Statement before the Election to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
May 7, 2019


Thank you, Madam President. As we prepare to consider the membership of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the United States must note with serious concern the inappropriate conduct of the Chinese delegation and China’s so-called independent expert, Ms. Zhang Xiaoan at the 2019 session of the PFII that just occurred last week. On repeated occasions, China and Ms. Zhang sought to undermine a widely respected human rights defender and stifle the voice of a representative of Uighur civil society. This egregious behavior is inconsistent with the principles and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and, if allowed to persist, seriously weakens the integrity of the Forum. The Chinese delegation’s blatant bullying and Zhang’s political partiality contradict the norm of independent experts who are objective and support the UN forum, rather than their own narrow national initiatives.

The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to organized religion since its founding. China’s continued behavior in this regard and the conduct of its so-called independent expert at the PFII are part of a consistent trend of exploiting UN bodies to target Uighurs and shield China from international criticism. The United States is alarmed that more than a million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have suffered arbitrary detention, forced labor, torture, and death in camps in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The ongoing atrocities in Xinjiang are irreconcilable with the PFII’s mandate to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples and advance respect for their cultures. These atrocities must be stopped. We call on Member States to bear this in mind in this important forum.