GENEVA (13 August 2018) – The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined fourteenth to seventeenth periodic report of China on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Presenting China’s report, Yu Jianhua, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the March 2018 changes to the Constitution reflected more fully the ethnic policy focused on ethnic equality and solidarity, and that the ethnic legal framework had taken shape, underpinned by the Constitution and the Law on Regional National Autonomy. Great efforts were being made to bridge the developmental gap between ethnic and other areas, including through the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan of Economic and Social Development 2016-2020. The economy in five autonomous regions (Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia and Xinjiang) and three multi-ethnic provinces (Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai) had made significant progress and people’s living standards continued to rise: the population living in poverty went down from 31 million in 2012 to 10 million, and the poverty rate dropped from 34 per cent to six per cent.
Cheung Doi-Ching, Principal Assistant Secretary, Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, said that a steering committee had been set up in 2018 to coordinate and review the support for ethnic minorities, and Hong Kong $ 500 million had been earmarked for support services in the 2018-19 budget. Chinese was being taught as a second language in primary and secondary schools to help the non-Chinese speakers join mainstream Chinese language classes as early as possible and dedicated employment services were being provided by the Labour Department.
Liu Dexue, Director of the Legal Affairs Bureau, Macao Special Administrative Region of China, reaffirmed that, as a city of tourism and culture, Macao Special Administrative Region of China embraced the values of tolerance and respect for cultural diversity; every ethnic group shared the same dignity and was entitled to its own cultural life, to practice its own religion and to use its own language. The public consultation mechanism for government policies and future legislation was an important tool to engage the population in public affairs, including different ethnic and minority groups.
Committee Experts, in the dialogue that followed, congratulated China for creating extraordinary prosperity and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, including in the eight multi-ethnic provinces and regions, but remained concerned over the growing inequality, particularly for ethnic minorities who continued to disproportionally experience poverty. China was lacking an anti-racial discrimination law and a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, while the recent Foreign Non-Governmental Organization Management Law and the Charity Law imposed restrictions on the funding and operations of domestic non-governmental organizations. A great source of concern was racial discrimination in the context of laws fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism, particularly against Tibetans, Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. In the name of combatting “religious extremism” and maintaining “social stability”, an Expert said citing “credible sources”, China had turned the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region into something that resembled a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a “no rights zone”, while members of the Xinjiang Uyghur minority, along with others who were identified as Muslim, were being treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity. Experts recognized China’s vigorous efforts to promote education among ethnic minorities, and in this context raised concerns about the quality of and access to education in ethnic minority areas and the provision of bilingual education for ethnic minorities, which was sometimes at the detriment of ethnic languages.
Gun Kut, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, in his concluding remarks expressed disappointment because most of the answers were very defensive, while some rejected certain Experts’ questions as baseless. There could have been a better and more fruitful discussion on how to ameliorate the situation in China, for the benefit of China itself.
Noureddine Amir, Committee Chairperson, in his closing remarks, stressed that the Committee worked on the exclusive basis of the Convention; it was a legal rather than a political Committee, and it was not a tribunal or a court of justice.
Nicolás Marugán, Committee Rapporteur for China, thanked the delegation for the many good responses provided, and emphasising the importance that the Committee attached to freedom of expression, thanked civil society organizations for the reports and information submitted.
In conclusion, Yu Jianhua, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations at Geneva, said that eliminating racial discrimination was a daunting task facing the international community, and reiterated China’s commitment to ethnic equality and solidarity and to conscientious implementation of the Convention.
The delegation of China included representatives of the central Government, namely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, Central Committee of the China Communist Party, National Ethnic Affairs Committee, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, National Immigration Administration, National People’s Congress, National Health Commission, National Radio and Television Administration, State Council Information Office, Yunan Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission, Xinjiang Medical University, and Tibet Socialism College; representatives of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China: Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Security Bureau, Education Bureau, Labour Department, and Department of Justice; representatives of the Macao Special Administrative Region of China, including Legal Affairs Bureau, Social Welfare Bureau, Office of the Secretary for Administration and Justice, Office of the Secretary for Security, Education & Youth Affairs Bureau, and Health Bureau; and representatives of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will resume in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 August, to informally meet with non-governmental organizations from Mauritius, Cuba and Japan, whose reports it will review this week.
