The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its review of the third periodic report of China, the fourth periodic report of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, and the third periodic report of Macau Special Administrative Region of China. Committee Experts commended the State’s efforts to reduce poverty, and asked about measures to protect ethnic minorities from reported forced labour and the coverage of the social welfare system.
One Committee Expert said that it was commendable that many people had been lifted out of poverty, but levels of income inequality were concerning. What were the levels of income inequality? What impacts had poverty alleviation policies had in rural areas?
Another Committee Expert said that minorities, particularly Uyghurs and Tibetans, had been reportedly placed in camps, exploited, and forced to work. How many persons had been sent to “professional training centres” and for how long? What measures were in place to protect the rights of persons participating in these programmes? Did China intend to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention on forced labour?
One Committee Expert asked why there was a low proportion of people in the social welfare system in China? How would the State party broaden social security coverage for ethnic minorities, migrant workers and those in the informal sector?
Chen Xu, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, introducing the report, said China had ended poverty for 98.99 million rural residents living below the current poverty line, contributing by over 70 per cent to the world’s achievement in poverty reduction. The delegation added that China’s poverty alleviation efforts targeted ethnic minority areas.
The delegation said that the vocational training centre in Xinjiang Autonomous Region was not a detention centre or a place for forced labour. It was a school that de-radicalised trainees. It educated persons that had taken part in minor terrorist activities that did not constitute crimes. Trainees did not take part in actual labour. Forced labour was prohibited. China had decided to ratify the International Labour Organization conventions on forced labour.
Concerning social security, Mr. Chen said that the number of people covered by basic old-age insurance had increased from 790 million to 1.04 billion; those covered by unemployment insurance schemes had increased from 150 million to 230 million; and the number covered by work-related injury insurance was up from 190 million to 290 million. The delegation said that the Government promoted the full coverage of workers in the social security scheme. The Government was trying to unify the rural and urban old age pension systems, and was adopting new policies to raise coverage of migrant workers. Rural migrant workers’ benefits had been greatly increased.
In concluding remarks, Michael Windfuhr, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said the dialogue had focused on how to ensure that developments pursued by China were human rights based. Transparency in policies and the participation of affected persons in policy making was needed. The Committee had called for a reliable legal system and protections for human rights defenders and lawyers, and for respect for minorities at home and abroad.
Mr. Chen, in his concluding remarks, said an intergovernmental mechanism would study the concluding observations and, so long as they were in line with the situation in China, work to implement them. China was doing everything in its power to realise the rights enshrined in the Covenant. The Government aimed to advance human rights and equality and modernise the State. It was committed to promoting the development of human rights internationally.
The delegation of China was comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; General Bureau of National Administration for Religious Affairs; Supreme People’s Court; National Ethnic Affairs Commission; National Disease Control and Prevention Administration; National Health Commission; Office of National Working Committee on Children and Women under State Council; State Council Information Office; Ministry of Public Security; Ministry of Civil Affairs; the Ministry of Culture and Tourism; and the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The delegation of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China was comprised of representatives from the Immigration Department; Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau; Security Bureau; Education Bureau; Department of Justice; and Labour and Welfare Bureau. The delegation of Macau Special Administrative Region of China comprised representatives of the Legal Affairs Bureau.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Webcasts of the meetings of the session can be found here, and meetings summaries can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 16 February, to begin its consideration of the fifth periodic report of Portugal (E/C.12/PRT/5).
The Committee has before it the third periodic report of China (E/C.12/CHN/3). It also has before it the fourth periodic report of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (E/C.12/CHN-HKG/4) and the third periodic report of Macau Special Administrative Region of China (E/C.12/CHN-HKG/3).
Presentation of Report
CHEN XU, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said that since the last review, China had formulated and enacted the Civil Code and the anti-domestic violence law, revised the population and family planning law and the education law, and repealed regulations on re-education through labour. China had also issued policy papers on development-driven poverty alleviation in rural areas, the “healthy 4 China” programme, education reform, social security, ecological conservation and environmental protection, ethnic minority areas, women and children, and undertakings for the elderly and the disabled. China had released two consecutive National Human Rights Action Plans followed by earnest efforts on implementation and evaluation.
In the past decade, China’s gross domestic product had risen from 54 trillion yuan to 121 trillion yuan, propelling it to the world’s second largest economy. China contributed by around 36 per cent to world economic growth. China’s per capita gross domestic product had exceeded 12,000 United States dollars for two consecutive years. China had ended poverty for 98.99 million rural residents living below the current poverty line, contributing by over 70 per cent to the world’s achievement in poverty reduction.
