Skip to content Skip to navigation

UPR China: Will Governments Stand Firm on Accountability and Universal Standards?

November 1, 2018

On November 6, at the United Nations in Geneva, China will undergo the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of its human rights record. The review takes place amid mounting reports of mass internment of ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and as China has stepped up its attack on the core principles of the international human rights system: the universality of human rights and respect for human dignity.

In a campaign targeting Uyghur Muslims, begun in 2016 and that has escalated since 2017—with “anti-extremism” legislation in Xinjiang that classifies sporting “irregular” beards, wearing burqas, and keeping halal not only in food but also in conduct as “primary expressions of extremification”(Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Regulation on De-extremification, Art. 9)—Chinese authorities are believed to have detained at least one million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, out of a Uyghur population of around 11 million, in the name of combatting extremism.

Under intense international concern and scrutiny, the Chinese authorities have shifted their narrative on the internment from flat-out denial of the existence of the detention camps to admitting, in October 2018, that the camps do exist but justifying them as “vocational training centers” where “thought transformation” is conducted.

But few are satisfied with this explanation. In the first group of questions that states have posed to China in advance of the UPR, they have made their concerns clear: 15 of the 57 questions—or more than one in four—are about the internment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang or religious repression in Xinjiang and Tibet.

“The human rights crisis in Xinjiang may well be the tipping point—a crisis that is the direct result of the Chinese authorities’ trampling on fundamental human rights and human dignity,” says Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China.

“For a long time, China’s huge market has made too many governments willing to look the other way in exchange for perceived benefits to their national or other interests. But the magnitude of outright repression and internment now demands principled reactions by these governments,” Hom added.

Recent Chinese actions in Xinjiang have been accompanied by other alarming domestic erosions of fundamental rights: promulgation of laws and regulations in 2016-2017 that have steeply escalated control over religious and cultural expression and information flow on the Internet, the consolidation of unaccountable power due to the lifting of the two-term limit for the presidency,  and a society-wide loyalty campaign that requires all citizens and entities to submit to the supremacy of the Communist Party of China—over the rule of law and professional standards and ethics. (See a short list of key developments in China since the last China’s 2013 UPR here.)

At the same time on the international stage, China has attempted to attack and replace international human rights norms and standards, undermine independent human rights mechanisms, and export its own model of “human rights with Chinese characteristics,” an approach premised on “national conditions.”

“China’s asserted model is completely at odds with the foundational principle of the international human rights system: that by virtue of being human, every human being is endowed with a set of fundamental and inalienable rights and human dignity,” says Sharon Hom.

By leveraging its economic power and political influence, China has made successful inroads in promoting its model. In March 2018, China led the passage of a resolution at the Human Rights Council that turned the state’s accountability for the protection of fundamental rights into something akin to a management project among states.

As China has changed its position over recent years on implementing its human rights obligations—from “we will do better when our national conditions improve” to an overt rejection of the standards for assessing their compliance—Human Rights in China urges all UN member states during China’s upcoming UPR to hold firm on their commitment to foundational principles, core values, and standards. Failure to effectively address the risks posed to the international human rights system will impact the integrity and soundness of a system that is designed to prevent exactly the kind of abuses now being perpetuated against individuals and groups in China.

Other Resources

Explore Topics

709 Crackdown Access to Information Access to Justice Administrative Detention All about law Arbitrary Detention
Asset Transparency Bilateral Dialogue Black Jail Book Review Business And Human Rights Censorship
Charter 08 Children Chinese Law Circumvention technology Citizen Activism Citizen Journalists
Citizen Participation Civil Society Commentary Communist Party Of China Constitution Consumer Safety
Contending views Corruption Counterterrorism Courageous Voices Cultural Revolution Culture Matters
Current affairs Cyber Security Daily Challenges Democratic And Political Reform Demolition And Relocation  Dissidents
Education Elections Enforced Disappearance Environment Ethnic Minorities EU-China
Family Planning Farmers Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression Freedom of Press Freedom of Religion
Government Accountability Government regulation Government transparency Hong Kong House Arrest HRIC Translation
Hukou Human Rights Council Human rights developments Illegal Search And Detention Inciting Subversion Of State Power Information Control 
Information technology Information, Communications, Technology (ICT) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Human Rights International perspective International Relations
Internet Internet Governance JIansanjiang lawyers' rights defense Judicial Reform June Fourth Kidnapping
Labor Camps Labor Rights Land, Property, Housing Lawyer's rights Lawyers Legal System
Letters from the Mainland Major Event (Environment, Food Safety, Accident, etc.) Mao Zedong Microblogs (Weibo) National People's Congress (NPC) New Citizens Movement
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Olympics Online Activism Open Government Information Personal stories Police Brutality
Political commentary Political Prisoner Politics Prisoner Of Conscience Probing history Propaganda
Protests And Petitions Public Appeal Public Security Racial Discrimination Reeducation-Through-Labor Rights Defenders
Rights Defense Rule Of Law Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Special Topic State compensation State Secrets
State Security Subversion Of State Power Surveillance Technology Thoughts/Theories Tiananmen Mothers
Tibet Torture Typical cases United Nations Uyghurs, Uighurs Vulnerable Groups
Women Youth Youth Perspective

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/common.inc:2786) in /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/bootstrap.inc on line 1486

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/common.inc:2786) in /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/bootstrap.inc on line 1490

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/common.inc:2786) in /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/bootstrap.inc on line 1490

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/common.inc:2786) in /var/www/test.hrichina.org/htdocs/includes/bootstrap.inc on line 1490
Error | Human Rights in China 中国人权 | HRIC

Error

The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later.