Vote for the Human Rights Council: Is China Qualified?

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CRD Press Release, May 8, 2006
Vote for the Human Rights Council: Is China Qualified?

On May 9, the UN General Assembly will decide in a secret ballot of all member states if China, among other candidates for membership, is qualified to join the new UN Human Rights Council. CRD welcomes China’s support for the establishment of the Council, but believes that China needs to make stronger commitments to respecting human rights, both on the domestic and international levels, if it is to be fully qualified to become a member of the Council. On May 4, CRD called for reactions from Chinese activists to China’s bid. Based on responses we have received, we call on the Chinese government to take concrete steps to improve its human rights record and we ask UN member states to cast their votes on the basis of China’s track record and specific commitments.

The UN General Assembly resolution on the establishment of the Human Rights Council[1] states that “when electing members of the Council, Member states shall take into account the contributions of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto” (Art. 8). China’s “pledge” related to the announcement of its candidacy for Council membership focuses primarily on the PRC’s economic achievements in the reform era, as well as its efforts in enacting legislation, accession to human rights treaties and international cooperation on human rights.[2] It states that “[m]uch work remains to be done in the field of human rights,”[3] but does not make specific pledges for addressing key concerns about rights abuses in China today.

While the country’s human rights conditions have undoubtedly improved in certain respects over the last decades, economic and social changes have brought new rights problems in their wake, and there have been serious human rights violations despite years of domestic and international efforts to bring about change. CRD urges the Chinese government to make commitments to more concrete actions to address these problems in order to demonstrate its sincerity toward the mission of the new Council.

In particular, CRD believes the Chinese government should commit to concrete steps toward:

1. lifting restrictions on freedom of expression, including of the media;

2. ending harassment of human rights defenders and respecting the right to monitor and assert rights;

3. taking effective steps to end torture and ill-treatment of detainees;

4. drastically reducing the number of executions by immediate repeal of legal provisions allowing death sentences for non-violent crimes, with a view toward abolition of capital punishment;

5. releasing all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, repealing or amending laws that allow for the prosecution of political and religious dissidents;

6. establishing effective guarantees for social and economic rights, especially in the areas of labor, health, housing, basic education and equality for women, and ensuring there are remedies available to individuals to gain redress for violation of such rights; and

7. conducting a review of legislation and policy to ensure that principles of equality and non-discrimination are incorporated into Chinese law and practice.

The Chinese government should also initiate the process of drawing up a National Human Rights Plan of Action, with the assistance of the UN and employing its guidelines for such plans, and, as part of this, should undertake a review of all the concluding comments of the UN treaty bodies on China in order to determine how to put their suggestions into practice.

In terms of China’s role in formulating the working procedures for the new Council, while encouraged by China’s support for the change, CRD is deeply concerned that China’s pledge does not make a strong commitment to establishing an effective system for international monitoring of human rights. In the past, Chinese government has been among those that sought to limit participation of NGOs in the work of the Commission on Human Rights; has categorically opposed any motion to scrutinize its own human rights performance; and pioneered the use of questionable procedural tactics to block discussion of human rights problems in particular countries, including China, especially by the use of the no-action motion. We urge China to make a strong commitment to building on the achievements of the Commission on Human Rights and its special procedures to support an effective and impartial system for scrutinizing the human rights practices of all states.


May 8, 2006
[1] A/RES/60/251, available at:

[2] Available at:

[3] Ibid, p. 1.

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