In the past decade, China’s employed population in urban areas had increased from 370 to 480 million, with an annual growth of over 13 million, and kept the current surveyed urban unemployment rate at 5.6 per cent. China had built more than 59 million units of affordable housing and housing in run-down urban areas, and rebuilt over 24 million dilapidated rural houses. The number of people covered by basic old-age insurance had increased from 790 million to 1.04 billion; those covered by unemployment insurance schemes had increased from 150 million to 230 million; and the number covered by work-related injury insurance was up from 190 million to 290 million.
China was moving forward with the Healthy China Initiative. In the past decade, Chinese people’s average life expectancy had increased from 74.8 years to 78.2 years. China’s national basic medical insurance covered over 1.36 billion people, or more than 95 per cent of the total population. The Chinese Government had steadily increased investment in medical resources at the community level, especially in remote areas, making it possible for 90 per cent of families in rural areas to reach the nearest hospital within 15 minutes. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government had maintained the lowest rates of severe cases and case fatality in the world. China had recently refined its COVID-19 response measures in light of the evolving situation and the increase of vaccination rates, and experienced some short-term infection shock, which was now petering out.
In the past decade, the average PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) concentration in cities at or above the prefecture level had dropped by 34.8 per cent, and the share of coal in total energy consumption was down from 68.5 to 56 per cent. China would strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. It had also decided to stop building new coal-fired power projects abroad.
Compulsory education was now fully free in both urban and rural areas, and moves were under way to deliver on universal higher education. In the past decade, the added value of China’s cultural industry had increased from 1.8 trillion to 4.5 trillion yuan; cultural market entities had increased from 36,000 to 65,000; libraries and culture pavilions had increased from 6,300 to 95,000; and grassroot cultural organizations had risen by 50 per cent to 450,000.
All 56 ethnic groups in China were equal, and the lawful rights and interests of ethnic minorities were effectively protected. China had adopted consecutively several outlines for women’s development and outlines for children’s development, and amended the law on the protection of women’s rights and interests. By the end of 2020, the average life expectancy of women in China had reached 80.88 years, up by 3.51 years compared with a decade ago. The 85 million persons with disabilities in China were fully supported in their rehabilitation, education, employment and intellectual and cultural needs, and more than 95 per cent of children with disabilities were enrolled in the compulsory education system. China had also ratified the Marrakesh Treaty. It had invested heavily in elderly care services. Of the 267 million aged over 60 in China, over 90 per cent had access to at-home or community-based elderly care.
China had provided development aid to 166 countries and international organizations and dispatched more than 600,000 personnel. The China-United Nations Peace and Development Trust Fund had successively launched 34 development projects. The Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative put forward by China were promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights across the world.
China still faced multiple problems and challenges in promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights, including glaringly unbalanced and inadequate development, multiple bottlenecks in high-quality development, unresolved stumbling blocks in key reform areas, wide disparities in income distribution, along with a host of problems facing people in areas such as employment, education, medical services, childcare, elderly care and housing, not to mention daunting challenges in ecological conservation and environmental protection. The twentieth National Congress of the Communist Party of China had emphasised the rejuvenation of the nation through modernisation. The State’s goal was to achieve socialist modernisation by 2035. The process of Chinese modernisation was also a process of constantly promoting and protecting human rights, and China would strive relentlessly to realise the equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for all people at higher standards.
FOO SIU-WAI, GRACIE, Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, said Hong Kong had been a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China since 1997. It had been implementing the “one country, two systems” policy, which had proven to be the best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability. Despite past turbulence in society, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China was back to the right track of “one country, two systems” with the double safeguards of the Hong Kong national security law and an improved electoral system. People in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China could continue to enjoy legitimate rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, and the relevant provisions of international covenants as applied to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China remained a global fundraising platform, raising over 13 billion United States dollars through initial public offering in 2022. In the Global Financial Centres Index published last year, the status of Hong Kong as a global financial centre had been reaffirmed.
The Government was committed to promoting employment; upholding workers’ right to join and form trade unions; improving employees’ benefits; and protecting the employment rights and benefits of foreign domestic helpers. It had initiated a study on the enhancement of the review mechanism of the statutory minimum wage. Under its non-contributory social security system, the State had significantly improved cash assistance in recent years to assist those in need.
The Government had adopted a series of strategies to increase public housing supply by enhancing quantity, efficiency and quality. Against the background of an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the Government had been making progress in promoting primary healthcare, improving public hospital services, increasing healthcare manpower, and enhancing mental health. The West Kowloon Cultural District had become a new cultural landmark. The Government was committed to nurturing diversified talent and fostering the arts and creative industries.
