March 7, 2023: Experts from the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) released a long list of concerns on the cultural, linguistic and religious rights of Uyghurs and Tibetans; and ongoing threats against human rights defenders and independent civil society protecting and promoting rights in mainland China and in Hong Kong. The document referred to as ‘concluding observations’ was released on March 6, 2023.
CESCR, which is charged with monitoring States’ compliance to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, also strongly rebutted claims made by the Chinese delegation during the review, and the statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the opening of the Human Rights Council session on February 27, 2023.
“This UN expert body has now joined the chorus of voices calling for an urgent overhaul of China’s assimilation policies and for the immediate abolition of the residential schools system in Tibet,” said Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute.
“The CESCR has provided yet more evidence highlighting the gravity of the situation for Uyghur and Turkic people. This is the proof that China has failed to whitewash its genocidal policies at the UN,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress.
Key excerpts from the Committee’s Report includes:
“The Committee urges the State party to immediately bring to an end the violations of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” “The Committee is also concerned that the VETC system amounts to large-scale arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about the lack of access to VETCs by United Nations Independent Human Rights Experts.”
“The Committee is also concerned about reports of the large-scale campaign to eradicate Tibetan culture and language, as well as the general undermining of the linguistic identity of ethnic minorities by the assimilation policy of the State party, known as sinicization, including the coerced residential (boarding) school system imposed on Tibetan children.”
“The Committee reiterates its recommendation that the State party take all necessary measures to ensure the full and unrestricted enjoyment by peoples and minorities of their right to enjoy fully their own cultural identity and take part in cultural life, and to ensure the use and practice of their language and culture, and immediately abolish the coerced residential (boarding) school system imposed on Tibetan children, as well as allowing private Tibetan schools to be established. The Committee also recommends that the State party ensure that Mandarin is not the only language allowed as the language of instruction vis-à-vis ethnic minorities and peoples.”
“The Committee reiterates its recommendation that the State party take adequate measures to protect cultural diversity and the cultural practices and heritage of religious minorities, including the religious practices of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui, and Mongols, including by protecting and restoring religious sites.”
“The Committee reiterates its recommendation that the State party take all necessary measures to immediately halt non-voluntary resettlement of all nomadic herders, including Tibetan ones, from their traditional lands.”
“The Committee recommends that Hong Kong SAR, China immediately provide all due process guarantees of human rights defenders, civil society actors, journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers working on human rights and others working to defend economic, social and cultural rights, including access to independent and effective legal representation at every stage of the proceedings.”
“The Committee recommends that the State party repeal any legal provisions and policy practices that unduly restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations. It also recommends that the State party guarantee an enabling environment for all non-governmental and/or non-profit organizations engaged in the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights.”
“The Committee reminds the State party that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression includes the right to a critical and dissenting opinion of the State party’s activities and policies pertaining to, inter alia, economic, social and cultural rights, and requests the State party to adhere to its legal obligations under international human rights law as well as refrain from persecuting and prosecuting human rights defenders and lawyers working on human rights issues for broadly defined offences.”