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.
Last updated on: 23 September 2022.
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:
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that the arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims ‘may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity’, ‘requiring urgent attention by UN intergovernmental bodies’. It ‘recommends to the international community that it supports efforts to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in the XUAR [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region]’;
- The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery found that some instances of forced labour of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities ‘may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting a further independent analysis’;
- Over 40 UN Special Procedures experts have called on three occasions 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, June 2022, and September 2022;
- The UN 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’, including in its most recent Opinions (6/2022 and 9/2022); 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, including Tibetan rights defenders;
- Special Procedures have issued 83 communications and 28 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 Universal Periodic Review (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), and indicated it will not cooperate with the OHCHR anymore after it was released;
- 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 OHCHR presence in China, nor does China have an independent National Human Rights Institution (NHRI);
- China has not joined a regional human rights system, nor has it ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
For more details, please download our assessment in full English version, or Executive Summary versions in Spanish and French.