LOU SOI CHEONG, Acting Director, Legal Affairs Bureau, Macau Special Administrative Region of China, said that since the consideration of its last report in 2014, the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region of China had carefully examined the Committee’s recommendations and had actively followed up with the substantial support of the Central Government. Macau Special Administrative Region of China had enacted the law on preventing and combatting domestic violence in 2016 and amended the Criminal Code in 2017 to make sexual harassment an independent crime. The legal system for the protection of the rights and interests of the elderly was adopted in 2018, setting out the general framework for the rights and interests of the elderly. Tax incentives for the employment of persons with disabilities and the Work Income Subsidy Scheme for Employees with Disabilities were introduced in 2018 and 2020 respectively to facilitate the employment of persons with disabilities. In addition, legislation on public housing expressly specified that families of persons with disabilities were given priority in allocation.
The law on minimum wage for employees was adopted in 2020 and the labour relations law was amended to increase the number of days of maternity leave and to introduce paternity leave for men. The trade union bill was submitted to the Legislative Assembly in 2022. Concerning education, the Special Education System was formulated in 2020 to promote the development of inclusive education. Laws on the construction waste management system and the restriction on the supply of plastic bags had also been introduced.
The Government had also actively formulated various policy objectives, such as the Macao Youth Policy, the 10-Year Plan for Rehabilitation Services, the 10-Year Action Plan for Elderly Services, the 10-Year Plan for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, and the Environmental Protection Planning of Macao Special Administrative Region of China. In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since 2019, the Government had introduced a series of special measures to ease the economic pressure on residents, including tax reduction, economic assistance, consumption subsidies, living allowances, and employment training.
Questions by Committee Experts
MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that the Committee had received an unprecedented number of submissions from civil society for the dialogue, highlighting the level of interest in China as well as concern regarding economic, social and cultural rights.
Human rights defenders were reportedly experiencing difficulty in accessing a lawyer, and were being intimidated, including in prisons. Were human rights defenders from ethnic minorities disproportionately affected by discrimination? Lawyers reportedly experienced de-facto intimidation, including by being placed under residential surveillance. Was the Government planning to allow more public participation in the judicial process, and to cease intimidation of human rights defenders and lawyers? Trade union representatives had reported difficulty in registering unions. The Committee was also concerned about the number of people detained under the national security law in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China. Was it correct that the passports of persons detained under the law were confiscated? How did the State party guarantee that the law did not affect the work of civil society organizations? Many non-governmental organizations that reported to treaty bodies reportedly faced retaliation. How would the State party ensure that this would not occur?
Did China plan to share information on COVID-19 infections with the international community more frequently? Did the State have plans to establish a national human rights institute that was in line with the Paris Principles?
China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, and Macau Special Administrative Region of China were not meeting Paris Agreement emission reduction targets. What measures were in place to meet these targets? Was the State party considering withdrawing its reservations to article 8.1 of the Covenant, and ratifying the Optional Protocol?
Did the State party plan to introduce human rights due diligence legislation for Chinese companies operating abroad? Was there an effective complaints mechanism for persons whose rights were infringed on by Chinese companies? How did the Debt Sustainability Initiative address debt in poor countries occurring because of the Belt and Road Initiative loans?
Did China plan to develop general anti-discrimination legislation? How did the State party prevent discrimination of ethnic minorities, including through mass evictions, and of migrant domestic workers? How did it ensure that migrant workers enjoyed equal rights to domestic workers? Did the State party plan to promote the diversity of gender orientation and identity? How did the State party plan to reduce increasing labour market barriers for women, and encourage the political participation of women?
Responses by the Delegation and Follow-up Questions and Responses
The delegation said China would make efforts to establish a national human rights institute in line with the Paris Principles.
China had invested 1.3 trillion yuan in its Belt and Road Initiative, which had created great benefits for local communities. China’s goal was to support global sustainable development.
The Chinese legal system was in line with the Covenant. The Chinese Government highly valued the Human Rights Council complaints mechanism. Non-governmental organizations that participated in treaty body reviews would not be retaliated against.
Basic human rights and freedoms were recognised under the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Basic Law; however, rights and freedoms were not absolute and could be restricted. Freedom of association was guaranteed under the Basic Law, and everyone had the right to form and join trade unions and hold strikes. The national security law had allowed the city to resume normal operations. Since the implementation of the national security law, 243 persons had been arrested, and 149 persons and companies had been charged.
Non-governmental organizations could report to the secretariat in Macau Special Administrative Region of China and attend Government meetings. The Government did not retaliate against non-governmental organizations. There were no specific national human rights institutes in Macau Special Administrative Region. However, the Ombudsman was separated from the Government and could receive complaints, carry out investigations and make recommendations to the Government.
Inmates’ right to health was protected in China by legislation and the Human Rights Action Plan. Medical staff carried out periodic health check-ups for all inmates. Prisons provided medical treatment for inmates as required.
