Government makes a mockery of UN human rights review

Press release

(Paris) China’s government made a complete mockery of the review of the country’s human rights situation, FIDH and its member organizations Human Rights in China (HRIC) and International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said today, ahead of the adoption of the report of the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China during the 40th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The Chinese government’s blanket denials of the serious human rights violations occurring across the country, and particularly against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, shows that Beijing does not take the UPR process seriously. If it wishes to be an upstanding and rights-respecting member of the international community, China must immediately change course and start addressing the human rights concerns that emerged during the UPR.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Vice-President

China’s third UPR was held on 6 November 2018. In the lead-up to the adoption of the UPR report, the Chinese government declared that it accepted 284 of the 346 recommendations it received from UN member states on 6 November 2018. Despite the seemingly high rate (82%) of accepted recommendations, the government embarked on a sweeping rejection of recommendations concerning key civil and political rights. In other cases, it manipulated the review process by defying the reality on the ground and claiming it had accepted, and already implemented, many of the recommendations it received. Such behavior, coupled with outrageous statements made by the government delegation during the November 2018 session, demonstrated Beijing’s unwillingness to address the numerous human rights concerns expressed by the international community.

“China’s blatant denial of serious, systemic, and worsening, human rights violations—thinly veiled by laws and regulations that have been weaponized to aid state repression—shows a total rejection of universal human rights norms and standards. As China also aggressively seeks to alter fundamental human rights principles beyond its borders, the implications for people of the world cannot be underestimated.”

Sharon Hom, HRIC Executive Director

Below is a brief analysis of the government’s response to the recommendations made by UN member states with regard to selected key human rights issues.

Human rights defenders

Despite ample evidence of ongoing attacks, arbitrary detentions, threats, intimidation, and other acts of harassment against human rights defenders, the government said that it accepted, and had already implemented, 15 recommendations that called on Beijing to protect human rights defenders, create a safe and enabling environment for them, and ensure the enjoyment of their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly. The government did not accept two other recommendations that called for the release of detained human rights defenders.

In November 2018, the head of the Chinese government delegation equated human rights defenders with criminals “as long as they are anti-China, against the government, separatist[s] and undermine the country.”

Rights of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet

While the government said it accepted, and had already implemented, recommendations that called for the respect and protection of rights of ethnic minorities, it did not accept any of the 17 recommendations that urged Beijing to address the well-documented, widespread, and systematic human rights violations committed in Xinjiang and Tibet, including violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief.

The government also refused to accept 11 recommendations that called on the Chinese authorities to grant the UN access to Xinjiang and Tibet to monitor the human rights situation in these regions.

Despite evidence of widespread and systematic arbitrary mass detentions in re-education camps in Xinjiang, the government claimed that there was “no such problem as arbitrary detention” in the region and that human rights were “seriously protected.”

In November 2018, the government described the re-education camps in Xinjiang as “Vocational training institution[s] mainly for learning language, vocational skills and counter extremism.”

Right to freedom of opinion and expression

Despite abundant evidence of Beijing’s long-standing censorship and surveillance of the internet, the government claimed it had accepted, and had already implemented, three recommendations that called for the removal of restrictions on freedom of expression, including on the Internet.

In November 2018, the head of the Chinese government delegation said that freedom of expression had “red lines” and that “expressions that incite separatism and terrorism” could not be seen as freedom of expression.

Death penalty

The government failed to accept all 14 recommendations it received concerning the death penalty, including recommendations that urged China to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR-OP2); reduce the number of offenses punishable by death; establish an official moratorium on executions.

Despite evidence that China has consistently ranked as the world’s top executioner, with thousands of executions carried out every year, in its response to the recommendations received, the government declared that capital punishment “should be retained with its application strictly and prudently limited.”

Ratification of international human rights instruments

The government did not accept any of the recommendations that called for China to become a state party to important international human rights conventions, including: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (three recommendations); the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (two recommendations); and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (one recommendation).

LGBTI rights

The government claimed it accepted, and had already implemented, all six recommendations that called on Beijing to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, this is contradicted by the fact that same-sex marriages are still prohibited in China. In November 2018, the government attributed the failure to recognize same sex marriage to “historical culture reasons” and claimed this did not constitute a discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) individuals.

Extraterritorial obligations

On a positive note, the government accepted three recommendations (made by Ecuador, Peru, and Kenya) that called on China to address the human rights and environmental impacts of investment and infrastructure projects implemented by Chinese companies overseas. These calls were consistent with similar recommendations made by FIDH and the Colectivo sobre Financiamiento e Inversiones Chinas, Derechos Humanos y Ambiente (CICDHA), a coalition of 20 human rights organizations, in their joint submission for the third UPR of China. FIDH expects these recommendations to be effectively implemented in order to ensure that business activities inside and outside China’s territory fully respect human rights and the environment.

Press contacts
FIDH: Ms. Eva Canan (English, French) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
HRIC: Ms. Sharon Hom (English)- Tel: +12122394495 (New York)
HRIC: Ms. Mi Ling Tsui (English, Mandarin) - Tel: +12122394495 (New York)
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