China, human rights and corporate activities in Latin America

This report submitted to the UN explores 14 business ventures in Latin America in which companies and banks under China's jurisdiction have not complied with international human rights, labour and environmental standards.

Over the past two decades, economic and financial ties between China and Latin American nations have deepened to an unprecedented extent. Chinese financial institutions have become the principal creditors of several governments in the region while Chinese corporations, most of them State-owned, have invested an estimated $172 billion and have led over 200 infrastructure projects in 20 countries in the region.

The expansion of Chinese corporate and financial activities has come alongside a significant increase in appeals by civil society actors, warning of human rights abuses and negative environmental impacts where Chinese operations have taken place.

In this context, 22 Latin American and international organisations, including ISHR and the CICDHA* coalition, have produced a report, submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), which looks in detail at 14 ventures in which corporate and financial actors under  China’s jurisdiction have failed to comply with international human rights, labour and environmental standards.

The report was prepared and submitted for China’s review by the CESCR, which took place on 15-16 February 2023. The committee of independent experts is mandated to assess the compliance of ratifying States - such as China - with the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Social Rights (ICESCR), including extraterritorial abuses by actors under its control. In a prior stage of the review, committee members had posed key questions on efforts to implement due diligence and provide redress to victims of corporate abuses.

The projects analysed in the report are set in 9 countries - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela - and in sectors including mining, hydroelectric power, fossil projects, infrastructure and agriculture. The report identifies patterns of serious abuses against the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the rights to health, a healthy environment, water, food, housing, labour rights, as well as various civil and political rights.

On 22 March 2023, the CESCR issued its findings - known as the Concluding Observations -, including four key recommendations in line with this report's conclusions.

*The Collective on Chinese Financing and Investment, Human Rights and the Environment (CICDHA, in Spanish) is a coalition of civil society international and Latin American organisations that aim to establish effective mechanisms to guarantee that human rights, transparency and participation are upheld, and that environmental sustainability remains central in investments and the financing of projects involving Chinese stakeholders.