developing countries. China has always opposed using human rights issues as excuses to interfere with other countries’ internal affairs. We will work with other developing countries to safeguard our shared interests. 

GT: Some Western countries usually sign joint letters or give joint statements. What advice would you give to the UN special rapporteur? 

Chen: It is China and many other countries’ concern to ensure the UN Human Rights Council works in a healthy and stable way. The UN Human Rights Council has many special rapporteurs. We think the Human Rights Council should work in accordance with established rules and regulations, not listen to hearsay or rumors to make decisions. The special rapporteurs should also pay more attention to authentic information offered by member states.

It doesn’t only concern China. Some countries including those in Europe think certain special rapporteurs’ moves are not appropriate. This is why we always give kind reminders. These reminders have worked to some extent. We will take more action if some special rapporteurs continue their previous inappropriate moves. 

China has always held an open attitude and is ready to have constructive dialogues with others. We are not, as some people have claimed, “allergic” to human rights. We are willing to communicate based on mutual respect and in an equal way. 

Ambassador Chen and visitors at a photo exhibition about Xinjiang in Geneva on March 2 Photos: cnsphotos

We firmly oppose using human rights as a tool to humiliate or impose pressure on other countries. If people insist on using this way to face off with China, we will take similar measures and play with them to the end.

GT: How do Chinese diplomats in Geneva communicate with countries that display bias toward China’s human rights work?

Chen: I encountered many diplomats from many countries on different occasions. With the increasing learning of China’s human rights work in the international community, more people began to recognize China’s achievements in the field; otherwise, it is hard to imagine how China could become the second-largest economy after 40 years of reform and opening-up. How could people’s innovation and productive capability be inspired at such a level if their basic human rights are not be safeguarded? But there are always biased countries which never admit our ideology and system. They always evaluate our moves from ideological and geopolitical perspectives. No matter what we do or do not do, we will be criticized. This is not a healthy mentality and we will never accept it. 

GT: China invited High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet Jeria to visit China and its northwestern region of Xinjiang. What became of the invitation?

Chen: China sent an invitation to Ms Michelle Bachelet Jeria last year. But that would not have been the first time UN high commissioners visited China. Previous high commissioners visited China many times.

We are now in close contact with Ms Michelle Bachelet Jeria’s group on the issue. 

The current COVID-19 outbreak adds some complicating factors to her visit, but we have made preparations for her visit at any time. We are working together to arrange the visit within this year.

 
Newspaper headline: Common purpose

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