The Committee has before it the combined fourteenth to seventeenth periodic report of China CERD/C/CHN/14-17.
Presentation of the Report
YU JIANHUA, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that since its last review by this Committee in 2009, China had made great progress and had entered a new phase in its development. A strong sense of community for the Chinese nation guided China’s work in the new era, said Mr. Yu, noting that Han and the other 55 ethnic groups made up one Chinese nation. The March 2018 changes to the Constitution reflected more fully the features of ethnic policy whose most important features were ethnic equality and solidarity, and inter-ethnic mutual assistance and harmony for common prosperity and the realization of the Chinese dream on national rejuvenation. China continued to steadfastly develop the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and the ethnic legal framework had taken shape, underpinned by the Constitution and supplemented by the Law on Regional National Autonomy. Law-based governance had been pursued vigorously since 2012 to protect the legitimate rights and interests of people of all ethnic groups, and over 20 laws and administrative regulations had been adopted which provided for the prohibition of ethnic discrimination or hatred and the promotion of ethnic equality. Autonomous ethnic regions had enacted or amended over 20 regulations on the exercise of autonomy, thus further improving the legal framework on ethnic affairs, while 14.7 per cent of the deputes to the National People’s Congress were ethnic minorities, higher than the proportion of ethnic minorities in the overall population.
In recent years, the Government had made great efforts to bridge the developmental gap between ethnic and other areas and the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan of Economic and Social Development 2016-2020 included sections on the promotion of the healthy development of ethnic areas and the development and opening of border regions. In 2017, in five autonomous regions – Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia and Xinjiang – and three multi-ethnic provinces – Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai – the economy had made significant progress and people’s living standards continued to rise. The population living in poverty went down from 31 million in 2012 to 10 million, and the poverty rate dropped from 34 per cent to six per cent. Supported by economic growth, health, education, cultural and ecological preservation programmes had also made headway, and the Government remained committed to protecting and promoting the cultures of ethnic minorities. Some ethnic areas were still lagging behind, said Mr. Yu, adding that China was at a crucial phase of poverty eradication and that it needed to further address livelihood, health, education, protect the environment, and improve the legal framework for ethnic autonomy. The implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was a major contributing factor to the realization of the Chinese dream through the united effort of all the ethnic groups in China, and China stood ready to enhance the cooperation with the Committee.
CHEUNG DOI-CHING, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, said that there were some 250,000 ethnic minority members in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China. In order to strengthen their adaptation and social integration, sometimes difficult due to language and cultural differences, a steering committee had been set up in 2018 to coordinate and review the support for ethnic minorities, and Hong Kong $ 500 million had been earmarked for support services in the 2018-19 budget. Chinese was being taught as a second language in primary and secondary schools since the 2014/15 academic year to help non-Chinese speakers and facilitate their joining to mainstream Chinese language classes as early as possible, thus providing them with more opportunities to pursue studies and career. The funding to schools to facilitate the implementation of the Chinese language as the second language framework had been increased to over Hong Kong $ 200 million per year since the 2014/15 school year. The Government attached great importance to providing ethnic minorities with equal opportunities in seeking employment, including through dedicated employment services provided by the Labour Department and dedicated training courses to meet career aspirations by the Employees Retaining Board. Under the labour laws, foreign domestic workers enjoyed the same employment rights and protection as local workers in relation to rest days, paid holidays, annual leave, sickness allowance, maternity protection, and severance payment. In March 2018, the action plan to tackle trafficking in persons and to enhance the protection of foreign domestic helpers had been promulgated in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.
