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At United Nations, China to Answer Broad Range of Concerns over Racial Discrimination

August 7, 2009

On August 7, 2009, a UN Committee of Experts began its review of China’s progress in implementing its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the “Convention”).

In introductory remarks before the Committee, Duan Jielong (段洁龙), Director General of the Department of Treaty and Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Chinese delegation, emphasized the main features of China’s effort in promoting and protecting the rights of ethnic groups, including constitutional and legal protections, and special development policies and measures.

While noting progress, the Committee raised a broad range of questions and concerns, including:

  • the continued absence in Chinese law of a definition of racial discrimination in conformity with the Convention, despite a 2001 recommendation by the Committee to develop such a definition;
  • a disparity between, on one hand, formal law and stated policy guaranteeing equality among ethnic groups, and on the other, actual practices – a disparity reflected in conflicting reports regarding abuses and violations of rights protected by the Convention;
  • difficulties faced by Chinese lawyers in taking on cases perceived to be sensitive by the authorities, including cases relating to the March 2008 demonstrations in Tibet and the July 2009 protests and violence in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region; and
  • the lack of clarification on the status of individuals detained during these two events.

The experts also requested additional information regarding the hukou system, a system of household registration that restricts access to social benefits on the basis of agricultural (rural) and non-agricultural (urban) classification inherited at birth.

At the second and concluding session on Monday, August 10, the Chinese delegation will respond to the Committee’s questions and engage in further dialogue with the experts. After the review, the Committee will release concluding observations that will include recommendations for advancing compliance with the Convention.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a body of 18 independent experts tasked with monitoring implementation by State parties to 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 Committee’s last review of China took place in 2001.

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