China: analysis against the 'objective criteria' for Human Rights Council action

The present assessment provides substantial evidence that demonstrates how the human rights situation in China meets each of the nine ‘objective criteria’ for action by the Human Rights Council.

A growing number of UN Human Rights Council Member States (26 of the current 47 Member States) have endorsed the ‘Irish Principles’, a set of ‘objective criteria’ laid out in a July 2016 joint statement allowing States to assess in a non-politicised and independent manner whether a national situation merits a response by the Human Rights Council.

The present assessment provides substantial evidence that demonstrates how the human rights situation in China meets each of the nine ‘objective criteria’, and therefore requires prompt action by the Human Rights Council, for the following reasons:

  • Over 40 Special Procedures experts have twice called for ‘the establishment of an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China,’ in June 2020 and in June 2022;
  • The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has reiterated concerns about ‘a systemic problem with arbitrary detention in China, which amounts to a serious violation of international law’; while Special Procedures have overall addressed the targeting of 92 human rights defenders since 2018, recalling deep concerns about their enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and criminalisation;
  • Special Procedures have issued 83 communications and 27 press releases to China since 2018, but noted they ‘have yet to see any signs of political will to address the concerns raised’; the government has not replied to 19 pending visit requests, and rejected all UPR recommendations to provide unhindered access to UN experts;
  • China ranks among the top five perpetrators of reprisals against civil society actors for cooperation with the UN, with 43 cases reported by the Secretary-General: it is the most frequently cited country since 2010 alongside Saudi Arabia;
  • China has consistently dismissed all concerns about human rights violations raised at the Human Rights Council or by UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies, characterising them as ‘groundless’ and an ‘interference in internal affairs’, and repeatedly attacked Special Procedures mandate-holders in public statements;
  • China has recently attempted to gather diplomatic support to block the publication of an OHCHR report on serious human rights violations in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang);
  • 50 Special Procedures experts stressed that the High Commissioner’s engagement with China ‘does not replace the urgent need for a complete assessment of the human rights situation in the country’ and emphasized the importance of ‘maintaining the integrity, credibility and moral authority of the Human Rights Council’ by ‘upholding the same standards and their equal applications to all States big and small’;
  • There is no presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in China, nor does China have an independent National Human Rights Institution (NHRI);
  • China has not joined a regional human rights system, nor signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

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