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China’s Anti-Discrimination Efforts to be Scrutinized by UN on August 7 and 10

July 31, 2009

Next week in Geneva, China’s efforts in meeting its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the “Convention”) will come under scrutiny at the United Nations.

China’s review, to be conducted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD, or the “Committee”) on August 7 and 10, comes at a critical time, in view of the recent ethnic violence in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The CERD review of China also coincides with a high profile visit by the Dalai Lama to Geneva.

A Human Rights in China (HRIC) team will be in Geneva to observe the review and participate in informal briefings with the expert members of the Committee.

The Chinese authorities have always maintained that the country pursues a policy of equal development and ethnic harmony. However, HRIC, NGOs and various UN committees have identified serious challenges faced by China’s rural ethnic groups, including the Uyghur, Tibetan and Mongol peoples, in terms of their access to equal civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights.

HRIC has submitted a parallel NGO report to the Committee with recommendations aimed at redressing the unequal treatment of the Uyghur, Tibetan and Mongol peoples. HRIC’s report also focuses on China’s hukou system of household registration, which perpetuates the disadvantaged status of ruralresidents and migrant workers on the basis of their inherited rural origin. HRIC argues that the hukou system perpetuates a form of descent-based discrimination prohibited under the Convention.

Specifically, HRIC urges the Committee to press China to:

  • Provide meaningful statistics to shed light on arrests, detention, and sentencing related to civil protests in China’s ethnic regions, as well as disaggregated figures on the proportionate share of costs and benefits of economic development in those regions;
  • Provide more comprehensive informationon the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights by rural inhabitants, including rural-to-urban migrants, and the measures taken to ensure that rural inhabitants have equal enjoyment of these rights; and
  • At a minimum, adopt a definition of racial discrimination in conformance with international law that clearly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin, as set forth under the Convention itself.

Following its review of China, the Committee will release concluding observations that will include recommendations for advancing compliance.

The Committee is a body of 18 independent experts tasked with monitoring implementation by State parties of the Convention. As a party to the Convention, China is required to report regularly to the Committee on its efforts to pursue, by all appropriate means and without delay, a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms. The last CERD review of China took place in 2001. 


For more information on the Committee on the Elimination on Racial Discrimination review of China, see: