China’s 4th Universal Periodic Review at the UN: an explainer for civil society and journalists

Ahead of China’s 4th UPR on 23 January 2024, ISHR has prepared an explainer about China’s UPR and its significance, and provides tips for NGOs and human rights defenders to engage with it, and for journalists to report on it.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer-review process under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, where UN Member States assess each other’s human rights records, their fulfillment of human rights obligations and commitments, and provide recommendations to the State under review.

In the absence of a UN Human Rights Council debate on the human rights situation in China, the UPR will be a rare moment of global scrutiny of the country’s human rights crisis.

During China’s 3rd UPR in November 2018, China received 346 recommendations from 150 countries, and accepted 284 of them, with many questionably noted as ‘accepted and already implemented.’ Despite a seemingly high acceptance rate, China broadly rejected recommendations on:

  • the rights of Uyghurs and Tibetans, 
  • cooperation with the UN and unrestricted UN access to all regions of the country, 
  • enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, 
  • the death penalty
  •  the ratification of international treaties. 

Since 2018, mounting human rights abuses have been largely documented by a range of UN human rights bodies. All compiled by ISHR in our newly launched repository here!

On 23 January 2024, China will be examined during the UPR Working Group session. After the review, the government will review the recommendations it received, and decide which ones it commits to implement or not. During the June 2024 session of the Human Rights Council, China will have the opportunity to provide further information, and a limited number of governments and NGOs will be able to make comments. The Council will then adopt China’s UPR report.

The Chinese government is expected to implement accepted recommendations until its next UPR in 2029. The government is also encouraged by the UN to report on the status of implementation halfway through, by publishing a ‘mid-term report’; yet, China has never done it for past reviews. 

As a journalist or a human right defender, you can play a key role in follow-up to the UPR review.

Download our explainer in English, Chinese, French or Spanish, to learn more.