LIU DEXUE, Director of the Legal Affairs Bureau, Macao Special Administrative Region of China, reaffirmed that all persons in Macao Special Administrative Region of China or subject to its jurisdiction were equal before the law, irrespective of their nationality, descent, race, sex, language, religion, political views and other grounds. This cornerstone principle was expressly stipulated in the Basic Law, and rights to equality and non-discrimination were enshrined in the legal system by a diversity of sources, and everyone was equal before the law and through the law. Illegitimate subjective discrimination was prohibited, and positive discrimination was only admissible under the law to correct de facto inequalities. Of the 650,000 inhabitants, 170,000 were non-resident workers, thus Macao Special Administrative Region of China, a city of tourism and culture, embraced the values of tolerance and respect for cultural diversity; every ethnic group shared the same dignity and was entitled to its own cultural life, to practice its own religion and to use its own language. The public consultation mechanism for government policies and future legislation was an important tool to engage the population in public affairs, including different ethnic and minority groups. The Commissioner against Corruption accumulated other Ombudsman functions, including to promote and protect rights and freedoms, safeguard interests of individuals, and ensure that the exercise of public powers abided by the criteria of justice, legality and efficiency. The Commissioner could directly propose to the Chief Executive the enactment of normative acts, their amendment or repeal, and could conduct inquiries and issue recommendations and redress measures.
Questions by the Country Rapporteurs
NICOLÁS MARUGÁN, Committee Rapporteur for China, congratulated China for creating extraordinary prosperity and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the past 30 to 40 years: between 500 and 767 million according to the World Bank, including in the eight multi-ethnic provinces and regions where the incidence of poverty had dropped from 26 per cent in 2011 to 12 per cent in 2015. However, ethnic minorities continued to suffer the greater rate of poverty and inequality: they represented 8.49 of the total population but made up around one third of the poor in China. In its National Human Rights Action Plan 2016-2020, China had acknowledged the very high levels of inequality, said the Rapporteur, noting that the GINI coefficient in the distribution of net household income had grown from 0.28 in 1981 to 0.49 in 2007. Was ethnic disaggregated data on poverty available?
The Rapporteur commended China for the adoption of the National Human Rights Action Plan 2012-2015 and 2016-2020 and asked for the progress made in the fight against racial discrimination and the concrete outcomes resulting from the implementation of those plans. What concrete measures were included in the 2016-2020 plan to accelerate the development of ethnic minorities?
Turning to the legal, institutional and policy frameworks for combatting racial discrimination, the Rapporteur reiterated the concern expressed by several other human rights treaty bodies about the absence of a national human rights institution in China and asked for more information about the establishment of 25 new Government institutions with similar functions to a national human rights institution. What was the Government’s view concerning the establishment of national human rights institutions in line with the Paris Principles in the two Special Administrative Regions of China, Hong Kong and Macao?
The Committee was concerned about the restrictions on the funding and operations of domestic non-governmental organizations imposed by the Foreign Non-Governmental Organization Management Law and the Charity Law. How was China planning to work with non-governmental organizations and what in its view could be done to improve the collaboration with non-governmental organizations?
The domestic legislation did not define racial discrimination in line with the Convention, remarked Mr. Marugán, and while ethnic discrimination was prohibited, the law was silent on the type of action or behaviour that constituted discrimination. Would China enact laws that would prohibit discrimination on all grounds, including on the grounds of descent and national origin, and draft an anti-discrimination law? Was there any data available on discrimination against ethnic minorities in the areas of employment, education, housing, health care, and access to social services and economic opportunities?
What measures were in place to ensure that laws aiming to fight terrorism, separatism and extremism did not undermine the non-discrimination provisions of the Convention and those contained in the Constitution and the Law on Regional National Autonomy protecting ethnic minorities? Mr. Marugán asked the delegation to explain why there were very few complaints of racial discrimination in China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China and Macao Special Administrative Regions of China, and to explain how the under-reporting of hate crimes was being addressed.
