More than 20 nations signed a letter this week forcefully condemning China’s apparent systematic detention of minority Uighurs and other Muslims — a landmark step toward holding Beijing accountable for what human rights groups and the United States have described as a policy of mass incarceration based solely on ethnicity.
The letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was also notable for another reason: that it was written at all.
The United States has typically taken the lead in criticism of China’s human rights record, sparing smaller nations the task of facing down Beijing’s economic and political might. But the Trump administration withdrew from United Nations Human Rights Council last June over the body’s frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Without the United States, many expected the council to be significantly weakened. But this week’s step to condemn China has illustrated the way in which U.S. allies have begun to adapt to Trump’s abandoning of global bodies and treaties by recalibrating their own strategies. In some cases, the void left by the United States has been largely filled by other Western democracies. But in other cases, U.S. absences from treaties has allowed rivals like China or Russia to expand their influence. [Continue reading…]