Home > PUBLICATIONS & RESOURCES > JOURNAL >

The UN’s Human Rights Mechanisms and China’ Constructive Participation
August 11,2021   By:CSHRS
The UN’s Human Rights Mechanisms and China’ Constructive Participation
 
Research Group of China University of Political Science and Law*
 
Abstract: Through establishing and improving charter-based and treaty-based human rights systems, the United Nations develops and promotes the implementation of human rights standards, urges countries to fulfill their international human rights obligations, and provides a platform for countries and other stakeholders to communicate and cooperate in promoting and protecting human rights. There are also other UN agencies and entities involved in human rights promotion in different areas. As one of the UN’s founding members and the Security Council’s permanent members, China has been elected to the Human Rights Council multiple times and has been participating actively in the Universal Periodic Review process, fulfilling obligations under international human rights treaties, expanding cooperation for mutual benefits in the field of human rights, and promoting the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings. At both the domestic and international levels, China can, from both domestic and international levels, further strengthen the implementation of international human rights treaties, enhance cooperation with the UN’s human rights system and other agencies, and increase China’s voice and influence in the field of human rights in the UN.
 
Keywords: UN’s human rights mechanisms ·charter-based mechanisms · treaty-based mechanisms · a Community with a Shared future for Human Beings
 
Since the end of World War II, “promoting, encouraging and strengthening universal respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all” has been one of the fundamental goals of the United Nations. To achieve this goal, the United Nations has gradually established a set of human rights mechanisms, that is, the systems and institutions for formulating and implementing international human rights law as laid out in the Charter of the UN (hereinafter referred to as “the Charter”), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights conventions.1 The United Nation’s human rights mechanisms can be divided into two categories. One is the Charter-based mechanisms, which have been established based on the Charter and supported by the UN bodies responsible for human rights affairs. The other is the treaty-based mechanisms, built based on core international human rights conventions and supported by treaty bodies.2 Besides, some other UN agencies and entities have also actively carried out human rights-related activities. The purpose of this paper is to make a systematic review of the operation of the UN human rights mechanisms and China’s constructive participation in the UN human rights affairs and to put forward some strategies and suggestions for China to deepen its participation in the UN human rights affairs.
 
I. The Charter-based Mechanism and China’s Participation
 
The Charter-based mechanism focuses on the work of the UN Human Rights Council and its subsidiary bodies, including the universal periodic review mechanism and special procedures. Before the establishment of the Human Rights Council, this mechanism mainly relied on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and its subsidiary bodies, including the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The main characteristics of the Charter-based mechanisms are as follows: To be established by resolution of the principal organs authorized by the Charter; undertake a wide range of human rights tasks; Address an unlimited audience; Act based on a majority vote.3 So far, China has received three Universal Periodic Review (UPR) sessions with approval of its progress, it has invited and received nine special rapporteurs on human rights to visit China, and was re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council in 2020. The Chinese government, experts, and scholars have vigorously advanced the international human rights cause by taking an active part in and cooperating with the work of the Charterbased mechanism.
 
A. From the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to the Human Rights Council
 
The Commission on Human Rights is a functional body established in 1946 by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) under Article 68 of the Charter. Its primary responsibility at that time was to draft documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With the development of the international situation and the rising call from all countries in the world for the United Nations to protect human rights, ECOSOC adopted Resolution 1235 and Resolution 1503 respectively in 1967 and in 1970, which authorized the Commission on Human Rights to study and report human rights issues in specific countries through an expert mechanism and established the complaints mechanism to promote the supervision over the human rights in all countries.4 China attended the meetings of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as an observer for three consecutive years starting 1979. It was elected a member of the Commission in 1981 and has been reelected continuously since its official accession in 1982.5
 
Although the Commission on Human Rights made some achievements in the formulation of international human rights instruments, interpretation of international human rights standards, and implementation of international human rights law, due to the shift in the international political forces during the Cold War and post-Cold War period, the positive role of the Commission on Human Rights was gradually weakened by the political differences in the institution. In particular, under the thematic mechanism of country reports on human rights, a pattern of developed countries criticizing the human rights in developing countries has gradually taken shape. This situation has aroused great dissatisfaction among the developing countries, which have criticized the “double standard” and selectivity of the human rights mechanism and working methods of the Commission on Human Rights, arguing it has become a tool of struggle in the field of ideology. Given the weakening capacity of the Commission on Human Rights to carry out its tasks and the declining credibility and professionalism of the Commission, Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General,submitted a report to the 59th UN General Assembly in 2005, proposing to set up a Human Rights Council and upgrade it to the same position as the ECOSOC and the Security Council, to urge the United Nations to take human rights seriously as it treats security and development issues.6 The report also proposed the establishment of a universal periodic review mechanism whereby all member states would submit their compliance with human rights commitments to other states for assessment, thus helping to avoid politicization and selectivity of the Commission on Human Rights.7
 
