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Curb Racism And Semitic Intolerance In The U.S: UN Human Rights Expert

She also urged governments to work with the private sector — specifically technology companies — to fight such prejudices in the digital space.

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Pittsburgh, Hate, shooting
Monks pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday's shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. VOA

Following the shooting deaths of 11 worshippers at a synagogue in the eastern United States, a U.N. human rights expert urged governments on Monday to do more to curb racist and anti-Semitic intolerance, especially online.

“That event should be a catalyst for urgent action against hate crimes, but also a reminder to fight harder against the current climate of intolerance that has made racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes and beliefs more acceptable,” U.N. Special Rapporteur Tendayi Achiume said of Saturday’s attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Achiume, whose mandate is the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, noted in her annual report that “Jews remain especially vulnerable to anti-Semitic attacks online.”

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A mother and her child arrive to place flowers at a spontaneous memorial of flowers and sidewalk writing a block from the Tree of Life Synagogue. VOA

She said that Nazi and neo-Nazi groups exploit the internet to spread and incite hate because it is “largely unregulated, decentralized, cheap” and anonymous.

Achiume, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, said neo-Nazi groups are increasingly relying on the internet and social media platforms to recruit new members.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among their favorites.

Tree of Life Synagogue, racist
A person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh. VOA

On Facebook, for example, hate groups connect with sympathetic supporters and use the platform to recruit new members, organize events and raise money for their activities. YouTube, which has over 1.5 billion viewers each month, is another critical communications tool for propaganda videos and even neo-Nazi music videos. On Twitter, according to one 2012 study cited in the special rapporteur’s report, the presence of white nationalist movements on that platform has increased by more than 600 percent.

The special rapporteur noted that while digital technology has become an integral and positive part of most people’s lives, “these developments have also aided the spread of hateful movements.”

She said in the past year, platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have banned individual users who have contributed to hate movements or threatened violence, but ensuring the removal of racist content online remains difficult.

The Tree of Life Synagogue, racist
One man pays his respect in front of a Star of David memorial for one of the 11 victims killed in the Oct. 27, 2018, synagogue shooting. VOA

Some hate groups try to get around raising red flags by using racially coded messaging, which makes it harder for social media platforms to recognize their hate speech and shut down their presence.

Achiume cited as an example the use of a cartoon character “Pepe the Frog,” which was appropriated by members of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups and was widely displayed during a white supremacist rally in the southern U.S. city of Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

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The special rapporteur welcomed actions in several states to counter intolerance online, but cautioned it must not be used as a pretext for censorship and other abuses. She also urged governments to work with the private sector — specifically technology companies — to fight such prejudices in the digital space. (VOA)

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Beijing Could Improve Human Rights As Part Of The Universal Periodic Review

All U.N. member states undergo such screening, generally every four to five years. Le said China had accepted 82 percent of the recommendations presented during the review last November. The council formally adopted the review of China without a vote Friday.

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Indian Muslims shout slogans during a protest against the Chinese government, in Mumbai, India, Sept. 14, 2018. Protesters demanded that China stop detaining ethnic Uighurs in detention and political indoctrination centers in Xinjiang region. VOA

A top Chinese diplomat claimed Friday that detention centers for Muslims in China’s western province of Xinjiang are “campuses, not camps” and said they are eventually going to be closed as a “training program” for ethnic Uighurs is downsized.

At the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Executive Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng reiterated China’s insistence that the detention centers are designed to provide training and fight regional terrorism. He also claimed that officials from around the world, including from the U.N., had visited the region and that the detention centers in Xinjiang are “actually boarding schools or campuses, not camps” as reported by critics.

The U.S. State Department said this week that China has “significantly intensified” a campaign of mass detentions of minority Uighurs over the last year, with between 800,000 and 2 million people from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region interned in camps. The centers have drawn condemnation from across the world.

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At the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Executive Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng reiterated China’s insistence that the detention centers are designed to provide training and fight regional terrorism. Pixabay

Le told reporters he had recently visited some Uighur centers in Xinjiang — and played ping pong and ate halal food there. He didn’t specify when the detention centers would be closed, other than telling reporters later that would happen “at the appropriate time.”

He also took aim at a U.S.-led event in Geneva on Xinjiang — calling that “unacceptable” interference in Chinese sovereignty.

Human Rights Council

The envoy’s comments came as China was responding to more than 200 recommendations by other countries on ways that Beijing could improve human rights as part of a Human Rights Council process known as the Universal Periodic Review.

U.S.
He also took aim at a U.S.-led event in Geneva on Xinjiang — calling that “unacceptable” interference in Chinese sovereignty. VOA

All U.N. member states undergo such screening, generally every four to five years. Le said China had accepted 82 percent of the recommendations presented during the review last November. The council formally adopted the review of China without a vote Friday.

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The United States, historically one of the few countries to confront China over its human rights records, pulled out of the 47-country Geneva-based U.N. body last year, alleging it has an anti-Israeli bias and other shortcomings.

Norway’s ambassador in Geneva voiced the most criticism among diplomats at the council on Friday. Hans Brattskar said Norway regretted that China did not accept any recommendations related to the Uighur detention situation in Xinjiang. (VOA)