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State Sovereignty Cannot Be Legitimately Invoked to Attack the Independence of UN Experts and Undermine Established Terms of Reference for Fact-finding Missions

June 9, 2017

FIDH-HRIC Statement
Human Rights Council 35th Session
Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty
Delivered by Sharon Hom, June 8, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President,

This statement is delivered by FIDH together with its member organization Human Rights in China.

We welcome the probing, balanced, and constructive China mission report by the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and note its clear acknowledgment of China’s progress in its development efforts.

But the Special Rapporteur also stresses that while development and human rights are mutually reinforcing, they are not synonymous. In assessing these achievements within a human rights framework, he underscores that the greatest challenge is “to understand how the leading role of the Communist Party can coexist with the recognition of individual rights and the provision of meaningful accountability mechanisms . . . .” (para.16) This key point is critical in light of China’s rejection of judicial independence and the rule of law as harmful “Western” concepts.

As the Report highlights, China’s top-down policy approach structurally excludes the meaningful participation of civil society and affected groups, with “little room for civil society organizations that are critical of the government’s approach.” (para. 32)  This marginalization is exacerbated by an intensified targeting of independent citizen actions and defenders, including prominent rights defense lawyer Jiang Tianyong, whom the Special Rapporteur did meet with on his mission. Jiang was disappeared for six months before being charged with “subversion of state power.”

Jiang is a pillar in the kind of work that—as highlighted by the Special Rapporteur—contributes to stability, rather than conflicts with its preservation (para. 75). Member states must call for the release of Jiang and others being punished for their rights defense work, and reject the criminalization of their legitimate exercise of rights protected by Chinese and international law. State sovereignty cannot be legitimately invoked to attack the independence of UN experts and undermine established Terms of Reference for fact-finding missions.

Mr. Special Rapporteur, what steps can member states take to support and build on your recommendations, including through their bilateral engagement and technical cooperation with China, and to ensure that all international cooperation and engagement are consistent with international human rights obligations and standards?

Related Resources

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty & human rights: Philip Alston

  • Final report (March 2017): EN, CH
  • End-of-mission statement on China visit (August 2016): EN, CH