The establishment of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review Mechanism is a reform by the United Nations in response to the former Commission on Human Rights’ politicization of human rights issues and ineffective action. As a member of the Commission on Human Rights and a representative of developing countries, China has played an important role in the establishment of the Human Rights Council. First, on behalf of other countries, China has put forward human rights propositions that meet the interests and needs of developing countries. As can be seen from China’s position statement on the construction of the Human Rights Council, both its emphasis on the equal protection of economic, social, and cultural rights and its call for the right to development reflects the fundamental human rights needs and fundamental national interests of the vast majority of developing countries. The condemnation against the politicization, selectivity, and double standards in human rights is a kind reminder to the Human Rights Council to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the Commission on Human Rights. Second, China played an active role in the consultation and final vote on the establishment of the Human Rights Council, and its proposal was also accepted by most countries. While protecting the interests of developing countries, it has also played a positive role in advancing the realization of the international discourse power on human rights and strengthening the role of developing countries in the human rights mechanisms.
 
On 15 March 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/251, establishing the Human Rights Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights to consolidate its achievements and overcome its shortcomings.8 Compared with the Commission on Human Rights, which was a subsidiary organ of ECOSOC,the Human Rights Council has been greatly enhanced in terms of its organizational status and authority. The Human Rights Council is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly, reporting directly to the General Assembly. Its 47 members are elected by the General Assembly by secret ballot, and all UN member states are open to election. This method of election has removed the political influence of regional nominations before voting as was the case under the framework of the original Commission on Human Rights and increased competition among member states. Members of the Human Rights Council serve three-year terms with a maximum of one consecutive term. China served as a member of the Human Rights Council from 2006 to 2012, 2014 to 2016, and 2017 to 2019, and was successfully re-elected at the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly for a term from 2021 to 2023.9
 
The functions of the Human Rights Council mainly include: to promote universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all; address and make recommendations on human rights violations; boost full compliance by all countries with their human rights obligations; promote the mainstreaming of human rights in the UN system; assist member states in strengthening human rights capacity building, promote human rights education and provide technical assistance, after consultation with them; provide a thematic dialogue forum on human rights; make recommendations to the General Assembly on the further development of international human rights law; submit annual reports to the UN General Assembly.10 To perform its functions, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 5/1 on Institution building of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2007, which developed a more detailed work program on the working procedure, mode, and schedule of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, and stipulated special procedures, the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council, complaint procedures, working methods and rules of procedure, etc.11
 
Since the establishment of the Human Rights Council, China has taken an active part in its work and supported the Council’s efforts to establish special mechanisms on such topics as safe drinking water, cultural rights, rights of persons with disabilities, human rights and international solidarity, and the promotion of a democratic and fair international order. In addition, China has also advocated the convening of special conferences on food security and the international financial crisis, and driven international cooperation on human rights to focus on the rights to subsistence and development, which are the biggest concerns of developing countries. On March 1,2017, Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations in Switzerland, on behalf of 140 countries, published a joint statement entitled “Promote and Protect Human Rights and Build a Community with a Shared future for Human Beings” at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, giving an all-round presentation of the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings and its significance in advancing the international human rights development, and putting forward propositions in line with the development requirement of the times and the common interests of the international community, which aroused widespread resonance.12 At its 34th session, the Human Rights Council also adopted resolutions on “the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in all countries” and “the right to food”, which explicitly stated the goal of “building a community with a shared future for human beings”.13 This is the first time that the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings has been included in a Human Rights Council resolution, signifying that this concept has become an important part of the international human rights discourse system.14
 
