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Washington D.C.- House Foreign Affairs Lead Republican Michael McCaul gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing highlighting the challenges facing the United Nations with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
In his opening remarks, Lead Republican McCaul highlighted some of the many crises facing the United Nations, including the famine conditions in Ethiopia, cross-border access in Syria and CCP influence in international organizations like the WHO.
“As we speak, millions of lives are at risk in Tigray. As fighting continues there, starvation and systematic rape are being used as weapons of war.
“And comments from Administrator Power that Ethiopia is, quote, “destroying the reproductive health of Tigrayans,” calls into question whether conditions amount to a genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention.”
During questioning, the Lead Republican pressed Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield on actions she was taking to hold the CCP accountable for its genocide in Xinjiang and the Biden Administration’s reliance on a second investigation into the origins of COVID-19 by the WHO after the first one was so heavily influenced by the CCP it became untrustworthy.
“I know the G7 called for the WHO to lead this investigation but given their track record and tainted history, [and] I would say being complicit with the cover-up, [and Director] General Tedros’ associations with President Xi.
“Is it possible that the WHO could ever conduct a fair investigation, and have you given any thought to perhaps an independent team of scientists under an organization with credibility? That’s assuming the Chinese would ever let us in the first place.”
-Opening Remarks as Delivered-
“Thank you, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, for joining us here today. Let me first say, I really appreciated the outreach to me in our phone conversation we had. I really do think we have far more in common that we don’t. And we also talked a lot about the CCP and it’s concerted effort to take over a key positions within the United Nations. I think we need to be a leader and have the United States and our allies in those positions of power at the UN. And we are certainly in agreement on that. Thank you for being here today.
You certainly have a lot of challenges, no question. As the Chairman talked about I want to start out — as we speak, millions of lives are at risk in Tigray.And while maybe a lot of people back home in our districts do not know a lot about this, as fighting continues there, starvation and systematic rape are being used as a weapon of war.
And comments from Administrator Power that Ethiopia is, quote, ‘destroying the reproductive health of Tigrayans,’ calls into question whether conditions amount to a genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention. And I don’t think it is going to get better, I think it is going to get worse.
At the same time, with the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan, we will likely face a refugee crisis in the region in the coming months.
The U.N. will undoubtedly have a critical role to play in addressing this impending humanitarian emergency.
Last year, Russia abused its Security Council vote, as the Chairman talked about, to force the closure of some border crossings into Syria, as well. This limited delivery of life-saving assistance to innocent Syrians is in desperate need.
As you know, there is bipartisan, bicameral support for maintaining and expanding cross-border access. The Security Council will soon vote to renew access to the border crossing that allows vital humanitarian aid to flow to millions of Syrians.
I hope you will update us today on your strategy to protect these crossings from Russia’s malicious veto.
The lack of a robust international response to these tragedies, and the missteps in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, remind us that international organizations are important, but also need reform.
And that starts, in my judgement, with the World Health Organization.
Director-General Tedros praised the CCP for its, quote, ‘transparency’ and for setting a, quote, “new standard for outbreak response.”
This is despite widespread evidence the CCP was:
• Suppressing the sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19,
• They arrested doctors and journalists, and
• They censored social media discussions of the outbreak within China.
The WHO’s embrace of the CCP’s propaganda directly impacted how Americans and the entire world viewed the virus. In fact, they failed in their most paramount mission, to warn the world of a global pandemic.
One American expert who provides technical assistance to the WHO said quote, “We were deceived.”
On top of that, earlier this month, with the tacit approval of the Biden Administration, Belarus and Syria were elected to serve on the WHO’s Executive Board. Understandably, there have been voices, including mine, advocating for significant reforms at WHO – including the removal of Tedros as Director General.
It’s no wonder the American people are losing faith in international organizations.
That is why I think, as we talked about, U.S. leadership in these organizations is really more critical now than ever. And why the U.S. should be honest and clear-eyed about where we choose to engage.
Earlier this year, I was troubled when President Biden announced the United States would rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council. I agree we have to be engaged, we cannot leave the playing field. But as you know, the UN Human Rights Council has a history of protecting some of the world’s worst human rights abusers. Current members of the council include the PRC – who are actively committing genocide in Xinjiang, and yet they are on the UN Human Rights Council; Russia – who has carried out nerve agent attacks on political opposition leaders, like Navalny; and Venezuela – where Madruo backed forces have killed more than 20,000 people.