There were reports that the situation of Tibetans and Uyghurs was deeply problematic, and that most ethnic minorities in China were exposed to serious human rights challenges. In Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, despite having one of the highest rates of gross domestic product per capita in the world, inequality had worsened and the rate of ethnic minorities living in poverty had increased from 15.8 per cent in 2011 to 19.4 in 2016, while the poverty rate among South Asians was at 25.7 per cent, with Pakistanis registering the rate of 56 per cent. The Rapporteur reiterated the concern expressed in 2016 by the Committee against Torture about cases of torture, deaths in custody, arbitrary detention and disappearance of Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians. Would China impartially investigate officials implicated in such cases and bring them to justice?
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Co-Rapporteur for China, raised concern about the numerous and credible reports that in the name of combatting “religious extremism” and maintaining “social stability”, the State party had turned the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region into something that resembled a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a “no rights zone”, while members of the Xinjiang Uyghur minority, along with others who were identified as Muslim, were being treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity. The Co-Rapporteur noted reports of mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities, and estimates that upwards of a million people were being held in so-called counter-extremism centres and another two million had been forced into so-called “re-education camps” for political and cultural indoctrination. All the detainees had their due process rights violated, while most had never been charged with an offense, tried in a court of law, or afforded an opportunity to challenge the legality of their detention.
Reports further indicated, continued Ms. McDougal, that the State party was making even the most common-placed expressions of ethno-religious significance to Muslims into a penal offence, including daily greetings, possession of certain Halal products, and growing a full beard or wearing a full-face headscarf. Recent amendments to the legal framework appeared designed to enable even greater control of Xinjiang Uyghur and other minority groups; the Criminal Law amendments, the National Security Law of 2015, the Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016, the Cybersecurity Law of 2017, and the Religious Affairs Regulations Law amended in 2018, established imprecise and too broad definitions on national security offences related to “terrorism” and “extremism” that enabled abusive, arbitrary and discriminative prosecution and conviction.
VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Co-Rapporteur for China, recognized China’s vigorous efforts to promote education among ethnic minorities, as well as the education on ethnic unity in the country, and expressed concern about the failure in the implementation of some policies. The Committee’s main concerns related to the quality of education, provision of bilingual education for ethnic minorities, improving literacy rates in ethnic minority areas, and ensuring access to education for ethnic minority children. Was there ethnically disaggregated data and statistics available on school enrolment and on drop outs?
The Constitution, the Law on Regional National Autonomy and the Compulsory Education Law clearly stipulated the provisions in relation to the provision of education for ethnic minorities, including the use of ethnic languages; Ms. Shepherd asked how those laws worked in practice. The Committee applauded the Chinese as the second language policy, but it seemed that insufficient attention was dedicated to the bilingual education for ethnic minority students, including in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, where segregation rather than integration seemed to happen in practice, which impeded Chinese language learning, social integration and career opportunities.
Questions by Other Experts
GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, commended China for the timely provision of the follow-up report to the Committee’s concluding observations issued after the 2009 review. China had implemented the recommendation to extend the national human rights plan, and the Committee wished to hear more about its results and outcomes. The second theme for follow up concerned re-education in labour camps, which in law had been abolished but had – alarmingly – continued in practice in different shapes and forms. The Committee had asked China to ensure that lawyers exercised their profession freely, particularly in cases involving human rights violations. China had amended the Lawyers Law, however, the harassment and intimidation of human rights lawyers, including disbarment and administrative sanctions of various sorts, continued. Was this true?
Other Experts asked about concrete measures taken to combat poverty in rural areas and the legal justification for counter-terrorism activities against the Tibetans and their religious practices. The Committee was concerned that China continued to deny refugee status to asylum-seekers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and it also continued to forcibly return them to their country of origin, regardless of a serious threat of persecution and human rights violations. Also, China failed to establish a mechanism for refugee recognition and determination of refugee status.
Experts also raised the issue of statelessness, particularly for children abandoned by their Chinese fathers, and the situation of non-recognised ethnic groups, which – due to their non-recognition – found it hard to have a voice and representation. The Committee was concerned about the situation in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and the reports of surveillance and harassment of peaceful protesters opposing mining, deforestation and other activities causing environmental degradation, as well as about mass resettlement of ethnic Mongolians to make place for development activities.
