Urgent Interventions

OMCT joins call for China resolution at Human Rights Council, focusing on Uyghur and other ethnic minorities

30 January 2019

In a first such move in morethan a decade, over three dozen organisations, including OMCT, have launchedtoday a call on governments to adopt a resolution at the next session of theHuman Rights Council addressing the worsening abuse of rights in the People’sRepublic of China. For the signatories, the mass detention of an estimated onemillion Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in China calls for a concerted responsefrom the international community.

The resolution would ask foraccess by independent international human rights experts to all parts of thePeople’s Republic of China, in particular to areas inhabited by Uyghur, otherTurkic Muslim, and Tibetan communities, but also for an end to the criminalizationof the work of human rights defenders, and for the immediate release of allindividuals unlawfully deprived of liberty.

The full text of the letterto Governements is copied below.

At upcoming session of Human Rights Council, States should pass resolution to address humanrights violations in the People’s Republic of China

Your Excellency,

The past year was marked by vitallyimportant monitoring and review of China’s human rights situation by the UnitedNations human rights system. The upcoming session of the UN Human RightsCouncil provides a key opportunity to reinforce the issues raised over the lastyear, and express collective concern about worsening rights abuse in China andthe government’s failure to follow through on its obligations and commitments.

Considerable information has beenavailable in the last year for governments to deepen their understanding of thesituation in the country, spanning two UN reviews and nearly two dozen expertletters or opinions, including a full paragraph in the annual update from theUN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Nonetheless, the Chinese state, at thedirection of the Chinese Communist Party, continues to suppress dissent andundermine efforts to hold it accountable to its obligations under internationalagreements.

Millions in the country face dire abusesof their fundamental human rights – be they members of ethnic groups,practitioners of Islam, Tibetan Buddhism or Christianity, human rightsdefenders, feminists, petitioners, lawyers, journalists, professors orstudents. Uyghurs and Tibetans are particularly targeted with discriminatorypolicies and practices. Furthermore, these abuses increasingly affect individualsand communities beyond China's borders.

Inlight of this, the international community must push with one voice for change.We urge your government to contribute to and support a resolution on the humanrights situation in China.

In doing this, you will join with othersto make clear that no State’s development model or economic and politicalinfluence can exempt it from its international human rights obligations. IfChina seeks to be a responsible member of the United Nations and global actor,it should be open to and engage with criticism, rather than seek to deflect ordiscredit views with which it disagrees.

Such a resolution and any other jointaction at the Council should:

urgeprompt, unfettered and independent access to all parts of the country, inparticular Uyghur, other Turkic Muslim and Tibetan areas, by independentinternational human rights experts, including the UN High Commissioner forHuman Rights and relevant UN Special Rapporteurs;

demandan end to the abuse of national security legislation as a means ofcriminalising the work of human rights defenders, freedoms of expression,association, religion or belief and subverting due process, and call on Chinato seek technical assistance from UN experts to this end, including at theOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

callfor the immediate release of any and all individuals subjected to unlawful andunjustified deprivation of liberty, in particular those held extra-legally orin extended pre-trial detention, and provide remedies and reparations toaddress harsh treatment, at times including torture, and loss of livelihoods.

expresssupport for the OHCHR and UN Country Team to take steps to expand, improve andregularise monitoring and reporting of the situation in China.

Resisting efforts by China to shielditself from international scrutiny, analysis, and reporting is essential topreventing widespread impunity for violations which, in some cases and based onavailable reporting, may amount to crimes against humanity. This resistance hasthe greatest, and perhaps only, chance of success when conducted jointly, andwhen backed by a multi-pronged multilateral and bilateral effort.

We therefore urge you to take advantage ofthis moment, and the platform of the Human Rights Council, to convey to Chinathe need to open itself to international monitoring and reporting, and the needfor rapid and drastic improvement of its human rights performance across allcivil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights.

