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Country Visits by Special Procedures

Both thematic and country-specific special procedures may conduct country visits, during which they investigate the human rights situation of a specific country. Following the visit, the mandate holder will submit a report on their findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council.

The process is most often initiated by a mandate holder sending a UN member state a request to visit. If the state agrees, an invitation will be extended and specific dates for the visit agreed upon. However, the state may issue an invitation to a mandate holder at any time, and both the Human Rights Council and Office of the High Commissioner may suggest visits as well. Some factors that may contribute to a country visit request include: relevance to a thematic report or study, recent changes in a country’s human rights situation, a mandate’s interest in achieving geographic balance, and the likelihood the visit will have an impact.

The special procedures have jointly developed standard terms of reference that outline the guarantees states should make when issuing invitations to mandate holders. Specifically, states should ensure that mandate holders enjoy:

(a) Freedom of movement in the whole country, including facilitation of transport, in particular to restricted areas;

(b) Freedom of inquiry, in particular as regards:

(i) Access to all prisons, detention centers and places of interrogation;

(ii) Contacts with central and local authorities of all branches of government;

(iii) Contacts with representatives of non-governmental organizations, other private institutions and the media;

(iv) Confidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons, including persons deprived of their liberty, considered necessary to fulfil the mandate of the special rapporteur; and

(v) Full access to all documentary material relevant to the mandate;

(c) Assurance by the Government that persons, whether officials or private individuals, who have been in contact with the special rapporteur/representative in relation to the mandate, will not, as a result, suffer threats, harassment or punishment or be subjected to judicial proceedings;

(d) Appropriate security arrangements without, however, restricting the freedom of movement and inquiry referred to above;

(e) Extension of the same guarantees and facilities mentioned above to the appropriate United Nations staff who will assist the special rapporteur before, during and after the visit.

Past Country Visits to China

As of August 2016, the following seven special procedures have undertaken visits to China:

  • Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: ENCH
    • Report on the 1997 visit to China (1998): ENCH
    • Report on the 2004 follow-up mission to China (2005): ENCH
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to education: ENCH
    • Report on the 2003 mission to China (2004): ENCH
  • Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: ENCH
    • Report on the 2005 mission to China (2006): ENCH
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to food: ENCH
    • Report on the 2010 mission to China (2011): ENCH
  • Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice: ENCH
    • Report on the 2013 mission to China (2014): ENCH
  • Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights: ENCH
    • Report on the 2015 mission to China (2016): EN, CH
  • Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights: EN, CH
    • Mission to China: 15-23 August 2016


In addition, 12 special procedures have pending visit requests to China.

  • Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: ENCH
    • Request in 2015
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association: ENCH
    • First request in 2011
    • Reminders of request in 2012 and 2013
  • Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes: ENCH
    • Request in 2005
  • Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health: ENCH
    • Request in 2006
  • Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions: ENCH
    • First request in 2005
    • Reminder of request in 2008
  • Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders: ENCH
    • First request in 2005
    • Reminders of request in 2008 and 2015
  • Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context: ENCH
    • First request in 2008
    • Reminder of request in 2014
  • Special Rapporteur on minority issues: ENCH
    • First request in 2009
    • Reminders of request in 2010 and 2015
  • Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation: ENCH
    • Request in 2010
  • Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers: ENCH
    • First request in 2011
    • Reminders of request in 2013, 2014 and 2015
  • Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances: ENCH
    • First request in 2013 (February)
    • Reminder of request in 2013 (September)
  • Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes: EN,
    • Request in 2005 (then the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights)
    • Request in 2014


Although China extended an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief in 2004, no further communications have occurred since the Special Rapporteur’s request for dates of visit in 2006.

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