Intimidation and reprisals against persons upholding Covenant rights were strictly prohibited. Some lawyers violated the law and were punished accordingly, but lawyers were not intimidated by the State. Around 1,100 lawyers had been required to stop their practices in 2021, and 13 had been charged of violating the law. Most punishments issued to lawyers were administrative. Lawyers had the right to participate in hearings against them and lodge appeals to higher courts. Individual organizations that violated the law were punished. Freedom of expression was guaranteed in the Constitution. Citizens could express their views freely online. More than one million public submissions had been received in relation to proposed policies and laws.
China’s Constitution and labour laws fully guaranteed the right to assembly, association and demonstration. All workers had the right to organise trade unions. China did not intend to withdraw its reservation to article 8.1 of the Covenant.
Lawyers protected the human rights of ethnic minorities. The number of lawyers in minority areas had been increased. Lawyers who violated the law should not be considered human rights defenders.
China had been reforming the household registration system since 2014. The Government respected citizens’ will to choose and transfer residences. Around 121 million rural residents had transferred their registration to urban areas.
China had shared all information on the pandemic with the international community. It had maintained close contact with the World Health Organization, holding five exchanges in the last month alone. The website of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention continued to publish real-time information on pandemic control and the number of cases.
Citizens were not treated differently because of their gender or sexual orientation. The law protecting the rights of women and children had been amended to punish sexual harassment, rape and indecent coercion. Labour inspections considered the rights of female employees. Women judges made up 46 per cent of all judges.
In response to a follow-up question on how the social security budget was determined, the delegation said that the Government ensured the sustainability and equality of the social security system. It was asking enterprises to pay more, and had set up a social security fund devoted to supplementing the old age pension. As of last year, major State enterprises paid a unified rate, and these changes had led to increases of 1.5 trillion yuan. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China spent 14 billion United States dollars on social security, a jump of 1.6 times since 2013.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said two major beneficiaries of China were facing economic crises: Pakistan and Sri Lanka. What responsibility was China taking in helping these countries? How was it assisting with debt repayments? Several overseeing projects were reportedly not beneficial to the local population and only benefited Chinese interests. Had indigenous communities been consulted regarding these projects? What was the Government doing to educate authorities on the requirement to acquire prior and informed consent for development projects from indigenous communities?
Another Committee Expert said that it was commendable that many people had been lifted out of poverty, but levels of income inequality were concerning. What were the levels of income inequality?
One Committee Expert invited China to ratify the Optional Protocol. The Expert expressed concerns regarding reprisals against civil society, calling on the Government to prevent such reprisals. Credible information indicated that human rights defenders and lawyers had been arrested and subjected to reprisals. The Expert called on these people to be freed.
Minorities, particularly Uyghurs and Tibetans, had been reportedly placed in camps, exploited, and forced to work. How many persons had been sent to “professional training centres” and for how long? What measures were in place to protect the rights of persons participating in these programmes? Why was access to Xinjiang Autonomous Region and other regions difficult to obtain, including for Human Rights Council special mandate holders? Did China intend to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention on forced labour? What measures were in place to prohibit discrimination by employers of people belonging to ethnic minorities? How was the State protecting expatriate workers, who reportedly did not have legal status? What measures were in place to allow women to have equal access to civil service posts, and protect the jobs of pregnant women? What measures were being taken in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China to prohibit modern slavery and trafficking, and end persecution of journalists?
What measures were in place to guarantee health and safety for employees of Chinese companies abroad? How was the Government supporting workers whose rights had reportedly been infringed during the zero-COVID policy era? What measures were being taken to regulate working hours for domestic workers in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China? What measures were in place to prevent arbitrary arrest of members of trade unions, protect academic freedom, and repeal the national security law in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region?
Why was there a low proportion of people in the social welfare system in China? How was the State working to make the retirement age the same for men and women? How would the State party broaden social security coverage for ethnic minorities, migrant workers and those in the informal sector? Were there measures to ensure social security coverage in Macau Special Administrative Region of China?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the Belt and Road Initiative aimed to increase the quality of life in countries. The COVID-19 pandemic had contributed to raising many countries’ debt levels. China was implementing the G-20 initiative on debt relief. Several African countries had been relieved of their debt. Debt in Sri Lanka and Pakistan was not caused by China, and China had suspended Sri Lanka’s debt. Chinese investors had carried out feasibility and due diligence studies overseas, prioritising environmental protection and sustainable development. Efforts had been made to protect local wildlife.
Unemployment insurance was open to everyone, including migrant workers. The minimum wage had been set considering the cost of living, and a system for periodically adjusting the minimum wage had been implemented. The minimum wage had grown by four per cent each year since 2020.
Journalists in China had the right to carry out lawful coverage, and could fully exercise freedom of expression. Fraud and blackmail by journalists needed to be punished. Legislation protected lawyers’ rights and interests. The public security department had established a complaints system for lawyers.
China’s Constitution and legislation guaranteed the right of women to receive social security. Female employees could receive wages and benefits during maternity leave. Contract terminations made due to pregnancy could be legally challenged. The employment rate of women had grown by nearly 40 per cent over the last decade.