In so doing, you will demonstrate yourcommitment to supporting the Chinese,Tibetan and Uyghur human rightscommunities – those most central to sustainable change, and yet those mostvulnerable in the struggle for it. You will also send a clear message to theChinese government that such abuses cannot be tolerated or ignored, and thatthe international community will defend the universality of human rights.

Please rest assured, your Excellency, ofour highest consideration, and our willingness to engage with you on these issuesin the days and weeks to come.


Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Asociación Cultural Tibetano-Costarricense

ChinaHuman Rights Accountability Center

ChinaLabour Bulletin

ChristianSolidarity Worldwide


CoreGroup for the Tibetan Cause



Grupode Apoio ao Tibete

HumanRights in China


InternationalCampaign for Tibet

InternationalCommission of Jurists

InternationalFederation for Human Rights (FIDH)

InternationalService for Human Rights

InternationalTibet Network Secretariat

Lawyersfor Lawyers

Lawyer'sRights Watch Canada

LUNGTA– Actief voor Tibet

Networkof Chinese Human Rights Defenders

PEN America

Safeguard Defenders

Students for a Free Tibet

Students for a Free Tibet Denmark

Swedish Tibet Kommitten

TheRights Practice

TibetHouse, Moscow

TibetInitiative Deutschland

Tibet Justice Center


TibetMx Querétaro

Tibet Society UK

Tibet Support Group Netherlands

Tibet Watch

Tibetan Youth Association Europe

UyghurHuman Rights Project

WestAfrica Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH)

WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT)

WorldUyghur Congress
Relevant Background

The below points summarize key updatesfrom the last six months and provide additional detail for the substance of aresolution. It is important to note that joint action should not precludecontinuing the positive practice of raising the overall deterioration of humanrights in China through bilateral statements under the full range of dialoguesand general debates on the Council's agenda.

InAugust 2018, a review by the Committee on the Elimination of RacialDiscrimination declared that western China’s Xinjiang region was akin to a‘no-rights zone’, and urged the government to take prompt action to discloseinformation about internment camps and to release the up to one millionUyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities arbitrarily detained there.

Inher update to the September 2018 session of the Human Rights Council, the UNHigh Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet echoed the Committee’sconcerns, noting ‘deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrarydetentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities, in so called re-educationcamps across Xinjiang’ and adding that her Office has also received ‘reports…of patterns of human rights violations in other regions’. She requested accessfor her Office to all regions of China.

Atthe Universal Periodic Review of China in November 2018, the consistency ofrecommendations related to the need to improve respect for minority rights ingeneral, and in particular address serious violations in Xinjiang and Tibet,was remarkable. Similarly, key issues of interest to the diverse human rightscommunity in mainland China – freedom of expression and opinion, freedom ofreligion or belief, civil society space, ‘residential surveillance in adesignated location’, and protections for LGBTI individuals – were clearlyarticulated.

Over2018, the UN Special Procedures issued at least 21 official communications onChina, on issues ranging from access to education and cultural rights forUyghurs and Tibetans; to due process violations, including risk of torture andsuppression of the legal profession; to forced evictions and occupationalsafety risks for electronics workers. Also in 2018, the Working Group onArbitrary Detention adopted at least two opinions, concerning two citizenjournalists and three lawyers, deeming their detentions in China arbitraryunder international human rights law.

Namingspecific individuals is critical; this contributes to sustained attention andimproved conditions. Those who have been the subject of Communications bySpecial Procedures and, in some cases, referred to in the ConcludingObservations of UN treaty bodies, include: Huang Qi, Li Yuhan, Jiang Tianyong, QinYongmin, Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, Uyghur intellectual IlhamTohti, and human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, sentenced after a closed trialon 26 December 2018 to four and a half years imprisonment for subversion of Statepower. Anadditional Communication by 10 Special Procedures, issued in August 2018,called for the removal of legal provisions permitting 'residential surveillancein a designated location', echoing concerns of the Committee against Torturethat this constitutes de facto incommunicado detention.