I did appreciate Secretary Blinken when he raised some of these issues publicly at the Council. But we should have made reforms to the Council a prerequisite to returning.
And I do think it is important to remember: the U.S. engagement with international organizations like the United Nations brings significant financial contributions from American taxpayers.
In fact, the U.S. accounts for roughly one-quarter of both the regular and peacekeeping budgets at the UN. And we are the largest donor to the WHO, contributing roughly 15 percent of their annual budget in 2019.
So, I think the American people deserve to know their money is being usedwisely to help the global community and to influence the UN to reflect the American values of freedom and democracy. And of course, it’s been reported, Madam Ambassador, that taxpayer money went to the lab in Wuhan and there are so many questions regarding that. I understand that the quest for scientific research, but we also need to know what happened with that lab to ensure that it never happens again.
So with that, I want to thank you again for joining us and with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”
-Questions and Answers as Delivered-
Ranking Member McCaul: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me just say at the outset, Susan Rice was the first African American ambassador to the United Nations. Madam Ambassador, you are the second. And my friend to my right is the first African American Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. So as this nation tries to move forward with our race relations, let me just note for the record, that we have certainly made progress, and I think it exemplifies it here today. It’s an honor to serve with you.
Let me start with your assessment of China and the threat from the CCP was spot on, and I was very impressed with that. This committee passed unanimously a resolution that basically labeled the crimes coming out of the Xinjiang province against the Uyghur Muslims as genocide. Do you agree with the assessment of this committee that genocide and crimes against humanity are being committed by the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang?”
Ambassador Greenfield: “Yes, genocide is being committed against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and the PRC government is committing crimes against humanity. We have called the Chinese out on this. I hosted a high-level virtual event on the 12th of May that was co-hosted with the U.K. and 18 other countries, where we addressed these issues in public to ensure that we continue to shine a light on what is happening in Xinjiang.”
Ranking Member McCaul: “I appreciate that candid response, and I couldn’t agree with you more. And I hope the bill will come to the floor soon. It calls for you, Madam Ambassador, to lead the efforts to invoke sanctions in response to this genocide.
What is the administration’s strategy to fulfill our legal obligations under the Genocide Convention, which requires all states to prevent and punish these crimes of genocide?”
Ambassador Greenfield: “First and foremost, at the United Nations in March, we issued joint sanctions that were announced by the U.K., Canada, and the E.U., and we thought this was a powerful example of the impact we can have by collaborating with like-minded allies and parties.
The President is in Europe as we speak, and this past week he has also engaged with allies and partners to see how we can continue our efforts to grow an international coalition of countries willing to speak out against the atrocities that are occurring in Xinjiang, and while we’re considering unilateral actions that we can take to promote accountability to the PRC government’scrimes and abuses we also want to be a leader on this in the United Nations.”
Ranking Member McCaul: “I think we’re always best when we lead on democracy, freedom, and human rights and protecting the freedoms and human rights of people around the world, and that’s where this committee often comes together.
As not just Republican or Democrat but as Americans that those are our ideals that we hold so true and so valuable. I’d like to ask you also about COVID-19. The latest revelations coming out seem to be pointing more and more that’s a possibility, if not probability, this could have accidentally leaked from the laboratory. I know the G7 called for the WHO to lead this investigation but given their track record and tainted history, I would say being complicit with the cover-up, General Tedros’ associations with President Xi.
Is it possible that the WHO could ever conduct a fair investigation, and have you given any thought to perhaps an independent team of scientists under an organization with credibility? That’s assuming the Chinese would ever let us in the first place.”
Ambassador Greenfield: “The Biden-Harris administration has made clear it supports a robust and transparent investigation into the origins of COVID-19, of the pandemic, and we do believe that an impartial public health investigation into the origins in early and the early spread of the outbreak is vital to protecting us in the future against such pandemics.
This administration will continue to review all the information that we have at our disposal so that we can provide that information on the origins. The WHO did pull together to appoint an independent committee that was is being led by two well-respected individuals, former President of Liberia Sirleaf that is co-leading that investigation, as the U.N. mission met with her and the team involved in that, and I know that they have met with other members of the security council to brief on the final report.
I am confident in and their abilities to get to the bottom of this, and I know that they are working hard. Their reputations are attached to this, and we’re looking forward to seeing the results. But again, we ourselves are looking at this, and the President has asked that the U.N. and the U.S. intelligence community provide a full assessment of its findings within the next few months.”
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