Should a nation with so many human rights violations hold such power on a body charged with protecting global human rights?
The 15-member United Nations Security Council takes the lead on U.N. matters, including authorizing force and imposing sanctions, in the name of human rights and world peace. Within that group five nations are permanent members who also possess veto power on any item before the Council: the U.S., China, Russia, U.K., and France.
Collectively, those five nations have vetoed 210 resolutions in the organization’s history. Five of the six most recent vetoes involved China, although all those cases involved an additional veto vote from Russia. The last time China vetoed a resolution solely on its own was in 1999.
(Neither the U.K. nor France have used their veto power at all, not even in conjunction with another veto-power nation, since 1989.)
China’s controversial actions recently have included constructing detention camps and implementing forced labor for the ethic minority Uyghurs, cracking down on internet freedom, and refusing to let health inspectors and investigators into Wuhan at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Accordingly, China’s global support has plummeted in the past year.
What the resolution does
A new congressional resolution urges the U.N. to remove China from the U.N. Security Council as a permanent member, and declares that would be the official position of the House of Representatives.
The resolution says nothing about removing China as a member of the U.N. in general or the Security Council overall.
In the matter of whether China remains a permanent member of the Security Council, Congress itself has no official vote. Any vote to change the U.N. Charter, which would be required for this, would be up to a vote by all 193 member nations — and the U.S. vote is determined by the Biden Administration, not dictated by Congress.
Also, changes to the Security Council require the agreement of all five permanent members.
What supporters say
Supporters argue that China’s actions over decades, but never more so than since 2020, should preclude such a powerful perch on an institution ostensibly dedicated to overseeing human rights and world peace.
“China is not our friend, and indeed, poses the biggest threat to our national security than any other nation. The time has come for a new approach in how we interact with China, and removing this repeated human rights violator from the UN Security Council is a step in the right direction,” Rep. Bilirakis said in a press release. “We must continue to hold China accountable for its bad behavior and take a firm stance that further misconduct will no longer be tolerated.”
What opponents say
Opponents, not surprisingly, include China itself. They argue that, as the nation with the world’s largest population and second-largest economy, the U.N. shouldn’t be able to pass a resolution with which it strongly disagrees and thus they should remain permanent members of the Security Council.
China appears to advocate for the status quo, including the U.S. retaining its veto — even though the U.S. has sometimes vetoed items that China supported. That includes the most recent veto, an August 2020 measure dealing with terrorism that the U.S. vetoed for failing to mention the issue of repatriation.
The veto threat “can prompt the members of the Council to make greater efforts to reach compromises and build consensus through informal consultation,” wrote Xue Lei, an assistant research fellow at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the Chinese government .
“This actually reflects the intention of the drafters of the UN Charter in establishing the veto power,” Lei continued. “The intention was to maintain appropriate balances and mutual restraint among the major powers in order to promote dialogue, consultation, and consensus-building.”
Odds of passage
Then again, even if this resolution were to pass and become the official position of the U.S. government, there’s another major snag: in order for China’s removal as a permanent Security Council member to actually happen, China would have to vote to expel itself.