The delegation was asked whether ethnic minorities recognized themselves in the portrayal of ethnic minorities in the media, the plans to eliminate by 2020 the difference between agricultural and non-agricultural workers, and the situation in accessing health services, particularly ante-natal services, for ethnic minorities. What level of religious freedom was available to Uyghurs and how was the practicing of their religion protected?
What was being done to extend protection to the defectors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including from refoulement, and to protect them from trafficking and exploitation in China?
Questions by the Country Rapporteurs
VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Co-Rapporteur for China, said that the use of bilingual education seemed to have completely displaced the use of Uyghur language in education. What was being done to protect the use of ethnic languages? What policies were in place to support Portuguese or Macanese speakers in learning Chinese and so enable them to take advantage of the rapid development of the Macao Special Administrative Region of China? The Committee was concerned about the laws and attitudes towards the use of the Tibetan language in schools and everyday life.
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Co-Rapporteur for China, asked the delegation to explain the grounds on which Uyghurs were sent to re-education camps, which laws they had violated and were there police reports of those violations. What were the current circumstances of Uyghurs who, following the issuing of the 2017 directive, returned to China, voluntarily or not, from their studies abroad, including in Egypt, Turkey and Thailand?
Replies by the Delegation
YU JIANHUA, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that as a developing multi-ethnic country with a large population, there was still room for improvements in China, which was why China accorded importance to the work of this Committee. The Government was making a mid-term assessment of the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, said Mr. Yu, emphasising that the right of ethnic minorities to participate in political affairs had been guaranteed. All 55 ethnic groups were represented in the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, where they accounted for 14.7 per cent of the delegates. Poor populations in ethnic minority areas had dropped from 14 million in 2016 to 10 million in 2017, and education for ethnic minorities had developed rapidly, as rural students were exempted from all tuition and fees for compulsory education and the public funding for primary and secondary schools in rural areas had been increased.
The Belt and Road Initiative had greatly opened up ethnic minority areas and was serving as a driver of development there. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region served as a core area on the Silk Road Economic Belt, and remarkable achievements had been made in ethnic minorities areas, for example, Xinjiang had become a major corridor of energy and resources on land, a large-scale base of coal, coal-fired electricity and coal chemical industry, a large-scale wind power base, and a hub for transportation and commercial logistics.
Instead of establishing a stand-alone national human rights institution, China had designated the human rights promotion and protection responsibilities to different departments, for example, the Office of Letter and Calls of People’s Congress and Governmental departments at all levels to investigate and handle human rights violations. The State Ethnic Affairs Commission bore significant responsibility for protecting and promoting the rights of ethnic minorities.
Citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who illegally entered China were dealt with in accordance with international law, domestic laws, and humanitarian principles. These individuals had entered China for economic reasons and did not qualify as refugees as defined by the Refugee Convention. China provided such individuals with a great deal of humanitarian assistance, therefore their exploitation and maltreatment did not exist.
Poverty-stricken areas were mainly located in the central and western regions of China due to historical reasons, and within the same region, poverty did not differentiate between different ethnic minorities. The population of the 12 provinces where ethnic minorities were concentrated was 347 million, or 27 per cent of the total population, but only 16 million of that population were poor. Extraordinary measures had been adopted to lift ethnic minorities out of poverty, including additional state funding: 60 per cent of the central Government’s additional funding in 2018 was earmarked for the three regions and three prefectures, to benefit the 3 million poor. For ethnic minorities, the past five years had witnessed the fastest increase in living standards, reaffirmed the delegation.
On the definition of racial discrimination and the anti-racial discrimination law, a delegate said that China had a comprehensive legal system underpinned by the Constitution to promote ethnic equality and prohibit racial discrimination in line with the spirit of the Convention, whose provisions had been fully implemented under a range of laws, including the Law on Regional National Autonomy, Electoral Law, Labour Law, Public Security Administration Punishments Law, and others. Though there was no definition of “racial discrimination”, the understanding and interpretation of “racial discrimination” by the legislature, judicial authority and the administrative departments was consistent with the Convention, said the delegate.