B. The universal periodic review mechanism
 
On 15 March 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/251, which established the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism.15 This mechanism, with full participation of the member states, conducts a comprehensive and periodic review of the fulfillment of all UN member states of their international human rights obligations, with relevant recommendations put forward. China has received and successfully passed three Universal Periodic Review sessions. The periodic review mechanism helps countries identify their progress and challenges in human rights, provides peer recommendations, technical support and capacity building for human rights improvement, and the opportunity to share best practices in improving the human rights situation. It is intended to support human rights cooperation among states, especially to help developing countries participate in the human rights mechanism and the implementation of follow-up actions, and facilitate exchanges among states and other stakeholders, to boost human rights development around the world. The Universal Periodic Review Working Group, composed of experts from 47 member states of the Human Rights Council, holds three working sessions every year. Within the first cycle of review (2008-2011), the Working Group reviewed 48 countries each year and completed the review of the human rights situation in 192 countries. Later on, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to make adjustments to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, including extending the second and subsequent review cycles to four and a half years, the Working Group reviewing 42 countries annually, and an increase in the Working Group’s review time for each country.16 The Human Rights Council is currently in the third review cycle, which began in May 2017 and is expected to end in February 2022.17 The materials included in the review include special procedures, the information provided by human rights treaty bodies, in addition to the report submitted by the country receiving the review.
 
China has been actively cooperating with the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, receiving the supervision of the international community and proactively carrying out international dialogues on human rights. In February 2009, China participated in the Universal Periodic Review for the first time and submitted its national report before that. This national report gave an objective demonstration of China’s development and progress in promoting and safeguarding civil and political rights, economic, social, and cultural rights, and protecting special groups.18 In June of the same year, the Human Rights Council approved China’s report under review.19 In October 2013, China participated in the second cycle of Universal Periodic Review and submitted its report, which introduced the follow-up action to the first cycle of review, the socialist concept and theoretical system of human rights with Chinese characteristics, the legislative and institutional framework for promoting and protecting human rights, and practical practices.20 In March 2014, the country report of China in the second cycle of human rights review was approved by the Human Rights Council.21
 
Openly and seriously, China accepted 204 proposals submitted by other countries,accounting for 81% of the total, which were well received by the international community. In November 2018, China participated in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review and submitted its report. According to the report, based on realizing the main targets of the second National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) as scheduled, China issued and implemented the third National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) in 2016, with a joint meeting mechanism of the national human rights action plan composed of more than 50 departments established to be responsible for the formulation, implementation, and assessment of the action plan.22 In March 2019, the Human Rights Council approved China’s report under review.23
 
C. special procedures
 
The special procedures are constituent parts of the United Nations human rights mechanism. They are independent human rights expert mechanisms originally established by the Commission on Human Rights. Now under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, they aim to report and advise on human rights issues from a country-specific or thematic perspective. According to the mandates, these mechanisms of special procedures fall into two types: country-specific mechanisms,which are responsible for investigating and monitoring the human rights situation in a particular country or region; and thematic mechanisms, which focus on a specific human rights issue. At present, there are 12 country-specific mandates for Sudan,Myanmar, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Iran, and 44 special mandates for such issues as the right to housing, the right to education, freedom of speech, and the right to development. China has invited and received nine special rapporteurs on human rights to visit China. The specific functions of the special procedures include to receive individual communications, communicate and exchange with UN member states on human rights-related issues, and thus to supply rights relief to potential victims of human rights; to communicate and advise on human rights issues in a country based on information received or through country visits; to prepare research reports to explain relevant human rights norms and standards; to raise public awareness and attention to human rights issues through media channels. Among them, country visits are an important way for mandate holders to directly obtain first-hand information on human rights when visiting countries. The visits usually last for one to two weeks, and the responsible person will submit a report to the Human Rights Council after the visit.24
 
Although the special procedures have never carried out country-specific mandates for China, China is very cautious about the establishment of country-specific human rights mandates and works actively to create a fair and just environment for the operation of the special procedures mechanisms. China maintains that people of all countries have the right to choose their democratic forms and development paths independently and to create their models for promoting and protecting human rights. The United Nations human rights mechanisms, especially the country-specific human rights mechanisms, should respect the national conditions of different countries and their choice of human rights path, eliminate prejudice, accusation, and confrontation,enhance exchanges, communication, and cooperation, and promote the common development and progress of human rights based on equality and mutual respect. In the field of thematic mandates, China has been actively cooperating with the Special Procedure Rapporteur, actively responding to relevant communications and accepting country visits. By the end of 2019, China had received nine country visits on human rights topics, involving the rights of the elderly, the right to education, the right to food, discrimination against women, the impact of foreign debt on human rights, extreme poverty and human rights.25 Through country visits, China has conducted indepth dialogues and exchanges with the special rapporteurs to demonstrate China’s progress and achievements in the field of human rights. At the same time, China has made appropriate responses to some of the rapporteurs’ biased suggestions on human rights. For example, from August 15 to 23, 2016, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights was invited to visit China. He visited Beijing and parts of Yunnan Province, where he met with officials from the legislative, administrative, and judicial departments, as well as experts and scholars. The report noted that China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, with a particularly rapid pace in recent years.26 However, in response to the remarks made by the Special Rapporteur after he visited China, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry also said that China’s choice to develop human rights along the path with socialist characteristics should be respected, rather than being judged by a single model.27
 
