China and the UN Treaty Body System
In this briefing paper, ISHR looks at the powerful role of China over the UN human rights treaty bodies (UNTBs), identifying the ways in which China deploys influence, from an official discourse that consistently focuses on restricting their scope of work to direct threats to independent NGOs who wish to engage with the UN experts.
On 25 January, ISHR published its briefing paper 'China and the UN Treaty Body System', which highlights Chinese efforts to exert undue influence over the United Nations' human rights treaty bodies (UNTBS).
UNTBs are a fundamental component of the international human rights architecture. Their purpose is to monitor State compliance with the core international treaties. Their independence from undue influence is crucial to getting States to uphold basic international human rights norms, such as the prohibition of torture, or the right to freedom from discrimination, and to keeping them accountable if and when they fail to do so.
This paper identifies and analyses the ways in which China deploys its influence over the UNTBs, from an official discourse that consistently focuses on restricting their scope of work to direct threats to independent NGOs who wish to submit vital information about human rights violations in China. The paper also looks at Chinese government efforts to deter inputs from independent NGOs, while encouraging participation by government-aligned organisations (or GONGOs).
It also looks through three specific incidents that illustrate Chinese efforts to twist the treaty bodies' arms and concludes with recommendations to strengthen the UNTBs and mitigate efforts by China and other States to instrumentalise them. These include actions by States to ensure transparent elections for the Treaty body and thus more qualified candidates; by treaty body members to 'self-regulate', based on their strong founding principles of independence; and by OHCHR to strengthen its efforts to resist undue State pressure over the expert mechanisms it hosts.
'China and the UN Treaty Body System' is ISHR's third briefing note on the Chinese government's influence over UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, following the 2021 briefing paper mapping Chinese presence in the United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its subsidiary bodies and agencies and the 2020 paper 'Feeling for stones: how China found its footing at the UN’s Human Rights Council', available in the Amnesty International compilation 'Shifting Power and Human Rights Diplomacy: China'.
Executive summaries are available here (in English) and here (in Chinese).