The Counter-Terrorism Law stated the State’s opposition to extremism in all forms, including distorting religious doctrines to incite hatred, discrimination and violence. It aimed to eliminate the ideological basis of terrorism and was to be carried out in accordance with law to respect and safeguard human rights.
Laws such as Amendments to the Criminal Law, the National Security Law, the Counter-Terrorism Law and the Cyber-Security Law of China stipulated the measures and procedures to safeguard national security, public security and the security of people’s lives and property. Provisions of the laws, said the delegate, were specific and clear and there was no so-called ambiguity in the provisions concerning national security.
Another delegate explained the system of complaints for discrimination by ethnic minorities and said that the central Government had instructed sub-governments on handling of ethnic discrimination, direct and indirect. To ensure the implementation, special long-term inspection projects had been set up, such as the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Ministry of Public Security, and others. Some local authorities had set up community legal aid centres and made hotlines available to ethnic minorities. Any victim of criminal behaviour had the right to report such events to the public security organs, who took measures to stop the crime and impose sanctions on the offenders, or to transfer the case to judicial organs for criminal punishment.
Starting from 1949, the Chinese Government had identified 55 ethnic minorities through an ethnic identification process, and had ensured their rights on an equal footing. There were no unrecognized ethnic minorities in China, but there were 600,000 unidentified people, who still fully and equally enjoyed their rights, even if their ethnic identities had not been recognized due to complex reasons, said the delegate.
The purpose of the Non-Governmental Organizations Management Law and the Charity Law was to protect the legitimate rights and interests of all individuals and organizations involved in charity activities, including foreign non-governmental organizations, the delegation said. Public security organs, civil affair departments and other relevant departments at all levels had made great efforts to facilitate the activities of foreign non-governmental organizations operating in China in accordance with the law. The Ministry of Civil Affairs had recently rolled out regulations enabling it to serve as a competent department to facilitate non-governmental organizations’ activities.
In recent years, China had been studying the possibility of formulating domestic laws governing the application for and the recognition of refugee status. The Exit and Entry Administration Law of 2012 had a clause that allowed for the issuance of certificates of temporary stay for people who applied for refugee status, and certificates of residence to those whose applications were approved. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency in China, in June 2018, there were 943 refugees in the country as well as asylum-seekers from 46 countries.
As a permanent member of the International Labour Organization, China was serious and responsible about ratifying its Conventions, and had expressly banned forced labour. China would step up its efforts to research the possibility of ratifying the conventions on industrial and commercial labour supervision and on domestic workers.
Bilingual education of ethnic minorities was a concrete measure to respect and guarantee the right of ethnic minorities to receive education in their own languages and to enable ethnic minorities to master the commonly-used language, in order to ensure their equal enjoyment of political life and the fruits of the country’s economic development. In some ethnic minority areas, the local people used ethnic minority languages in the daily life, and the popularity of the commonly-used language was still relatively low. China was strengthening the education of the commonly-used language and characters and strove to make ethnic minority students master both languages. Bilingual education in Xinjiang and Tibet was fully guaranteed in terms of bilingual teachers, curricula, textbooks and class time. The statements that “Xinjiang or Hoten prohibited teaching in Uyghur language”, and that bilingual education aimed at replacing ethnic minority languages, were not true, said the delegation. Nearly 40 laws and regulations, including the Constitution and the Law on Regional National Autonomy, provided for the use and development of languages of ethnic minority groups. Of the 55 ethnic minorities, 53 had their own languages except the Hui and Manchu, 22 groups used a total of 28 languages, and ethnic minority languages were widely used in political and social life across China.
Concerning the protection of the freedom of lawyers to practice, a delegate explained that in recent years, the judicial reform, which aimed at promoting the rule of law in all respects, had contained measures to ensure the rights of lawyers to practice law. The 2012 revision to the Criminal Procedural Law had improved the provisions governing lawyers’ right to interview clients, read case files and collect evidence, while in September 2015, the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the Ministries of Public Security, State Security, and Justice had issued a joint document: Provisions on Securing the Right of Lawyers to Legal Practice according to Law. It had clarified the general requirements for authorities to protect the lawyers’ right to practice law and put forward concrete safeguard measures. In April 2017, a joint quick response mechanism to safeguard lawyers’ rights to legal practice had been created.
