Aug 14, 2018

China: Beijing Denies UN CERD’s Concerns over Tibetans and Uyghurs

Over the last months, the international community has shed light on China’s repressive policies against ethnic minorities and the massive internment of Uyghurs. On 10 August 2018, the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) reviewed Chinese periodic report on the implementation of its international obligations and expressed serious concerns about Chinese violations of Uyghurs and Tibetans’ rights. Answering to the UN CERD experts on 13 August 2018, the Chinese delegation categorically denied the claims over mass internment of Uyghurs and refuted allegations of repression against Tibetans. While China is legally bound to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination since ratifying it in 1981, human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and Tibetans can no longer be hidden behind Chinese official discourse of neglect and denial.  

The article below was originally published by Radio Free Asia

The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concerns over China’s mass internment of ethnic Uyghurs and restrictions on their religious freedom as it convened Friday to examine whether the country complies with its convention.

The CERD’s Geneva-based body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its member nations kicked off its review of China’s adherence to the charter’s guidelines at its 96thsession, the first time it has done so since its 75thsession in 2009.

CERD vice-chairwoman Gay McDougall said the human rights panel is "deeply concerned" by reports that China “has turned the [Xinjiang] Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy” in the name of eradicating “religious extremism” and “maintaining social stability.”

Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in political “re-education camps” throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.

A recent editorial in the official Global Times dismissed international coverage of the political re-education camps in the XUAR, which it labeled “training institutes,” saying western media outlets were incorrectly labeling them as “detention” sites and “baselessly criticizing China’s human rights.”

Aside from the brief mention in the article, China's central government authorities have not publicly acknowledged the existence of political re-education camps in the XUAR, and the number of inmates kept in each facility remains a closely guarded secret. But local officials in many parts of the region have in RFA telephone interviews forthrightly described sending significant numbers of Uyghurs to the camps and even described overcrowding in some facilities.

McDougall on Friday cited credible reports which suggest that as many as 1.1 million people are or have been detained in the political re-education camps—which equates to 10-11 percent of the adult Muslim population of the region—while another 2.2 million people are forced to attend “open re-education camps,” which require daily indoctrination sessions but allow attendees to return home in the evening.

Other issues raised included claims from the activist group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which said last month that 21 percent of all arrests recorded in China in 2017 were in the XUAR.

Another panel member, Fatima-Binta Dah, also questioned Chinese representatives about restrictions on religion in the region, asking “what legal protection exists for [Uyghurs] to practice their religion.”

The Chinese delegation of around 50 officials, led by Yu Jianhua, noted improved living standards in China amid growing economic prosperity in the country, but did not address the comments from McDougall or Dah.

Earlier this week, the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) exile group submitted a list of concerns to CERD over the treatment of Uyghurs in China and asked the committee to demand answers from the country’s representatives.

In its submission, the WUC highlighted China’s political re-education camp network, calling on CERD to push the country’s delegation to confirm reports of the number of people detained, explain what due process they have, and to provide information on reports of deaths in the camps and whether medical treatment is provided in the facilities.

Among other concerns, WUC noted that basic legal rights for Uyghurs in China, including the right to legal representation, a fair and prompt trial and due process, “are virtually non-existent,” and that there is no evidence the “countless” members of the ethnic group arrested each year on charges of illegal religious practice, separatism, or extremism are provided with any legal representation at all.

It said that China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) had not been amended to conform to the international Convention Against Torture, noting that police are legally entitled to deny access to lawyers for suspects charged with terrorism and state security offenses, expanding opportunities for the use of torture without legal supervision.

WUC called the definition of “terrorism” in China’s Counter–Terrorism Law “excessively broad,” and said that regional implementation guidelines in the XUAR “make direct connections” between terrorism and religious practice through the use of the term “extremism.”

The group also highlighted serious restrictions over the religious freedom of Uyghurs in the name of “de-extremification,” and a clampdown on the freedoms of expression, association, and movement.

Additionally, WUC noted that Uyghurs are routinely denied access to economic opportunities in the XUAR in favor of ethnic Han Chinese and are targeted with discriminatory educational policies.

Dolkun Isa, the president of the WUC, applauded CERD for raising the violations of Uyghur rights on Friday, particularly the use of the political re-education camp network to detain members of the ethnic group.

“They asked the Chinese delegation on what legal grounds the authorities have detained these many Uyghurs, requested that China provide the committee with relevant information regarding this mass detention, and also asked about the religious freedom of the Uyghur people, their language, and their cultural and economic rights,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“I’m extremely pleased with the U.N. CERD Committee for raising these important issues with the Chinese delegation. This has given us more faith in the work of the committee … and I am glad to see that the extrajudicial detention of some 1 million Uyghurs has received the attention of the U.N.”

Isa noted that the review session will continue on Monday with China’s response to the committee’s concerns, and that conclusions are expected later.

“I am sure China will attempt to play word games with false statements and untrue claims to avoid U.N. scrutiny,” he said.

“It is my hope that the U.N. CERD Committee members will not be fooled by these manoeuvres and instead get to the bottom of these issues with real answers and solutions.”

The review session came a day after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, slamming China’s “campaign against Muslim minorities,” and calling on U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to level sanctions against XUAR Communist Party Secretary Chen Quango, as well as other government officials and business entities assisting the mass detentions in the region.

“[The U.S. State Department] should work with like-minded governments to increase public pressure against China at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions,” he said.

“American leaders must find the political will to confront this evil.”



The article below was originally published by International Campaign for Tibet

Today at the United Nations Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination, the Chinese government flatly denied its human rights violations in Tibet and other areas of the People’s Republic of China, instead painting a rosy picture of personal freedoms that left the body of independent human rights experts in disbelief.

“To state, as the Chinese delegation did today, that it ‘has taken good care of Tibetan culture and religion’ when more than 150 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009 is beyond ignorant,” Kai Mueller, Head of UN Advocacy for the International Campaign for Tibet, said at the conclusion of the hearing in Geneva, which began with questions from the experts on Friday, August 10 and ended today with responses by the Chinese government.

“The Chinese delegation gave many false and misleading answers to pressing questions about the situation of Tibetans and Uyghurs,” another persecuted group in China, Mueller added. “Legitimate grievances were flatly labelled as criminal, separatist or even terrorist. Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for peacefully advocating Tibetan language rights, was called ‘splittist’ and his actions ‘criminal.’”

When referring to Wangchuk’s case, the Chinese delegation admitted that he had been able to meet his lawyers only twice during 28 months in detention before he received his sentence in May.

Several times during today’s hearing, Chinese delegation members invited UN representatives to visit Tibet, but in reality, UN experts, diplomats, parliamentarians, journalists and independent experts are systematically denied access to Tibet and other restricted areas, except on strictly controlled propaganda tours led by the Chinese Communist Party.

The committee had raised a number of issues with the Chinese delegation, such as the protection of the Tibetan language, the rights of Tibetan nomads and herders and the status of religious freedom in Tibet, as well as the cases of Wangchuk and Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who died in Chinese custody in 2015 and whose death has not been independently investigated.

The committee repeatedly demanded impartial investigations into cases of torture, ill-treatment and deaths in custody.

Disbelief toward the answers of the Chinese government led one committee member to ask at the end of the hearing whether the Chinese delegation “has not come here all the way from China to tell us everything is okay.”

The committee is expected to publish concluding observations on its review of China by the end of August.


Photo courtesy of UN Geneva