Politics & Policy

The Torturers’ Friends in Geneva

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights doesn't want to hear about China's abuses.

Tens of millions of Chinese Christians practice their religion in secret. Members of churches that have refused to accept state control, they have gone underground and live in constant risk of detection. Tens of thousands of them have been arrested or worse–tortured, sent to labor camps, even killed for their beliefs.

#ad#Facing such a bleak plight, Chinese Christians may at least take heart in knowing that the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, that fine embodiment of our highest ideals, can always be counted upon to help the helpless, to champion the cause of the oppressed, to light a candle of hope in the world’s darkest corners . . .

Ahem, my mistake. I must have been thinking of Jane Fonda. The UNCHR actually won’t be doing anything for Chinese Christians anytime soon, as it’s too busy attacking their defenders.

That’s what Bob Fu discovered last month. Fu is president of the China Aid Association, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians in China. He was invited by an NGO to lead a group of human-rights activists, Christian ministers, and Chinese victims of religious persecution in an appearance before the 61st session of the UNCHR in Geneva.

On April 5, Fu testified before the commission about, among other things, the imprisonment of Cai Zhuohua. Cai is a Chinese pastor who, in September 2004, was arrested for printing Bibles without permission from the Chinese government. (I reported on his arrest in the January 31 issue of NR.) According to Fu, Cai has been tortured in prison, and the judge presiding over his case has just sent him back to the police for another round of “interrogation.” The idea is to make him confess to a crime that carries a long prison sentence.

One of the Chinese police’s favorite torture devices–and one that has probably been used repeatedly on Cai Zhuohua–is a kind of electric baton. Bob Fu owns such a baton, smuggled out of a Chinese prison. He took it to Geneva after obtaining permission from the secretary of the UNCHR to conduct a demonstration of it during his testimony. This demonstration consisted of Fu’s holding it in the air over his head and turning it on for six seconds.

Predictably, the Chinese delegation went berserk, its members claiming that the demonstration made them feel threatened. (One is left to wonder how they would feel if the baton were actually used against them.) They then demanded that Fu be booted from the proceedings. The commission’s chairman, obliging chap that he is, agreed. Fu was escorted from the building and stripped of his U.N. badge. His baton was also seized, and has not been returned.

There is a kind of dramatic perfection in Fu’s being expelled from the commission for exposing outrages committed by one of its members. The incident is a concrete symbol of the way in which the commission is dominated by the very nations it should be censuring. (It did not pass any resolutions condemning China’s human-rights abuses, by the way, although we may console ourselves knowing that it passed no less than four resolutions against Israel.) To capture the repugnant irony in what the UNCHR has become, I can do no better than quote Fu’s own words before the U.S. House’s committee on international relations, before which he testified last week:

[A]bout nine years ago, I was forced into a police car and taken from my home to prison by the Chinese Public Security Bureau in Beijing for alleged ‘illegal religious activities.’ Sadly, this is the second time I have been put into a police car and it was done by U.N. security guards.

Bob Fu is on Cai Zhuohua’s side. How much longer will the U.N. back Cai’s torturers?

Jason Lee Steorts is an associate editor of National Review.

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