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China’s Global Human-Rights Whitewash

Under President Xi Jinping, China has forcibly detained hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and stepped up its violations of human rights at home. And now Xi is using China's international clout to prevent censure of other governments' abuses, effectively building a coalition of the willing against the international human-rights regime.

NEW YORK – To those who follow international affairs, it is clear that China has become increasingly repressive under President Xi Jinping. Over the past eight years, electronic surveillance in China has become more pervasive, intolerance for freedom of expression has grown, and many lawyers have been disbarred or imprisoned simply for defending their clients’ rights. Moreover, Xi has eliminated the two-term limit on the presidency, withdrawn protections for civil liberties in Hong Kong, and overseen the detention and forcible re-education of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Much of this has been reported in the world’s press. What is less well known is that China is using its immense economic power and international clout to undermine human-rights protections at the global level, too.

To be sure, China has long relied on its economic strength to head off international condemnation of its human-rights record. Because so many countries fear antagonizing China, they have refused to sign on to resolutions criticizing it at the United Nations Human Rights Council.