China had decided to ratify the International Labour Organization conventions on forced labour. The State had been working to raise awareness of the issue of forced labour. It had amended the law on trade unions, ensuring the rights of people working in the digital economy. Trade unions were involved in drafting relevant laws, and the Government had adopted most of their suggestions.
The Government promoted the full coverage of workers in the social security scheme. The Government was trying to unify the rural and urban old age pension systems, and was adopting new policies to raise coverage of migrant workers. Rural migrant workers’ benefits had been greatly increased. Food couriers and other informal sector workers were covered by workplace injury insurance. The Government was making incremental changes to raise the retirement age and standardise the male and female retirement age. China had introduced several measures to prevent occupational disease, including labour inspections. Bilateral agreements had been signed to protect Chinese workers overseas and foreign workers in China.
There was no forced labour in Tibet Autonomous Region. The Central Government was working hard to ensure Tibetans’ access to labour, offering occupational and academic training for Tibetans in Chinese universities. Special civil service posts for Tibetans had been created and major construction projects were trying to recruit Tibetans. Tibetans received the same pay levels as domestic workers.
The vocational training centre in Xinjiang Autonomous Region was not a detention centre or a place for forced labour. It was a school that de-radicalised trainees. It educated persons that had taken part in minor terrorist activities that did not constitute crimes. Trainees could go to schools to study national laws and Chinese, and learn labour skills. They did not take part in actual labour. By 2018, all trainees had finished their studies. Local Governments could choose to set up training centres considering local conditions. The number of people involved was dynamic. Trainees were free to communicate with family members, who could come to school and visit trainees. Centres created their own regulations, and were able to restrict visits from foreign persons. Graduates had the right to work. Forced labour was prohibited. Five thousand employment opportunities had been provided by the Xinjiang Government in the last five years.
China promoted freedom of religion, including in Tibet Autonomous Region. There were more than 1,000 Buddhist temples in Tibet, as well as mosques and cathedrals. The Government allowed religious leaders to carry out religious activities at home.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region residents were free to join trade unions. There had been a marked increase in the number of trade unions in recent years. Among the 176 trade unions that had been deregistered, only one had been forcibly deregistered by the Government for violating legislation.
The Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region protected the rights of foreign domestic workers. The Government provided standard employment contracts and minimum wages for domestic workers, and encouraged employers to establish working hours. Human trafficking was not tolerated in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Human trafficking could be punished with up to life imprisonment. Over 34 initiatives to prevent trafficking had been initiated in 2019, including the creation of a joint investigation team, which screened foreign workers to uncover signs of trafficking. Law enforcement actions were based on evidence and had nothing to do with the occupation of the accused. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was still facing national security threats, and the national security law was needed to maintain stability.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert expressed appreciation for the delegation’s offer to investigate and respond to all allegations of reprisals made by non-governmental organizations that had cooperated with the Committee.
There had been a strong denial of the use of coercive measures against ethnic minorities, however, there were persistent reports of forced sterilisation of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Birth rates had significantly dropped among Uyghurs since 2016. How many abortions and sterilisations had been carried out on Uyghurs since 2016? What measures were in place to ensure that Uyghur women were not subjected to any form of sterilisation or coercive abortion, and to prosecute those responsible? What was the number of children of ethnic or religious minorities who had been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools?
What impacts had poverty alleviation policies had in rural areas? What progress had been made in narrowing the wide gaps between rural and urban areas in terms of health care, income, access to education, sanitation, and access to housing? What measures were in place to ensure that rural to urban migrants had access to housing and were not subjected to family separation? How many land expropriations had been carried out?
What had been the impact of measures to strengthen the health sector in the context of the pandemic and to address its backlog? How was the State party supporting disadvantaged groups to access medical care? What effects had measures to prevent harmful drug use and reduce HIV/AIDS cases had? What measures were in place to increase the availability and affordability of mental health care services, and to improve their quality? How was the State combatting stigma against persons with mental health issues? What policies were in place to prevent suicide? Did the Government plan to adopt legislation to recognise same-sex partnerships, and to prevent discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, including in access to State services? What steps had been taken to guarantee migrants’ access to State services? What measures were in place to investigate domestic violence cases, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators?
What steps had been taken in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China to lift foreign and older persons out of poverty? Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China had one of the worst inequality rates amongst developed regions. What was being done to address this? What measures were in place to afford effective legal protection for tenants and persons living in substandard housing?
What was the proportion of residents living below the poverty line in Macau Special Administrative Region of China? What measures were in place to support persons living below the poverty line; narrow the income gap; and guarantee the right to adequate housing for low-income groups?
