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China failing to deliver on human rights promises, NGO tells UN

An assessment by rights groups has found “large discrepancies” between the Chinese government’s promises and its actions concerning human rights.

The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders – a group of Chinese and international human rights NGOs – released the report on Tuesday. The report comes after China’s re-election to the UN Human Rights Council in October.

nchrd report

Photo: NCHRD.

“We documented a very serious deterioration in China’s human rights record in these past three years. This essentially confirms the Chinese government is just using the UPR process as a window dressing while it slides backwards on human rights,” Frances Eve, a researcher at NCHRD, told HKFP.

The report is a mid-term assessment of 252 recommendations made by UN Member States to China in its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member states every four years at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2013.

The assessment – prepared by NCHRD, civil society organisations and human rights activists in China – helps fill a gap in the review process, CHRD said. Countries submit mid-term reports to assess their implementation of UPR recommendations on a voluntary basis, but China did not do so.

‘Especially disappointing’ 

The report’s findings contradict claims by the Chinese government that it has “accepted” 81% of the the UPR recommendations, Eve said. “Accepting recommendations and not following through on implementation displays a lack of cooperation with the UN. This is especially disappointing, as China is a member of the Human Rights Council and members are expected to uphold the highest standard of human rights.”

The report found that out of 236 recommendations made by member states, 190 were not implemented, 43 were partially implemented, and only 3 were implemented. The report also assesses recommendations for whether they are appropriate to meet the goal of the HRC to improve human rights situations and address rights violations, eliminating 16 that did not meet this criteria.

UN human rights council

The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, used by the United Nations Human Rights Council, in the Palace of Nations (Geneva). Photo: Wikicommons.

Since the second UPR, human rights conditions and safeguards in China have slightly improved in some limited areas, but the overall situation has worsened in the past three years, CHRD said.

Of particular significance are the recommendations that China didn’t accept – many of which are about ratifying core human rights treaties, said Eve, adding that the treaties are not just a political exercise. “These mechanisms exist to help hold governments accountable for human rights violations and help victims of abuses.”

Labour camps, gay conversion, death penalty 

The three recommendations that the group found China to have fully implemented had to do with the abolition of the re-education through labour system, which was abolished in 2013, after the second UPR for China.

China has yet to fully implement other key recommendations such as the abolition of the household registration, or hukou, system, and compliance and ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Other areas highlighted include increased transparency for executions, abolition of all forms of extra-judicial detention, banning gay conversion therapy treatment, and removing administrative obstacles that can be used to intimidate or penalise human rights lawyers.

The areas with the most improvement were economic and social rights, particularly in the areas of child rights, disability rights, and combating discrimination against rural residents, Eve said. But China did not receive full implementation assessments for these recommendations because “the government has taken only incomplete steps in legislation, and many existing laws are not enforced in practise.” Meaningful accountability mechanisms are needed to truly protect and realise economic rights, according to the researcher.

A statement from NCHRD criticised China’s re-election to the HRC, saying that “the Chinese government cited the ‘high number of votes’ it received for a seat for the 2014-2016 term as proof of its success in supporting international human rights, while it openly admitted that its objective as a member on the HRC is to ‘actively declare China’s own human rights policy and point of view.'”

nchrd report

Table of recommendations and assessments from the report. Photo: NCHRD.

Following its re-election to the HRC, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “For China to be successfully re-elected to the HRC is ample proof of the international community’s recognition of China’s human rights development and its active participation in international human rights discussion and cooperation.”

China will take the opportunity to continue to earnestly fulfill international rights obligations, it said.

A whitepaper published by the government hailed the progress made in human rights protection in China’s judicial system. “The country has effectively protected the people’s rights and freedoms in an extensive array of fields in accordance with the law, while its people duly fulfill their obligations,” Xinhua reported.

The third UPR for China is expected to take place in late 2018.

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China failing to deliver on human rights promises, NGO tells UN