The United States and several Western allies presented a proposal on Monday for the UN's main human rights body to hold a special debate over reported rights abuses and violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's western Xinjiang region.
A core group of countries including Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden were behind a draft resolution at the Human Rights Council that would call for a debate on Xinjiang at the council's next session in early 2023, diplomats said.
It amounts to the latest geopolitical salvo between the West and Beijing in the wake of recent tensions over issues like the future of Taiwan.
If approved, the resolution would mark the first time that human rights concerns in China have been formally put on the council's agenda.
Diplomats in Geneva, where the 47-nation council is based, have been on the lookout for whether Western countries might be able to muster enough political capital to present and push through a resolution on Xinjiang before the council's current session ends on October 7.
The draft resolution would only convene a debate in the council — which debates issues all the time — and stops short of calling for stronger tools in the council's arsenal to monitor rights abuses, such as convening independent experts to scrutinize countries' activities.
While less intrusive than it might have been, the draft proposal is likely to rankle China, which has pushed back on attempts to single it out and hold it to account over the Xinjiang rights issue. It would also set a formal date for the council to consider Xinjiang.
Some Western countries have sought to build pressure — or at least maintain it — on China after the office of former UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet issued a long-delayed report last month that suggested “crimes against humanity" and other wrongs took place against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities as part of China's campaign against violent extremism in Xinjiang in recent years.