Global Human Rights Defence

The 48th United Nations Human Rights Council Session Polarizes Member States Regarding China’s Involvement in Tibet
The United Nations Human Rights Council assembly room. Image Source: AFP. (Global Times, 2021).

Written by Elle van der Cam


 At the 48th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council[1] (UNHRC) in September 2021, United Nations member states expressed opposing views on China’s involvement in the Tibetan region (United Nations Human Rights Council, 2021). While 26 nations condemned China for its human rights violations against its ethnic minorities, almost 100 countries from across the globe expressed their support for Chinese internal affairs and opposed external interference (IANS, 2021; Global Times, 2021). As a result, the Vice Foreign Minister of China also defended its nation regarding the main points presented at the UNHRC Session (CGTN, 2021).

These sessions aim to unite UN member states to promote international dialogue for upholding an international standard for human rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[2] They promote dialogue regarding human rights violations across the member states of the United Nations, such as freedom of expression[3] and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,[4] or more generally regarding women’s rights or rights of racial and ethnic minorities. This particular session has been crucial for igniting international dialogue regarding China in the context of human rights and whether external interference is required.

Opposition to China

 On the one hand, during the first week of the 48th session, delegates from 26 member states expressed their concerns on the human rights situation in Tibet. Member states from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States (US) and other nations from the European Union (EU) delivered a joint statement addressing China’s human rights violations in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong (IANS, 2021; Moller, 2021). Additionally,  member states also individually expressed their concerns against China in the context of human rights in Tibet.

France, who delivered the joint statement, emphasized that China must comply with its obligations under national and international law to respect and protect human rights, including the rights of its ethnic minorities (Moller, 2021). The US strongly condemned human rights abuses regarding economic exploitation, systemic racism, and the destruction of cultural heritage by China (IANS, 2021). T This also comes after the Tibet Bureau Office in Geneva testified before the Swiss parliament regarding China’s routine destruction of the Tibetan region’s fragile environment, all in the name of development (Lhamo, 2021). The delegate from Denmark expressed the country being deeply concerned about human rights violations in Tibet (Moller, 2021). Simultaneously, the representative of the Netherlands specifically mentioned the concerns of restrictions on the press and the freedom of religion and belief in Tibet (Lhamo, 2021). Meanwhile, Sweden voiced its concern on China’s targeting of individuals from minorities, human rights defenders, and media workers, including in Tibet. The United Kingdom, Finland and Norway also voiced their concerns against China’s activities in Tibet and the well-being of the Tibetan people (Moller, 2021).

In addition, thousands of protesters gathered outside the UNHRC Session in Geneva to appeal to the UN High Commissioner to hold China accountable for human rights violations (Kumar, 2021). The Tibetan Community of Switzerland and Lichtenstein (TCSL) organized a peace march on the 24th of September 2021, where they held the Tibetan national flag and placards while chanting slogans against Chinese oppression in Tibet (Kumar, 2021).

Supporters of China

 On the other hand, during the 48th session, almost 100 countries showed support and understanding to China in the context of human rights at the UNHRC Session. First, the largest support was shown when Pakistan delivered a joint statement on behalf of 65 countries, going against interference in China’s internal affairs (Global Times, 2021). The statement stressed the necessity to respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of member states and that non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states represents basic norms in international relations. As such, the statement stressed that issues related to human rights in Tibet were China’s internal affairs and that external forces should not interfere. They also referenced the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations[5] in their argument, claiming that the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity should be respected in this case (Global Times, 2021). They argued for the right of the people in each state to independently choose the path for human rights development under national conditions and to treat all human rights with the same emphasis. The joint statement called on all states to uphold multilateralism, solidarity and collaboration, while also promoting and protecting human rights through constructive dialogue and cooperation rather than intervention (Global Times, 2021).

Secondly, in addition to this joint statement, another six countries, all being member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council,[6] also supported China’s position (Global Times, 2021). Furthermore, another twenty countries expressed their support and understanding to China in national statements and even praised China’s human rights achievements. For example, the representative of Venezuela recognized the Chinese government’s efforts to eradicate poverty and promote the well-being of ethnic groups in China, while also warning that coercive measures by external forces would have serious negative impacts on ethnic minorities (Global Times, 2021b). The representative from North Korea also emphasized that international bodies must respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity and thus must refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other nations (Global Times, 2021b). Tanzania, in a similar light, applauded China’s progress in poverty reduction and improving the living standards of millions across China, marking an important contribution to global efforts of poverty alleviation (Global Times, 2021b). In general, these nations praised China for its conscious efforts against poverty and underlined their opinions against external intervention in China’s internal affairs.

China’s Response

In response to this dialogue, China’s Vice Foreign Minister, Ma Zhaoxu, has commented in an interview that China participates in these discussions to maintain international justice and to oppose any interference in the internal affairs of other nations in the pretext of human rights (CGTN, 2021). In the interview, Ma Zhaoxu highlighted China’s efforts and important steps in poverty alleviation under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatened people’s health and lives while worsening social inequalities and racial discrimination. China spoke of the hypocrisy of Western nations as they were making major democratic steps towards human rights and poverty alleviation. Ma Zhaoxu stressed that external military interference and unilateral sanctions would weaken countries’ ability to respond to the pandemic and restore national economies (CGTN, 2021). As such, its argument centered that external intervention would worsen the situation of ethnic minorities in China and warned against it.


The 48th UNHRC Session showed polarizing opinions this year regarding China’s involvement in Tibet and other ethnic minorities, and thus did not conclude on whether to act. With those supporting China on one hand and those opposing China on the other, the fate of the Tibetan population remains unclear. What is certain is that this session started an important dialogue by shedding light on how nations perceive the treatment of ethnic minorities in China and will determine the path of more dialogue regarding the topic. External intervention or pressure is very delicate and could change the course of Tibetan lives, for the worse or better. As such, it is essential to follow future discussions as the lives of Tibetans and other ethnic minorities are at stake. Not to mention the future of the universal standard of human rights is also in peril.


CGTN. (2021). China advocates for human rights protection at 48th UNHRC session. Retrieved 4 October 2021 from,

Global Times. (2021). 65 countries express opposition to interference in China’s internal affairs at UN Human Rights Council. Retrieved 4 October 2021 from,

Global Times. (2021b). Countries praise China’s poverty reduction, human rights improvement. Retrieved 4 October 2021 from,

IANS. (2021). Respect Human Rights in Tibet: UN to China. Retrieved 4 October 2021 from,

Kumar, A. (2021). Tibetans Protest Outside UNHCR Office to Hold China Accountable for Human Rights Violation. Retrieved 4 October 2021 from,

Lhamo, K. (2021). UN member states condemn China for human rights abuses in Tibet. Retrieved 4 October 2021 from,

Moller, G. (2021). UN members call on China to respect human rights in Tibet. Retrieved 4 October from,

United Nations Human Rights Council. (2021). Sessions. Retrieved 4 October 2021 from,

[1] The UNHRC is a United Nations body with the mission to promote and protect human rights across the globe. The Council holds three regular sessions annually, usually in March, June, and September, totaling at least ten weeks each year, and are arguably the most influential dialogues regarding human rights on a global scale.

[2] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, sets out fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

[3] Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

[4] Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to change and manifest these as the individual pleases.

[5] The Charter of the United Nations is the founding document of the UN, signed in 1945. It is regarded as an international treaty which UN member states are bound to. It codifies the major principles of international relations from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of use of force in international relations.

[6] The Gulf Cooperation Council is a regional, intergovernmental political and economic union that consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.