'Good Riddance': China Chides Departing German Envoy Over U.N. Remarks

China's envoy to the U.N. defended Beijing's human rights record on Tuesday and bid his German counterpart "good riddance" after the retiring diplomat called for the release of two Canadians being held by the Chinese government.

Geng Shuang, China's deputy representative, accused Germany's Christoph Heusgen of launching "malicious attacks" during the year's final meeting of the U.N.'s 15-member Security Council.

"I wish to say out of the bottom of my heart: Good riddance, Ambassador Heusgen," Geng said. His comments followed Heusgen, 65, calling on Beijing to release Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, a diplomat and a businessman, respectively, who were arrested in December 2018 and accused of espionage.

Their continued detention is widely regarded as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who, at the request of the U.S., was detained on fraud charges by Canadian authorities days earlier.

"While the Chinese executive spends her time in a seven-bedroom mansion in Vancouver, Michael Kovrig has been confined to an isolated small cell in Beijing," said Heusgen, who is set to retire after 40 years as a diplomat when Germany completes a two-year term on the Security Council at the end of this month.

"This Council will lose its legitimacy if it ceases to be concerned about the fate of individuals, about their protection and security, their human rights and their freedoms, their well-being and their aspirations," the ambassador argued.

He added: "Therefore, let me end my tenure in the Security Council by appealing to my Chinese colleagues to ask Beijing for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor."

"Christmas is the right moment for such a gesture," he said.

Geng, China's deputy envoy, accused Heusgen of straying from the Security Council's agreed agenda to discuss Iran and nonproliferation.

"In his last remarks, he launched malicious attacks against other Council members," Geng said. "He abused the platform of the Security Council in an attempt to poison the working atmosphere of the Council."

He added: "Now, I wish to say out of the bottom of my heart: Good riddance, Ambassador Heusgen.

"I hope that the Council, in your absence in 2021, will be in a better position to fulfill the responsibilities and mandate for maintaining international peace and security."

In October, before the U.N. General Assembly Third Committee for human rights, Heusgen led a joint statement by 39 countries expressing "grave concerns" about alleged human rights abuses in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, where more than a million Uighur Muslims are thought to be detained in "political re-education" camps.

The statement on behalf of signatories, including the U.S. and U.K., called on China to "respect human rights... especially in Xinjiang and Tibet."

He asked Beijing to allow independent U.N. observers into the region, before calling on China to "uphold autonomy, rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and to respect the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary."

Heusgen's address then was rebuffed by China and a series of joint statements by nearly 70 nations, including Russia, Cuba and North Korea, who supported Beijing's independent right to implement internal policies.

China, along with Russia, was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council a week later.

German Ambassador to U.N. Christoph Heusgen
File photo: Christoph Heusgen, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations. EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images