Another Committee Expert expressed concerns related to reduced expenditure on education, and disparities in education levels between rural and migrant residents and urban residents. Treaty body Committees had repeatedly expressed concern about the degradation of Tibetan Autonomous Region residents’ Tibetan language skills. What percentage of schools in Tibet Autonomous Region used Chinese language? Why had social security benefits for Mongolians who refused to send their children to schools in urban regions been rescinded? There had been a decrease in enrolments in pre-primary education in Macau Special Administrative Region of China, especially for migrant children. Why was this?
Did lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and religious minorities experience discrimination in accessing education? There were restrictions on practicing religious activities online. Uyghur language had been banned in certain schools. How did the Government ensure that ethnic minorities were able to practice their religion and culture? Could the State party provide demographic data on regions with high populations of ethnic minorities? What measures were in place to ensure the participation of minorities in forming policies regarding religion and culture? Why had Tibetan festivals been disallowed in Tibetan schools? What was the criteria for sending members of the minority community to minority camps? Why had such camps been secured by barbed wire and security cameras? Why had certain mosques and monasteries been demolished? Why were there restrictions on keeping a Koran, and on giving children Islamic names?
The Expert said that there were numerous reports of non-implementation of legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. What measures were in place to ensure implementation, and promote the participation of women in decision-making bodies? The World Health Organization had called on China to share data on the COVID-19 pandemic. Was this being done? What specific punishments had been handed down by labour inspectorate bodies? How did the State party ensure that the rights of ethnic labourers employed overseas were protected? Were relocation programmes for the Tibetan minority compulsory? What redress had been provided to Tibetans who had been forced from their homes?
MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, asked how the State party intended to reach Paris Agreement emission targets. What were the areas where adaptation was needed? How were judges selected and made aware of economic, social and cultural rights? Were there efforts to legally clarify what was an “act that endangered national security”? How many cases of “acts that endangered national security” had been recorded in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China? Had companies been banned from assessing training centres for ethnic minorities?
A Committee Expert said one million Tibetan children were reportedly affected by Chinese Government assimilation policies. Was this true? Forced labour in “training centres” was broadly documented. The Expert called on the State party to allow the United Nations to conduct investigations into forced labour. What was the jurisdiction governing training centres? Was training forced upon trainees? Had effective investigations into forced labour been carried out? There were satellite images proving that mosques and other religious sites had been destroyed. Would the State party admit its accountability? What measures were in place to protect domestic workers in Macau Special Administrative Region?
One Committee Expert asked for clarification regarding the “minor offenses” for which ethnic minorities were sent to training centres. What were the facts that constituted charges against lawyers?
Another Committee Expert asked about follow-up to the Committee’s previous concluding observations. Would mechanisms be established to monitor follow-up on these concluding observations? It was very positive that the Government planned to discuss the observations.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that in 2020, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government’s measures lifted 1.1 million people out of poverty. The Government had introduced a new working family allowance scheme with increased benefits. Elderly persons were eligible to apply for subsidised community care services. The Government shouldered more than 95 per cent of costs. A bill aiming to enhance the quality of elderly care homes was being prepared. The Government intended to increase residential care places for elderly persons by 2024. Measures had been introduced to improve ventilation of homes and reduce infections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region residents could apply for medical fees to be waived if they could not afford them. The Government was determined to rectify the housing problem, and was planning to increase public housing by over 300,000 units. A three-year cash allowance scheme to support housing costs had also been initiated.
Macau Special Administrative Region provided various subsidies to residents. Disadvantaged families had access to monthly allowances, and special allowances were provided to single parent families, elderly people and persons with disabilities. Foreign employees could obtain transport benefits. Company accommodation was required to meet certain standards. The Government promoted public housing schemes. By September 2022, waiting times for public housing had been reduced significantly. Elderly and disadvantaged people were prioritised in the provision of housing. Macau Special Administrative Region guaranteed equality under the law. Employees could file complaints of discrimination with authorities. Around 248 workshops on preventing workplace discrimination had been held. Expenditure on retirement pensions accounted for over seven per cent of total Government expenditure. Persons with disabilities could access support allowances.
The ratio of doctors in China had increased to 1.5 per thousand persons in rural areas. China provided additional medical insurance for serious disease treatment. Chinese law protected all persons’ right to contraceptives, and China strongly prohibited forced sterilization and punished all those who carried out such treatment. A psychological counselling programme had been established during the pandemic. Measures to strengthen care of persons with mental disabilities had been introduced. The medical sector had sufficient stock of medicines to meet the needs of the entire population.
All regions had established boarding schools. Students who lived in such schools were free to go home on weekends. There was no forced separation in schools. Two-thirds of China was mountainous terrain, and boarding schools allowed families living in rural areas to access education. Expenditure in education had increased by 28 per cent in 2021. The Government was promoting the establishment of schools in rural areas, and was increasing benefits and strengthening training for teachers. A financing system had been established to support disadvantaged students. All provinces offered free, compulsory education. Expenditure on education in 2022 was 180 billion yuan. Ninety-eight per cent of school-age children were enrolled in school. No school could reject an enrolment request from a child with leprosy.
