Open Letter on China’s Implementation of the Convention Against Torture
General Secretary Xi Jinping
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street
Xicheng District, Beijing 100017
People’s Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6307 0900; +11 10 6238 1025
Re: State Report on the Implementation of the Convention Against Torture
Dear General Secretary Xi,
Almost three years have passed since the due date (9 December 2019) of the PRC’s latest State party report to the UN Committee Against Torture. We are writing on behalf of the people in the PRC, and human rights defenders worldwide, to request the submission of the above-mentioned report without further delay.
By ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter “Convention”), the PRC has committed to submit quadrennial progress reports on the implementation of the treaty’s provisions. However, the PRC government has failed to submit its sixth periodic report since its fifth periodic review in 2015. In the last two decades, the PRC has not submitted any of its State party reports to the Committee Against Torture (hereinafter “Committee”) on time. Since 2005,1E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.6. the PRC government has not issued any invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment for a follow-up visit.
In its Concluding Observations on the PRC’s fifth periodic report issued in 2016, the Committee had requested the State party to submit its sixth periodic report by 9 December 2019,2CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 66. and reiterated its concerns about torture and ill-treatment taking place during prolonged pre-trial and extralegal detention;3CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 10. enforced disappearances on the pretext of ‘residential surveillance at designated locations’;4CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 15. and deaths in custody.5CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 24. Reiterating its previous recommendations6CAT/C/CHN/CO/4, paras. 32 and 33, and A/55/44, para. 123. to the PRC on including a comprehensive definition of torture in its legislation, the Committee had expressed concern that “serious discrepancies between the definition in the Convention and that incorporated into domestic law create actual or potential loopholes for impunity”.7CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 9. Moreover, the PRC has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention despite receiving repeated recommendations8A/55/44, para.124, and CAT/CO/CHN/4, para. 40. from the Committee to withdraw all reservations and declarations to the Convention.9CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, para. 64.
Such unwillingness to fulfill its international obligations implies that the PRC is seeking to evade its responsibility to protect human rights within its territory. This rationale can be supported by countless testimonies of the occurrence of torture in extrajudicial and pre-trial detention facilities in Tibet, Uyghur people in East Turkistan,10“Concentration Camps in China for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims”, Uyghur Human Rights Project, 26 January 2019, https://uhrp.org/report/briefing-concentration-camps-china-uyghurs-and-other-turkic and Han Chinese where discretionary and extrajudicial powers have been granted to the police and security agencies to deny basic human rights to political detainees.
Many political prisoners, including human rights defenders, continue to die as a result of torture and ill-treatment at the hands of police and state security agents. In Tibet, this phenomenon has been illustrated by the cases of Norsang in 2019,11“Investigate death of Tibetan man detained for opposing China’s forced political education”, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 5 May 2021, https://tchrd.org/investigate-death-of-tibetan-man-detained-for-opposing-chinas-forced-political-education and Lhamo12“China: Tibetan Woman Dies in Custody”, Human Rights Watch, 29 October 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/29/china-tibetan-woman-dies-custody in 2020. To avoid being held responsible for deaths in custody, prison authorities tend to release prisoners once they have reached near-death conditions, as illustrated by the cases of Gangbu Rikgye Nyima,13“Tibetan Protester Released Early from Prison in Critical Condition”, Radio Free Asia, 3 March 2021, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/health-03032021173252.html released one year early in failing health; Gendun Sherab,14“Tibetan Monk Dies After Living Two Years with Torture Injuries Sustained in Custody”, Radio Free Asia, 24 April 2020, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/gendun-sherab-04242020150923.html who died in 2020 due to torture injuries; Choekyi,15“China: Investigate Untimely Death of Former Political Prisoner due to Denial of Medical Care”, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 8 May 2020, https://tchrd.org/china-investigate-untimely-death-of-former-political-prisoner-due-to-denial-of-medical-care who died in 2020 after being released five months early; Tenzin Nyima,16“China: Tibetan Monk Dies from Beating in Custody”, Human Rights Watch, 21 January 2021,https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/01/21/china-tibetan-monk-dies-beating-custody who was released early in a comatose state and died shortly after; and Kunchok Jinpa,17“China: Tibetan Tour Guide Dies from Prison Injuries”, Human Rights Watch, 16 February 2021,https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/16/china-tibetan-tour-guide-dies-prison-injuries who passed away in 2021 after being transferred to hospital mid-sentence. In East Turkistan, Uyghurs have been rounded up by Chinese police and detained against their will in large internment (“re-education”) camps where they have been subjected to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, political indoctrination, torture, and other serious human rights violations.18“Internment Camps”, World Uyghur Congress, 1 August 2017, https://www.uyghurcongress.org/en/political-indoctrination-camps Overall, by refusing to submit the State party report, the PRC is shielding itself from external criticism and scrutiny that would follow in the form of stakeholders’ responses.
Furthermore, PRC’s negligence also weakens the international accountability and monitoring mechanisms essential to the functioning of the UN. In this respect, the PRC’s refusal to comply with the rules that they voluntarily agreed to (by signing and ratifying the Convention) undermines the fight for human rights on a global scale. Extensive delays in submitting its state party reports undermine China’s ability to effectively address the serious human rights violations.
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
World Uyghur Congress (WUC)
Front Line Defenders
Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)
Human Rights in China (HRIC)
Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC)
Asian Dignity Initiative (ADI)
Mr. Claude Heller, Chairperson
Committee Against Torture
Mr. Volker Türk,
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights
Ms Alice Jill Edwards,
Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
PRC’s Permanent Representative to the UN
Foreign Minister, People’s Republic of China