The delegation said that the allegations of excessive use of force, torture, arbitrary detention and disappearance of ethnic minorities were “against the fact”. China consistently adhered to the principles of ethnic equality, ethnic solidarity, and common prosperity of all ethnic groups, while judicial and law enforcement authorities treated all ethnic groups equally and fully protected their legal rights. The delegate explained that Tashi Wangchuck had not been arrested for his comments on the protection of ethnic minority languages, but on suspicion of inciting secession, for which he had received in May 2018 a sentence of five years’ imprisonment by the Intermediate People’s Court of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. His trial had been handled in strict accordance with the law and in an impartial and independent manner; the defendant’s rights had been guaranteed throughout the process, said the delegate.
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region always respected and guaranteed the human rights of people of all ethnic groups in accordance with the law. There was no arbitrary detention or lack of freedom of religious belief, while the view that Xinjiang was a “no rights zone” was completely “against the fact”. There were no such things as “re-education centres”, or “counter-terrorism training centres” in Xinjiang. Xinjiang, an integral part of China, pointed the delegate, was a victim of terrorism, therefore, in order to secure the life and property of all ethnic groups, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region had undertaken special campaigns to clamp down on violent terrorist activities according to the law, and had put on trial and imprisoned a number of criminals involved in severe offenses. Criminals involved in minor offenses were provided with assistance and education to assist them in their rehabilitation and reintegration. The legal rights of the offenders assigned to vocational education and employment training centres were duly protected and they were not subject to any arbitrary detention, let alone ill-treatment.
The delegate went on to reiterate that there was no deliberate targeting of any ethnic minority nor supressing or restraining the rights of the freedom of religious belief of the Uyghur people, and emphasised that the Regulations on Anti-Extremism of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region targeted religious extremism and not a particular religion. There was no “de-Islamization” and there was no violation of ethnic minorities’ freedom of religion in the name of counter-terrorism. Since the 1990s, the “three forces” of terrorism, extremism and separatism had been present in Xinjiang, which attempted to undermine its stability. In response, measures had been adopted to strengthen social and security management, collect information, crack down on illegal and criminal activities of the “three forces”, and protect the State’s stability and citizen safety and security, in accordance with the law.
On the protection of the religious freedom and the traditional culture of the Tibetans, another delegate emphasised that Tibet enjoyed sound and rapid growth, ever-increasing living standards, improving eco-environment, progress and unity shared by all ethnic groups, harmonious religious lives, social law and order, and happiness enjoyed by all people. The Chinese Government had taken good care of the Tibetan religion and culture, and long-gone were the days when Tibet had been secluded thanks to the tremendous development there.
In response to questions raised on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, a delegate said that human rights were fully protected and enshrined in the Basic Law and other pieces of legislation, while the existing institutional framework helped the protection of rights, especially through the Equal Opportunities Commission. The existing institutions worked well, therefore there was no need to set up a separate national human rights institution, especially as the Equal Opportunities Commission followed the Paris Principles, especially as its autonomy and independence were protected by the law.
The Race Discrimination Ordinance prohibited discriminatory acts of the Government and public officials in all areas specified in the Ordinance, including in employment, education and the provision of goods and services. Public bodies were always prohibited from racial discrimination, including by the Hong Kong Human Rights Ordinance, while complaints about any act of discrimination could be submitted through the Office of the Ombudsman and the Legislative Council.
As for the Macao Special Administrative Region of China, another delegate said that the Commission against Corruption was an independent and autonomous authority with criminal investigation powers to counter corruption, and it had Ombudsman functions, namely to promote and protect rights and freedoms, to safeguard interests of individuals, and to ensure that the exercise of public powers abided by the criteria of justice, legality and efficiency. The Commissioner was appointed by the Chief Executive and exercised Ombudsman functions with total independence, bound only by the law and not subjected to any administrative or executive authority, and thus it was consistent with the Paris Principles.
