China's Responses at the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review

July 2, 2009

During the recent Universal Periodic Review of China's human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council, China denied the existence of human rights issues such as censorship, abuse of state secrets laws, and black jails, defended its reeducation through labor system and registration requirements for religious activity, and asserted that its laws protect workers, lawyers, and ethnic minorities. China did not support Member States' recommendations in many of these areas and called such concerns “politicized.”

On February 9, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held a three-hour session to review China's human rights record. The UPR, which was created in 2006, is a new mechanism under which the UN Human Rights Council reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States once every four years. (See previous Congressional-Executive Commission on China analysis for background information on the review process.)

The three-hour review session began with a presentation by Li Baodong, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, who provided an overview of China's social, economic, and human rights developments and reiterated China's position on a number of human rights issues. An "interactive dialogue" followed during which delegations from 60 Member States commented on China's human rights situation and offered specific recommendations. Fifty-five other Member States were not able to make their statements due to time constraints. The Chinese delegation responded to some of the comments by highlighting China's progress on human rights and rejecting certain concerns raised at the session by a number of countries, calling such criticisms "politicized," according to the Draft Report of the Working Group on the UPR of China.

On February 11, the Working Group adopted the Draft Report, which summarized the February 9 session and set forth China's official response to the recommendations made by Member States. The final report will be adopted at an upcoming regular session of the UN Human Rights Council. The state under review may choose to support or not support a recommendation, or indicate that a recommendation has already been implemented. Accepted recommendations are not legally binding. The state under review has the primary responsibility for implementation and must provide information on its progress at a follow-up review. China's follow-up review will take place during the second cycle of the UPR (2012-2015). For more information on the UPR process, please see a fact sheet available on the Web site of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The language below is based on or taken directly from the Draft Report. Please note the Draft Report paraphrases and summarizes, rather than directly quotes, statements made at the session. Any language that appears in quotation marks in the chart below is taken verbatim from the Draft Report. Also note the chart highlights only a selection of the many issues discussed at the session. Please see the Draft Report for the full summary of China's session.

Issue China's Responses to Concerns Raised China's Responses to Recommendations
Freedom of Expression China's Response: -"There is no censorship." -"No individual or press has been penalized for voicing their opinions or views." -Obstacles faced by journalists do not come from the government. -Laws prohibiting the creation of rumors or subversion on the Internet conform with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. China Did Not Support: -Extend relaxed restrictions for foreign journalists to Chinese journalists. -Revise laws and practices that violate free expression and release prisoners held for such crimes (including those held in connection with Charter 08). -Accept differences of opinion "expressed by human rights defenders through peaceful demonstration."
Treatment of Human Rights Advocates China's Response: -State secrets laws are not abused to punish human rights defenders. -Law on protection of state secrets clearly defines "state secrets." China Did Not Support: -Reform state secrets laws and definitions of crimes such as incitement of subversion to prevent the abuse of such laws to punish human rights defenders. -"Investigate reports of harassment and detention of human rights defenders." China Supported: -Guard against those "who are qualifying themselves as human rights defenders with the objective of attacking the interests of the state and the people of China."
Freedom of Assembly China's Response: -Rights to freedom of assembly, association, procession, and demonstration are protected and citizens may apply to engage in such activities under law. China Did Not Support: -"Ensure protection of the right of peaceful assembly and release all persons arrested in this connection."
Freedom of Religion China's Response: -Registration requirements for religious organizations are "minimum" and "family gatherings" of Christians do not require registration. China Did Not Support: -Review approach to religious groups, including unofficial ones. -Guarantee religious freedom, freedom of belief, and the freedom to worship in private. -"Simplify requirements for official approval of religious practices[.]"
Reeducation Through Labor (RTL) (system allowing for up to four years detention outside of judicial system and Criminal Procedure Law) China's Response: -"The Chinese system of reeducation through labor is similar to that of correctional service in other countries and is applied to persons who have committed crimes that do not warrant criminal sentence. There are 320 such centres in China with 190,000 inmates." China Did Not Support: -Abolish the RTL system. China Supported: -Reform RTL "according to its national realities."
Extra-Legal Detention Facilities or "Black Jails" China's Response: -"There are no black jails in the country." China Did Not Support: -Abolish black jails.
Rights of Lawyers and Detainees China's Response: -Recently amended law on lawyers clearly protects "[lawyers'] rights, their personal liberty and immunity from sanctions for speeches defending legally their clients in criminal proceedings." In state secrets cases, it is normal to place restrictions on lawyer-client meetings. China Did Not Support: -Ensure lawyers "can defend clients without fear of harassment and can participate in the management of their own professional organizations." -"Ensure the independence of [the] judiciary and lawyers." -Ensure detainee's rights to see visitors and have "permanent access to legal counsel and effective complaint mechanisms."
Ethnic Minorities (Tibetans, Uyghurs) China's Response: -Religious beliefs and culture of ethnic minorities are respected and protected. -Ethnic minorities are allowed to fully exercise their human rights. -"[A] few people with the support of foreign forces try to split Tibet and Xinjiang from China and they by no means represent the governing majority of Tibetans and Uighurs as Tibet and Xinjiang are inseparable parts of China's territory and the Government will not allow any attempt to split China to succeed." China Did Not Support: -Review laws and practices to ensure protection of ethnic minorities' freedom of religion (1),(2), movement, culture, and language. -End the "strike hard" campaign in Tibet associated with numerous rights violations. -Increase access to Tibetan areas for the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), other UN bodies, diplomats, and international media. China Supported: -Continue "efforts to further ensure ethnic minorities the full range of human rights including cultural rights."
Death Penalty Statistics   China Did Not Support: -Make death penalty statistics public.
Worker Rights China's Response: -Constitution and trade union law provide that workers may "organize and join trade unions and carry out activities entirely free." China Did Not Support: -Lift reservation to Article 8.1(a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), "which ensures the right of everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of his or her choice."
North Korean Refugees China's Response: -China has acceded to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its Additional Protocol and follows the principle of non-refoulement (non-repatriation) in accordance with the convention. -China is working on refugee legislation to further clarify screening procedures. -"Some people who illegally entered China because of economic reasons are not "refugees" but illegal immigrants." China Did Not Support: -Implement the November 2008 recommendations of the Committee against Torture, "particularly on ... the non-refoulement of refugees from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."