Lula government repeats Bolsonaro’s silence on violations in China – 03/24/2023

Chinese human rights activists and dissidents are calling on President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to use his trip to Beijing to speak out about human rights violations in China. The Brazilian delegation arrives this Sunday in the Chinese capital, with the hope of closing deals, opening markets and attracting investment.

But even within the Brazilian government, there is recognition that the human rights agenda does not exist on the agenda with Beijing. When contacted, Itamaraty did not answer whether Lula will deal with human rights violations in his meetings with Chinese leaders, nor what is the country’s assessment of the accusations of UN reports on crimes against humanity committed by the Asian regime.

“This trip is a turning point in Brazil’s relationship with China,” said Maya Wang, a China specialist at Human Rights Watch, in an interview with UOL.

In the first years of Lula’s government, she points out that there was “widespread optimism” that the human rights agenda would prosper in China and that a more democratic society could emerge. “But what we saw was the implementation of social control measures”, she lamented.

“A lot has changed in China since Lula’s first term as president of Brazil,” warned the activist.

According to her, Xi Jinping’s government “increased repression”, shrunk the space for civil society and intensified control over the press and the internet. Sentences were further extended against any dissidents and repression in Hong Kong, Tibet and other regions strengthened.

For Wang, given the silence of the Brazilian government, the country is confronted with real questions:

What does the Brazilian government stand for, in terms of human rights values?
Who exactly is Brazil on the international stage?

In his assessment, a government that defended democracy in the 2022 elections in Brazil should assume this same flag in its foreign policy. “Brazil would be a fundamental ally in the issue of human rights,” he said.

Among the Chinese and their allies, the main accusation is that the US and European governments are using the human rights agenda to put pressure on Beijing and curb the expansion of Asian influence in the world. For the Chinese, the charges are unreasonable and do not consider local particularities and advances in the social and economic rights of the population. The Chinese insist they were the first to reach the UN target of halving the number of people in extreme poverty.

Lula maintains Bolsonaro’s silence

What draws the attention of human rights activists is the continuity between Lula’s government and Jair Bolsonaro’s, in the silence adopted in international debates on China’s human rights violations.

In recent weeks, violations committed by Beijing have been the subject of references during the UN Human Rights Council, with governments lining up to denounce Xi Jinping’s practices. The Lula government, on the other hand, did not even take the floor to demonstrate.

Last year, still under Bolsonaro, Brazil abstained from voting on a US proposal to hold a debate on the situation in the Asian country, after a report from the office of the former high commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, concluded that China committed crimes against humanity by dealing with ethnic minorities.

The focus was on the treatment given to the Uighur population and, according to the report, the suspicions indicate torture, forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests.

“Brazil has maintained an almost absolute silence on human rights in China, only interrupting its silence to refrain from supporting a resolution that would open a debate on the subject at the UN”, recalled Raphael Viana David, head of advocacy for Latin America and China at human rights organization ISHR.

“In the case of China, Brazil did not support the possibility of a dialogue at the UN, while it promotes dialogue to solve many other national crises”, he pointed out.

For him, there is no development without human rights, just as there is no human rights without development. “Brazil cannot open a dialogue with China on issues as crucial as hunger, development and the environment, not to mention the crimes against humanity that the UN has documented in China,” he pointed out.

“You can’t fight climate change without Tibetan nomads persecuted by the government, you can’t fight systemic racism with a million Muslim minorities in re-education camps and forced labor,” he insisted.

“To be taken seriously as a leader in human rights, Lula must share his concerns with President Xi about serious human rights violations in China, based on the reports of dozens of UN experts over the last four years”, defended the activist.

“What we ask is simple: human rights must be duly considered in the elaboration of Brazil’s external position on China. The absence of human rights considerations betrays Brazil’s constitutional obligation to promote human rights in its foreign policy”, he added.

Beijing rejected the idea of ​​a debate. “What the Americans want is much more than a simple debate. But to use UN forums to intervene in domestic issues,” said the Chinese delegation to the UN. “What they want is to instrumentalize human rights”, he attacked.

For the Chinese, the US government “spreads rumors and lies” about the human rights situation in China, with the aim of “restraining the development” of the country. For Beijing, such a proposal “will not promote dialogue and only generates more confrontation”. The communist regime even claimed that such an initiative would undermine the work of the UN Human Rights Council.

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