The elderly pension benefited 39 million people in China. Home visits and care were provided for elderly persons confined at home during the pandemic. China did not recognise same-sex marriage.
The Government had released a white paper on Xinjiang Autonomous Region in 2021. The Committee needed to acknowledge the Chinese Government’s position on the issue. The ethnic minority population had increased by 1.95 million from 2010 to 2020. In Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the one-child policies were applied to the ethnic population only from the 1980s and were not rigidly enforced. Currently, families could have up to three children, along with the rest of China. Forced contraception was prohibited. Women could choose methods of contraception. In 2018, there were only 317 cases where intrauterine devices had been implemented in Xinjiang. The population in southern Xinjiang had dropped, but this was in line with China’s population trend. The drop had nothing to do with forced sterilization or arbitrary detention.
By October 2019, members of training centres had all graduated, but member numbers were dynamic. Training centres respected the basic rights of trainees. There were no cases of mistreatment in these centres.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about medical services provided to transgender persons.
MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, asked how the Government conducted means tests for cash assistance programmes.
Another Committee Expert said the Government had made efforts to protect citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic, but restrictions on rights needed to be proportionate and subject to regular review. Could people request judicial reviews of the proportionality of public health measures? How many protesters against COVID-19 measures been taken in custody last November, and did the Government intend to release peaceful protesters held arbitrarily?
One Committee Expert asked whether drug users were registered to undergo rehabilitation. Did such registration impact these persons’ ability to access employment and education?
A Committee Expert said that many mega Chinese projects in Latin America impacted indigenous peoples’ economic, social and cultural rights. China had created encouraging guidelines regarding development projects, but there appeared to be a shortfall in their implementation. What measures were in place to implement effective oversight mechanisms that could monitor violations of human rights, to provide reparation to affected communities, and to set up judicial mechanisms to receive complaints from affected communities?
Another Committee Expert asked whether the State party intended to improve the quality of its international cooperation in addressing the pandemic. China had various programmes affecting ethnic minorities. These people were uprooted and deprived of achieving a decent standard of living. How did the Government intend to address this issue?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that education was entirely free in public schools. Private education made up less than five per cent of all school enrolments. All sexual minorities had the right to access education. Schools in ethnic minority areas conducted bilingual education. The Government provided resources for education in ethnic minority languages and training of teaching staff in such languages. Standardised textbooks were used in ethnic minority areas. Children needed to learn Chinese language from an early age to be able to use it sufficiently. Laws were in place to protect the culture of ethnic minorities. The seventh national population census indicated that there had been no change in the ethnic makeup of these regions, and that ethnic minority populations were growing at a faster rate than the rest of the population.
Schools in Tibet Autonomous Region conducted education in Chinese and Tibetan. However, there were no appropriate terms to discuss scientific topics in Tibetan, so such subjects were taught in Chinese. Around 30,000 teachers had been trained to deliver bilingual education in Tibet Autonomous Region. Students in boarding schools could leave on weekends. Tibet’s mountainous terrain made commuting difficult, so boarding schools had higher enrolment rates than in other regions. Students could dress in cultural clothing in schools. Ninety-four per cent of students that graduated from boarding schools went on to university.
China had made efforts to preserve Tibetan culture, collecting and preserving traditional artworks and literature. The Government was also investing in protecting the Tibetan fox and funding research into Tibetan culture. All religions were respected equally. Temples were well-maintained and protected. Buddhist scripture institutes were funded by the Government.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region national security law clearly defined four offenses that amounted to acts that threatened national security. Law-abiding people could not unwittingly violate the law. Academic freedom was enshrined in the Basic Law. All universities carried out their own objectives and used their resources freely. A textbook review mechanism was in place to ensure that textbooks were factually correct. The Government did not require publishers to draft textbooks in specific ways.
Children between five and 15 years of age received compulsory education in Macau Special Administrative Region. The Government urged all parents to register their children in education.
Freedom of religious belief was well protected in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Holidays had been established to celebrate religious events. There were several mosques in Xinjiang built in the 1980s, some of which were dilapidated. Such mosques had been demolished at the request of citizens, while others had been modernised and were functioning well. Training centres were not detention centres. Schools and offices also had barbed wire and fences; these were safety measures. De-radicalisation measures were not targeted at persons with specific religious beliefs.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if there were any universities that provided education in Uyghur language. Seventy-eight per cent of children aged between six to 18 were in residential schools in Tibet Autonomous Region. Did all these children live in mountainous areas? How many private schools were operating in China, and had their numbers increased?
MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that cooperation between domestic and foreign universities in scientific studies was supervised by the State Government. Did this affect universities’ freedom to carry out collaborative studies? What was the prevalence of corruption in China? Was there an oversight mechanism on corruption, and if so, what were its findings?
One Committee Expert said there were prejudices in several States regarding the ability to teach scientific subjects in minority languages. Examples in other countries showed that such education was indeed possible. China’s national action plan on cultural rights contained important goals, but there were no goals that referred to freedom of cultural practices. How would the State support this? How did the State promote the right to choose educational facilities?
Another Committee Expert said that several reports indicated that China’s cultural policies did not have the support of outside observers. It seemed that such policies were promoting a mono-racial nation. Would the State party consider promoting diversity within its cultural policies? The State was duty bound to carry out investigations into allegations of discrimination. What bodies was the State using to conduct investigations, if any, and were they independent?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said China attached great importance to the concluding observations of the Committee. State organs publicised these observations. All previous observations had been implemented. A coordinating body would assess future concluding observations, and would seek to implement them if they corresponded with the reality in China.
Chinese enterprises received guidance from the Government regarding overseas activities. The Government had been encouraging companies to respect their corporate social responsibilities and protect the right to health of local communities. A power station project in Bolivia had received favourable comments from the community for protecting the local environment. Local countries were responsible for investigating allegations of abuse of the rights of local communities.
The civil service inspection body had investigated over 360,000 allegations of corruption. Training courses on the Covenant had been provided to judges.
The Government had invested 600 million yuan in building libraries and cultural facilities in ethnic minority regions; 700 million yuan had been invested in protecting United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization heritage sites. A law on libraries and the film industry had been passed to support rural citizens to access culture. Cultural services covered all areas of China.
The Government had cooperated with the international community to optimise control of the pandemic. The emphasis now was on treatment rather than prevention. Positive tests no longer needed to be reported to authorities. Government bodies were gathering data on complaints concerning pandemic measures and addressing them. The Central Government had issued instructions to change measures that were overly strict in certain regions. There was no data on the number of people arrested during the pandemic. Such persons were assessed based on the nature of their cases.
China required registration of drug users in rehabilitation programmes, but prohibited discrimination of persons registered in such programmes. Persons who were discriminated against could file complaints with the Government. Human rights defenders who had been mistakenly detained could apply for reparation.
In 2020, China’s carbon dioxide emissions had decreased by around 15 per cent compared to 2015. China aimed to become carbon neutral by 2060. An action plan on emission reduction had been established for private institutions, and a carbon trading scheme had been introduced. Coal-fired power plants would no longer be constructed overseas. Projects already underway supported sustainable development in developing countries.
China’s poverty alleviation efforts targeted ethnic minority areas. Cultural policies were constantly adjusted and improved. In Tibet Autonomous Region, Government data indicated that half of all students attended boarding schools. By 2019, 260,000 people had been voluntarily relocated, most of whom lived in mountainous regions. The Government had organised special teams to take care of the livestock of persons who had been reallocated. The Government regularly visited persons who refused to be relocated.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region courts decided on the national security issues independently. The national security law enforced more stringent conditions on bail. Bail was not provided for serious offenses such as murder. A reporting hotline for national security issues had been established. Trade unions in Macau Special Administrative Region were required to consist of local employees only, but the rights of foreign workers were protected.
MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for responding to the Committee’s many questions in an orderly way. Mr. Windfuhr also thanked civil society organizations that had submitted numerous alternative reports, and thanked the Government for ensuring that there would be no reprisals against non-governmental organizations that had provided alternative reports. China had presented itself as a development-oriented State, and the dialogue had focused on how to ensure that developments were human rights based. Transparency in policies and the participation of affected persons in policy making was needed. The Committee had called for a reliable legal system and protections for human rights defenders and lawyers, and for respect for minorities at home and abroad. Mr. Windfuhr welcomed that the concluding observations would be disseminated widely, and called on the State party to pay due attention to implementing these observations.
CHEN XU, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said the Chinese delegation had presented measures to promote economic, social and cultural rights in China. The delegation had been impressed by the knowledge of the Committee Experts regarding the situation in China. An intergovernmental mechanism would study the concluding observations and, so long as they were in line with the situation in China, work to implement them. The State party was ready to participate in further exchanges with the Committee. China was doing everything in its power to realise the rights enshrined in the Covenant. It aimed to advance human rights and equality and modernise the State. The Government valued highly the international human rights treaties to which China was a party. It was committed to promoting the development of human rights internationally.
MOHAMED EZZELDIN ABDEL-MONEIM, Committee Chair, said the dialogue had been beneficial to the Committee, and hoped that it had been for the State party also. The Committee would analyse each answer provided by the delegation thoroughly. The Covenant required full implementation of its provisions. All human beings deserved a better life and future.