On Thursday, May 8, at the United Nations in Geneva, a committee of 18 international experts will review China’s implementation of its obligations to protect and advance a broad set of rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This will be China’s second review under the Covenant.
Today, in a briefing meeting between nongovernmental organizations and members of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Human Rights in China (HRIC) delivered a statement urging the Committee to focus on corruption in China as an overarching implementation challenge (see excerpt below). HRIC will observe the review session on Thursday and tweet highlights of the review.
Corruption is among the most sensitive topics likely to come up in the review. In a list of issues raised with China in advance of the review, the Committee asked China to provide information on measures “it has taken to combat corruption in the context of maximizing resources available for the promotion and enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights.”
The government's efforts to curb corruption have been undermined by its own crackdown, beginning in April 2013, on New Citizens Movement activists who were urging top officials to disclose their assets as a way to enhance transparency and fight corruption—a problem that President Xi Jinping has vowed to combat.
China’s crackdown at home and rights reviews at the UN have, three times over the past nine months, put an international spotlight on the country’s problematic rights records—for which the case of the late rights activist Cao Shunli (曹顺利) became a flash point.
The first occasion was China’s review by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in late September 2013, during which the Committee asked the Chinese delegation to provide information on Cao Shunli, who was disappeared by the authorities earlier in the month from the Beijing Airport while en route to Geneva. Following that review, days before China’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October 2013, high-level international authorities expressed urgent concern about Cao Shunli’s disappearance and China’s exclusion of civil society participation in its international human rights processes; the latter concern was echoed by UN member states during an interactive dialogue with the Chinese delegation at the UPR. Finally, during the March 2014 formal adoption of China’s UPR outcome report at the UN, many governments spoke out against China’s reprisals against activists and called for an investigation of the circumstances that led to the death of Cao Shunli while in custody.
China ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2001 and underwent its first review in 2005. The Covenant includes rights related to non-discrimination, employment, living conditions, health, education, the environment, and many other livelihood issues.
In a parallel report submitted to the Committee, HRIC highlighted two cross-cutting issues which have far-reaching impact on many of the rights enshrined in the Covenant: reforms to China’s household registration system (hukou) and the problem of corruption.