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‘Politically biased’: China rejects UN recommendations on death penalty, freedoms in Xinjiang and Tibet

China has not accepted 62 of the 346 recommendations made at the United Nations (UN) 2018 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), saying they are inconsistent with national conditions and laws, “politically biased or untruthful.”

Of those not accepted, the majority addressed China’s continued use of the death penalty, restrictions on individual freedoms, or the subjugation of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet.

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The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the Palais des Nations. File photo: UN.

Countries delivered recommendations during the third cycle of the UN’s UPR in Geneva last November, covering areas including poverty alleviation and international law. The majority of the points were accepted.

During the assessment – which all 193 UN nations must undergo approximately every four years – the Chinese delegation was grilled on the detention of an estimated one million Muslim Uighurs and other minorities in the northwestern Xinjiang region. According to NGO reports, offences such as having a long beard or reading religious texts can land non-Han Chinese residents in extrajudicial “re-education” centres.

China said in its responding report that the accepted recommendations demonstrate its “active, open attitude toward promoting and protecting human rights,” while criticising those it did not accept as interfering in its “sovereignty and internal affairs.”

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Photo: UN screenshot.

Patrick Poon, a researcher at NGO Amnesty International, told HKFP that Beijing’s response is superficial: “It’s clear that the Chinese government doesn’t respect the comments from other states. It only picks those favourable comments and rejects all important and valid criticisms,” he said. “The Chinese government should show its willingness to follow the international standards which it also endorses at the United Nations. That is the only way to show its determination to improve its human rights record but not to turn the UN mechanism as window-dressing.”

Hong Kong recommendations

Six of the UPR recommendations related to Hong Kong. Of those made, China accepted all but Indonesia’s suggestion to ratify the UN’s migrant worker’s rights treaty in the territory, saying: “The specific date of ratification depends on whether relevant conditions in China are in place.”

In full: Outcome of UPR Recommendations on Hong Kong - click to view

Australia: uphold the rule of law and rights embodied in the One Country, Two Systems framework for Hong Kong (ACCEPTED).

Canada: ensure the right of Hong Kong people to take part in government, without distinction of any kind (ACCEPTED).

Croatia: that Hong Kong internally legislates to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child (ACCEPTED).

France: guarantee freedom of speech, assembly and association, including in Hong Kong, and remove restrictions on freedom of information on the internet, in particular for human rights defenders (ACCEPTED).

Indonesia: encourage China, including Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, to consider ratifying the International Covenant on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in respect to Hong Kong and Macau (NOT ACCEPTED).

Philippines: enhance the monitoring of the Standard Employment Contract for migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong (ACCEPTED).

The Hong Kong UPR Coalition – an alliance of 45 civil society organisations – said on Tuesday that they were pleased to see the majority of recommendations accepted, but were disappointed by the refusal to ratify the migrant workers’ rights treaty.

In the second UPR cycle in 2013, China accepted recommendations from Egypt, Ghana and Guatemala on acceding to the UN’s migrant worker’s rights treaty, neither of which mentioned Hong Kong.

China accepted France’s recommendation to guarantee freedoms in the country and in Hong Kong, saying that measures had already been implemented to do so.

No such recommendations were made about the city during the prior iteration of the UPR in 2013.

An inter-agency mechanism, led by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and comprising of over 40 legislative, judicial and administrative departments, was established to consider the recommendations, according to Beijing.

After the review, each state is expected to implement the recommendations it accepts before the next UPR in around four years time.

'Politically biased': China rejects UN recommendations on death penalty, freedoms in Xinjiang and Tibet