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China seeking to control bodies like WHO, Interpol: UK parliament panel

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LONDON: Autocratic nations like China are seeking to manipulate, undermine, or even break up multilateral organisations, such as the WHO and Interpol, set up in the wake of World War II to establish an international system based on shared values of peace, prosperity and freedom, a new report has found.
The report, published Thursday by the UK House of Commons foreign affairs committee, which is made up of 11 MPs who scrutinise the country’s foreign policies, warns, “If the UK and its allies do not respond to the corrosive influence of states, including China and Russia, there is a very real risk that democratic states will lose multilateral organisations to authoritarian states who have done little to demonstrate that they wish to uphold the values these organisations represent.”
“We have seen attempts by countries such as China to seize control of strategically important organisations and fundamentally redefine the once universally agreed principles on which they are based. The UK has played a leading role in the foundation and development of multilateral organisations. This system remains on a slow drift toward capture by autocratic states,” the report warns.
It found that China was increasingly using aggressive means, including bilateral economic leverage, to coerce states in multilateral organisations to back their position or their candidates and then it “uses the organisations to shift policies away from the cooperation the organisations were created to promote”.
The report recommends that the UK work with a coalition of like-minded states within these bodies to publicly call out states who are undermining the system and publicly vote against attempts by such states to secure leadership positions.
The report criticised the disengagement of the Trump administration, saying it had allowed China to consolidate its grip over several multilateral organisations.
The report looks at six major multilateral organisations — the World Health Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, Interpol, the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“There are examples of China using its economic leverage, through the Belt and Road Initiative, to achieve support in multilaterals. Use of aggressive diplomacy by China, or ‘bullying’, can be seen in operation at the OHCHR and HRC as well as the WHO,” the report said.
It added many HRC member states “hold an alternative view of human rights to those they initially ratified in the UN charter” and that China held a sway over the WHO disproportionate to its funding or representation on the secretariat.
The report expressed grave concern over the funding of these bodies, saying that there was a risk of them being “captured” by state or private donors who could influence their agendas. TOI had reported in March how the OHCHR had accepted a $10,000 donation from pro-Khalistan Sikhs for Justice.
The foreign affairs committee chair, Tom Tugendhat, said: “Dictatorships are taking over the institutions built out of the wreckage of the Second World War to defend democracy.”



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