UN human rights chief blasts China over Tibet in resignation speech

Chinese soldier is seen on patrol in Lhasa
Chinese soldier is seen on patrol in Lhasa
20th June 2018

In his departing speech the diplomat highlighted China's ongoing repression in Tibet and Xinjiang while urging "fearlessness" in the face of growing nationalism worldwide

The outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the UN Human Rights Council for the final time this week.

During his final global update on human rights around the world, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who officially quit his post on 18 June after expressing concern that world powers are undermining human rights, was firm in his criticism of China's abuses in Tibet.

Hussein emphasised Beijing's human rights record as well as the lack of access to Tibet, stating:

In China, despite efforts by my office to establish conditions conducive to an effective dialogue, my staff have not been given unfettered access to the country, including to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where the human rights situation is reportedly fast deteriorating.

He also underlined the role Chinese authorities have played in hampering access to Tibet and blasted Beijing for its tight control over civil society:  

Although two mandate-holders have visited the country in the past five years, China has in that period accumulated more than 15 pending requests for visits.

I am, furthermore, dismayed by China’s continuing efforts to prevent independent members of civil society from engaging with human rights mechanisms. I encourage the authorities to enable all actors to contribute to all the international human rights mechanisms, and to cooperate with them in a spirit of open and mutual partnership, in order to improve respect for the rights and freedoms of China’s people.


Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein
Outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein

Speaking just six months before the 100th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Hussein used his parting message to defend the concept of universal human rights, a concept that Beijing has repeatedly challenged. He also described a new 'fearlessness' he felt was critical to maintaining international human rights: 

If my Office, of which I am very proud, and I, have gotten one thing right over the last few years, it is our understanding that only fearlessness is adequate to our task at this point in time. Not ducking for cover, or using excuses or resorting to euphemisms, but a fearlessness approaching that shown by human rights defenders around the world – for only by speaking out can we begin to combat the growing menace of chauvinistic nationalism that stalks our future.

News of Hussein’s departure came just days before the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, announced that the US is withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, describing the body as a “cesspool of political bias.”


In Tibet the Chinese Communist Party oversees what has been called the world's largest open air prison. The authorities routinely monitor Tibetans' electronic communications, arbitary arrest and detention are routine and political prisoners vanish from their families. Help us push for Tibet's hidden political prisoners to be found and released.