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Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted in 1989 by the UN General Assembly and entered into force one year later. The most widely ratified human rights treaty, the CRC was created in response to the grave injustices that children suffer as well as their often special needs, and defines the rights that belong to all children. The Convention further sets out four guiding principles that are intended to assist state parties in interpreting the obligations established in the document. These principles are:

  • Non-discrimination
  • The primacy of a child’s best interests in all decisions affecting children
  • The right of every child to life, survival, and development
  • The importance of seeking and respecting the views of the child

In addition, the CRC establishes the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee), a group of 18 independent experts on children’s rights who meet three times a year in Geneva. The Committee provides guidance for and also monitors each state party’s compliance with the CRC by drafting general comments on the scope of treaty obligations, issuing statements on issues related to children’s rights, and conducting reviews of state parties’ progress in implementing the treaty. In accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure, the Committee may also accept individual complaints and communications alleging a state party’s violation of rights under the Convention. However, since China is not a party to the Optional Protocol, the Committee may not accept individual complaints related to China at this time.

To comply with the review process, each state party must submit for review a report to the Committee every five years on steps taken to implement the Convention, but, in practice, reports are often combined and reviewed less frequently. To prepare for a state party’s review, the Committee convenes a pre-sessional working group, in which all Committee members are invited to participate. The pre-sessional working group meets three to four months prior to the review to consider the state party’s report and develop a “list of issues and questions,” which gives the state party an indication of the Committee’s priority issues and also requests additional information  prior to the review. After considering all relevant materials, two members of the Committee designated as “Country Rapporteurs” lead the interactive dialogue with representatives of the state party. Following the dialogue, the Committee adopts concluding observations which include final remarks and recommendations.

Civil society members may provide input to the Committee at various points by submitting reports, making oral statements, and participating in briefings for Committee members. The Committee also encourages state parties to consult and incorporate information from civil society members in their national reports and follow-up procedures, and requires that the concluding observations are widely disseminated following the review. In addition the Committee considers information from civil society and other stakeholders, such as UN agencies and national human rights institutes.

China and the CRC

China ratified the CRC in 1992.

When states become parties to international treaties, they are permitted to do so with reservations, understandings, or declarations, which clarify the states’ interpretation of certain provisions, or change the state’s rights and obligations under the treaty. To be valid, any such conditions cannot contradict the purpose of the treaty itself. At the time of its ratification of the CRC, China made a reservation to article 6, which requires state parties to recognize the inherent right to life of every child, and ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

China’s reservation states that:

[T]he People's Republic of China shall fulfil its obligations provided by article 6 of the Convention under the prerequisite that the Convention accords with the provisions of article 25 concerning family planning of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and in conformity with the provisions of article 2 of the Law of Minor Children of the People's Republic of China.

China also ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child Prostitution and child Pornography in 2008 and 2002, respectively. 

Since its ratification of the CRC, China has been reviewed by the Committee three times. Its next review is scheduled for March 2019. See side bar for official documents and HRIC contributions related to China’s CRC reviews.

Official Documents & HRIC contributions

Combined Third and Fourth Review (2013)

  • Third and fourth combined periodic report of the PRC on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2010): EN, CH
  • List of issues in relation to the combined third and fourth periodic report of the PRC (2013): EN, CH
  • HRIC pre-sessional submission in advance of the review of the PRC's third  report (2012): EN, CH
  • Replies of the PRC to the list of issues in relation to the combined third and fourth periodic reports of the PRC (2013): EN, CH
  • HRIC briefing note on China’s response to the Committee’s list of issues submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2013): EN, CH
  • The Committee’s concluding observations (2013): EN
  • Comments by the government of the PRC about the concluding observations on the combined 3rd & 4th  report of China (2014): EN, CH

Second Review (2005)

  • Second periodic report of the PRC on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2003): EN, CH
  • HRIC report, submitted to  the Committee on Rights of the Child in advance of its review of the PRC's second  report (2005): EN, CH
  • The Committee’s concluding observations (2005): EN, CH

Initial Review (1995):

  • Initial report of the PRC (1995): EN, CH
  • The Committee’s concluding observations (1996): EN, CH
Other resources
  • Committee on the Rights of the Child website: EN, CH
  • Full text of Convention on the Rights of the Child: EN, CH
  • United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF): EN, CH
  • UNICEF—FACT SHEET: A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child: EN
  • Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography : EN, CH
  • Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict: EN, CH
  •  Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children: EN
  • UN Study on Violence against Children: EN, CH
  • UN Special Session on Children Website: EN, CH
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Fact Sheet No.10: The Rights of the Child: EN, CH
  • The Committee on the Rights of the Child's guidelines for the participation of partners: EN, CH

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