With regard to the legislation on hate speech, the delegate explained that the prohibition of the dissemination of racism, and incitement to racial discrimination, hatred or violence, was expressly provided and sanctioned in the Criminal Law, the Press Law, the Law on the freedom of association, and the Law governing Radio and TV Broadcasting. There had indeed been no prosecution or judicial cases of racial or ethnic discrimination, which could be explained by the deeply-rooted respect for cultural diversity, customs and traditions.
Questions by Committee Experts
NICOLÁS MARUGÁN, Committee Rapporteur for China, asked for details concerning the budgeting and resource allocation for the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan. What were the Government’s views on how the relationship with non-governmental organizations could improve? What types of discriminatory actions and behaviours were prohibited by laws? The concept of “separatism” was not clearly defined in the law, noted the Rapporteur, citing the example of Tibetans who were charged with separatism for peacefully protesting violations of their rights and the use of the law to hand down heavy handed sentences on Uyghurs. What measures were in place to protect them from racial discrimination in the context of counter-terrorism? What were the intentions concerning the removal of the two reservations to the International Convention?
GAY MCDOUGALL, Committee Co-Rapporteur for China, said that the Committee needed more than just denials that state and national security laws violated the rights of ethnic minorities. To this end, the Committee needed numbers, figures, data on investigations, prosecutions and detentions, and the number of people in re-education camps.
VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Co-Rapporteur for China, recognized the critical importance of social integration in diverse societies and asked how the implementation of the education policy, in particular the bilingual language policy, was being monitored. How was the history-teaching curriculum, which had an enormous power to divide or to unite, being developed?
The delegation was asked about specific measures adopted to protect the environment in the course of development; initiatives to inform domestic workers of their rights in the Macao Special Administrative Region of China, and the mechanism to deal with complaints of racial discrimination; and tens of thousands of stateless children who, due to statelessness, could not access basic services.
Replies by the Delegation
Over the past five years, one person was alleviated from poverty every two seconds, and those persons were mainly from north-west China. This represented an important contribution to the defence of the rights of ethnic minorities, the delegation said. In terms of the implementation of the provisions of the Convention, China stressed that States were different in their concrete situations, and there were no unified answers in this regard. In the course of the dialogue, China was concerned that some Committee Members had made unsubstantiated statements; most materials on which such statements were made were not credible and were aimed at splitting China.
China attached greatest importance to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and to the goals of the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination, and stressed that the dialogue must be based on the United Nations Charter principles of respecting State sovereignty and territorial integrity. Equally, the Committee must share the objectives of fighting terrorism which was the best way to protect ethnic minorities.
GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, expressed disappointment because most of the answers were very defensive, while some rejected certain Experts’ questions as baseless. There could have been a better and more fruitful discussion on how to ameliorate the situation in China, for the benefit of China itself, he concluded.
NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, thanked civil society organizations for their interest in the constructive dialogue with China, and thanked the delegation for all the efforts to respond to hundreds of questions asked. The Committee, stressed the Chair, worked on the exclusive basis of the Convention; it was a legal rather than a political Committee, and it was not a tribunal or a court of justice.
NICOLÁS MARUGÁN, Committee Rapporteur for China, asked China to provide written information on the allegations of torture and on the intentions concerning the establishment of an independent mechanism for the investigation of allegations of torture and deaths in custody in Tibet and in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Rapporteur thanked the delegation for the many good responses provided, and emphasised the importance that the Committee attached to freedom of expression, thanking civil society organizations for the reports and information submitted.
YU JIANHUA, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations at Geneva, said that China took a factual approach and had provided much information and hoped that there would be opportunities for further exchange, within the limits of the Committee’s mandate. Unfortunately, China was not able to provide answers to the questions that were not factual. Eliminating racial discrimination was a daunting task facing the international community as a whole, Mr. Yu said, and reiterated China’s commitment to ethnic equality and solidarity and to conscientious implementation of the Convention.
For use of the information media; not an official record