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China must address grave human rights concerns and enable credible international investigation: UN experts

10 June 2022

GENEVA (10 June 2022) – Ahead of the 50th session of the Human Rights Council, a group of UN experts* today urged the Government of China to cooperate fully with the UN human rights system and grant unhindered access to independent experts who have received and addressed allegations of significant human rights violations and repression of fundamental freedoms in the country.

“Cooperation includes allowing visits by UN Special Procedures mechanisms and granting full access, particularly to places of detention,” the experts said. “Strengthening engagement with independent human rights experts and Human Rights Council mechanisms is crucial to full and transparent enforcement of China’s human rights obligations.”

Recognising high-level engagement with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by the Government of China during her recent visit to the country, the experts stressed the value of constructive dialogue with the Government by all UN human rights entities. The experts stressed that this engagement does not replace the urgent need for a complete assessment of the human rights situation in the country, and especially in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Tibet Autonomous Region and in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

“The Government of China must address specific and systematic human rights violations,” the UN experts said, calling on authorities in Beijing to ensure full and transparent cooperation with the totality of the UN’s human rights system.

They renewed the calls made in a June 2020 joint statement by 50 UN Special Rapporteurs and human rights experts, which catalogued concerns about the treatment of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the Tibet Autonomous Region, allegations of excessive force against protesters including in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and reports of retaliation against people speaking out about the coronavirus outbreak. The statement highlighted the need to protect fundamental human rights in China including freedoms of expression, cultural rights, peaceful assembly and association, religion or belief, and non-discrimination; to prevent forced labour in the formal and informal economy, protect journalists and health care workers; and to promote women’s freedom from sexual violence and ensure sexual and reproductive health rights are equally guaranteed to all women and girls regardless of ethnic or religious identity.

“Since 2017, we have repeatedly raised concerns about widespread violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) on the basis of religion or belief and under the pretext of national security and preventing extremism,” the experts said. “Several reports submitted to the Human Rights Council by Special Rapporteurs also have repeatedly raised these and related issues. Deep concerns also persist about the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other parts of the country.

“We have yet to see any signs of political will to address the concerns raised,” the experts added. Recent improvements with respect to the rights of persons with disabilities shows that progress is possible.

UN human rights experts have previously expressed serious concerns about the alleged harassment, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and undue prosecution and sentencing of lawyers and human rights defenders including women human rights defenders, among other civil society representatives, business-related human rights abuses and of trafficking for purposes of forced labour and other purposes of exploitation. “UN Special Procedures experts continue to voice their concerns over the absence of protection for the right to privacy, reported use of mass surveillance including in the XUAR, entrenched censorship and consolidation of anti-terrorism and sedition law applied to Hong Kong.”

The experts reiterate recommendations made in the June 2020 joint statement, urging the Human Rights Council to convene a special session on China; consider the creation of a Special Procedures mandate, a special envoy of the Secretary General or a panel of experts to closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China; and urging UN Member States and UN agencies to demand that China fulfils its human rights obligations including during their ongoing dialogues with Beijing.

They emphasized the value of ensuring a consistent United Nations approach to all States in assessing their human rights obligations and commitments. “Upholding the same standards and their equal application to all States big and small is important to maintaining the integrity, credibility and moral authority of Human Rights Council and UN systems for human rights enforcement around the world,” the experts said.

*The experts: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Mary Lawlor , Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression; Fernand de Varennes,Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Melissa Upreti (Chair), Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Vice-Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Luciano Hazan (Chair-Rapporteur), Aua Baldé (Vice-Chair), Gabriella Citroni, Henrikas Mickevičius and Tae-Ung Baik; Working Group on arbitrary detention, Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Chair-Rapporteur), Mumba Malila (Vice-Chair), Elina Steinerte, Matthew Gillett, Priya Gopalan; Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Sorcha MacLeod (Chair-Rapporteur), Jelena Aparac, Ravindran Daniel, Chris Kwaja; E. Tendayi Achiume; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Fabián Salvioli , Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Ana Brian Nougrères, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; Elżbieta Karska (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Fernanda Hopenhaym (Vice Chairperson), Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Ms. Pichamon Yeophantong, members of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and Koumba Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page — China

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Michelle Erazo (+41.22.917.9449; [email protected]).

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato Rosario De Souza ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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