Chinese Government Rejects Key Human Rights Recommendations in Latest UN Review


June 26, 2024

Below is a joint statement supported by the Uyghur Human Rights Project and 15 other organizations following China’s rejection of key recommendations at its 4th cycle Universal Periodical Review (UPR) in January 2024.

The Chinese government’s rejection of recommendations to end its deepening human rights crisis reflects its disdain for international human rights reviews at the United Nations, the undersigned human rights nongovernmental organizations said in a joint statement released on June 25, 2024.

On June 11, 2024, the UN made available the Chinese government’s announcement to accept or reject recommendations from the latest Universal Periodical Review (UPR) in January 2024, a process through which all UN member states’ human rights records are examined. In a disingenuous effort to paper over its refusal to engage to improve its appalling record, the Chinese government said it would accept 290 of the 428 recommendations, partially accept 8, note 32, and reject 98 of the recommendations made. The 290 accepted ones include those the government said it “accepted and being implemented” and those “accepted and already implemented.”

None of the “accepted” recommendations address concerns raised by UN member states about crimes against humanity, torture, forced disappearance, persecution of human rights defenders and journalists, or other grave and well-documented violations.

The Chinese government, in the preparatory process leading up to the January 2024 review, as it did in and around three previous UPRs in 2009, 2013, and 2018, submitted false information, and blocked any domestic civil society groups from participating in the preparation of the state report or from making contributions to the review. Through an intense lobbying campaign ahead of the review, it acted to whitewash its record, and succeeded in having a number of states ask bland questions, make vague recommendations, and use their platform to praise the Chinese government’s rights record. This provided ample weak recommendations that the Chinese government could deem acceptable.

Despite the heavy pressure, some countries took a principled approach, raising concerns, and making recommendations, on the basis of the growing body of evidence of abuses compiled by NGOs, UN special procedures, treaty bodies and the UN Human Rights Office.

However, Beijing categorically rejected all recommendations calling on it to stop these egregious human rights violations and to end impunity for the perpetrators. The rejection rate is 30%, much higher than in 2018 – 18%.  It also rejected all recommendations calling on the government to end reprisals against individuals engaging with the international human rights system, a message of disdain on the ten-year anniversary of the death of Cao Shunli in detention, a courageous Chinese human rights defender taken into custody on her way to Geneva for China’s 2014 UPR.

In this context, the numerous acceptances by the Chinese government does not mean actual intention to improve its rights record. No one should confuse a high number of accepted recommendations with any real commitment by Beijing on human rights.

At the January 2024 review, Chinese officials claimed as the government’s achievement its “acceptance” of many recommendations from the 2018 review, yet NGO research shows that the overwhelming majority of those accepted recommendations were so weak, vague, or based on flawed assumptions, that progress towards them cannot be meaningfully verified. Worse still, dozens of the accepted recommendations also clearly or implicitly endorse human rights violations. For example, Belarus recommended that China “[c]ombat separatism and promote modernization of the social governance system and capacity in Xizang” [using the Chinese government’s official name for Tibet].

Since the 2018 UPR, civil society groups have documented a range of acts of intimidation and reprisals, including Chinese diplomats photographing civil society representatives and journalists inside UN premises. And intimidation was intense around and during the January 2024 review, as the Chinese government, in clear violation of its legal obligation to uphold the right to unhindered access to the UN, tried to silence critics who may offer an honest assessment.

Beijing’s responses to UPR recommendations also include hostility towards the process and towards UN human rights mechanisms. The government has challenged the authority of the UPR to address topics Beijing insists are a matter of “sovereignty,” and disparaged the professionalism of UN human rights experts. The Chinese government also falsely proclaimed the August 2022 OHCHR report on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which that office alleged may constitute crimes against humanity, as “completely illegal and void.”

The adoption of China’s UPR at this session of the Human Rights Council should be an important inflection point.  The Chinese government’s posture towards the UPR should prompt the HRC member states and other actors to press Beijing to follow up on recommendations made by independent UN human rights monitors and officials, including Special Procedures, treaty bodies, and the OHCHR.

Specifically, the UN High Commissioner and member states should follow up on on the landmark 2022 OHCHR report on abuses in the Uyghur region. The Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect should take concrete action in response to the referral of the situation of Xinjiang to their Office by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination  in November 2022.

Member states from all regional and political groups should take overdue action to heed the call by more than fifty UN human rights experts in June 2020 for them “to act collectively and decisively to ensure China respects human rights and abides by its international obligations,” including by holding an HRC special session on China and establishing an impartial and independent United Nations mechanism “to closely monitor, analyze and report annually on the human rights situation in China.” Such a mechanism is needed more than ever, in the face of Beijing’s intransigence and deepening repression. The experts repeated the call in June 2022 and September 2022.

Member states should also press Beijing to end intimidation and seriously cooperate with other forthcoming treaty body reviews, including under the Convention against Torture, for which its state report is five years overdue, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Undersigned, in alphabetical order:

Campaign for Uyghurs

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC)

Hong Kong Watch (HKW)

Human Rights in China (HRIC)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

International Campaign for Tibet

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

International Tibet Network

Reporters without Borders (RSF)

Safeguard Defenders

The Rights Practice (TRP)

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD)

Uyghur Human Rights Project

World Uyghur Congress