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China-led Panel Picks Amnesty International’s Ex-Chief Irene Khan As UN Free Speech Monitor

A watchdog revealed today that China was Chair of the U.N. Human Rights Council vetting process that nominated Amnesty International's former chief Irene Khan to be the next world monitor on free speech—a decision to be ratified this afternoon by the 47-nation plenary—as it emerges that she enjoys close ties with the Communist regime.

"A totalitarian regime that systematically silences, jails and crushes dissenting voices, and which operates the notorious Great Firewall of China to block Internet content from its people, should not have been allowed to lead the process in selecting the next U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the independent human rights organization UN Watch, based in Geneva.

Khan left Amnesty in 2009, forced out under mysterious circumstances. Members of the organization were outraged to learn that she received a golden handshake worth some $700,000, a payment later criticized by an independent reviewer as “seriously excessive.”

Three years later, Khan became head of the Rome-based International Development Law Organization (IDLO), which promotes the rule of law in 38 countries. China is one of eight state donors to the agency, which in turn has a webpage dedicated to photos and tweets of Khan praising China.

In a fawning 2018 speech in Beijing, Khan offered nothing but praise for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which “has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people,” is “anchored in the purposes and principles of the United Nations,” and can “contribute to strengthening international rule of law.”

Khan did not mention how the $1 trillion-dollar infrastructure development and investments scheme is seen as a major factor fueling Beijing’s persecution of the Uighurs, who live in a region at the heart of the network. Nor did she raise any human rights concerns at all about China.

Khan visited China repeatedly. In 2016, at Tsinghua University, she “spoke highly of China’s contribution to the global sustainable development.” In 2017 she was back, inaugurating an institute connected to the Belt and Road, and signing agreements.

Khan's Twitter account only has praise for China's government, "a worrying sign for a human rights activist," said Neuer.

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