China UPR briefing paper: abuse of national security to curtail human rights in China

This submission to the 4th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China addresses the Chinese government's misuse of ill-defined national security legislation as a structural abuse and common root cause of systematic and widespread violations against Uyghurs, Tibetans, and human rights defenders and lawyers in mainland China and Hong Kong.

During China’s 3rd UPR review in November 2018, the Chinese government actively accepted the majority of these recommendations, identifying most as ‘already implemented.’ However, a joint UPR mid-term report released by five organisations, including ISHR, concludes that these recommendations were not implemented.

ISHR analysed a series of recommendations issued by UN human rights bodies since January 2018, and has found that: 

  • The authorities systematically invoke national security to target human rights defenders, having a chilling effect on civil society as a whole;
  • Critical or dissenting opinions are characterised as threats to national security, justifying far-reaching restrictions to freedom of expression;
  • National security legislation bypasses basic due process, allowing for blanket denials of access to legal counsel, and enforced disappearance under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (RSDL);
  • In doing so, China contravenes its obligations under international human rights law, as national security-motivated restrictions fail to meet the standards of legality, necessity and proportionality.

Based on recommendations issued by UN human rights bodies, ISHR urges the Government of China to: 

  • Fully review the legal framework governing national security; 
  • Put an immediate end to the misuse of national security;
  • Review China’s Criminal Procedure Law and repeal the provision that allows suspects to be held under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL);
  • End all forms of enforced disappearance provided by law or carried out extra-legally; 
  • Repeal Article 105 providing for the crimes of ‘subversion of State power’ and ‘inciting subversion’, and Article 103 providing for the crimes of ‘separatism’ and ‘inciting separatism’, under China’s Criminal Law; 
  • Ensure that any surveillance online and offline, including for national security matters, complies with international human rights law, including standards of legality, necessity and proportionality;
  • Repeal the National Security Law in Hong Kong.