II. The UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and China’s Participation
 
The United Nations has ten human rights treaty bodies, nine of which are responsible for monitoring the implementation of the nine core human rights treaties and their protocols.28 The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), is a new kind of treaty body within the United Nations human rights system intended to monitor, investigate and prevent torture and ill-treatment. China has ratified six core UN human rights treaties, regularly submitted its reports to treaty bodies for review, and earnestly fulfilled its obligations as a contracting party. Compared with the Charter-based mechanism, the main characteristics of human rights treaty bodies include: they are established by the provisions of special legal instruments; have a narrower mandate,deal with issues set out in legal instruments; the audience is limited to States parties of legal instruments; and they make decisions based on consensus.29 With the completion of the reform of the Charter-based mechanism and the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the focus of the United Nations human rights mechanism building has shifted to the reform of the treaty bodies. In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 68/268, Strengthening and Enhancing the Effective Functioning of the Human Rights Treaty Body System, which was intended to encourage the improvement of the work efficiency of the human rights treaty bodies, enhance transparency, ensure coherence and avoid the addition of new obligations to States parties.30
 
A. The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
 
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (hereinafter referred to as the CESCR) is a treaty body composed of 18 independent experts that monitor the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) (hereinafter referred to as the Covenant). China has submitted three reports on the implementation of the Covenant to the Committee. On May 28, 1985, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted Resolution 1985/17, establishing the CESCR, which replaced the Sessional Working Group on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights previously established to assist the Council in its oversight function.31 The CESCR has thus assumed the function of reviewing States parties’ reports on the implementation of the Covenant. According to the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2008), the CESCR is also responsible for receiving and considering communications from individuals, a group of individuals or their representatives, within the jurisdiction of a State party, claiming to be victims of a violation of any of the economic, social and cultural rights outlined in the Covenant, and from a State party claiming that another State party has failed to fulfill its obligations under the Covenant, provided that the States parties to the Covenant which are parties to this Protocol recognize the competence of the Committee to exercise these functions. Furthermore, under the Protocol, when information becomes available indicating grave or systematic violations by a State party of any of the economic, social, and cultural rights outlined in the Covenant, the Committee may appoint its members to inquire and, if necessary, conduct a country visit with the consent of that State party.
 
The Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on October 27, 1997. After three years, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decided to ratify the Covenant on February 28,2001 and made a reservation to paragraph 1 (a) under Article 8.32 On June 27 of the same year, the Covenant entered into force for China. As China has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, the CESCR systems of inter-state communications, individual communications and inquiries are not applicable to China. Concerning the reports of States parties, China prepared its first report on the implementation of the Covenant by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ general guidelines and comments on the submission of first reports by States parties on implementation of the Covenant, and officially submitted it to the Committee on 27 June, 2003. The report gave an overview of China’s implementation of the Covenant from the aspects of national legislation and judicial practice, including the existing difficulties and problems.33 The Committee considered the report on April 27, 2005,and adopted concluding observations on May 13, 2005, on China’s implementation of the Covenant. China submitted its second report on its implementation on June 30, 2010. According to the report, the Chinese government attached great importance to the concluding observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on China’s first report on implementation, gave full consideration to the requirements of the Covenant and the Committee’s reasonable suggestions in the process of formulating and implementing the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) for National Economic and Social Development, and would strive to translate them into policies and measures in line with China’s national conditions.34 The Committee did not consider the report until May 8, 2014, and adopted concluding observations on May 23. In the second review, the questions raised by the Committee involved most areas of China’s economic, social and cultural rights and protection, and paid full attention to the reforms and measures that China was advancing in safeguarding the aforementioned rights, which was instructive for objectively assessing China’s implementation of the Covenant and further improving the level of rights protection of the Covenant. China submitted its third report on implementation on December 19, 2019. According to the report, the main recommendations made by the Committee, such as abolishing the re-education through the labor system, anti-domestic violence legislation, revising the family planning policy, and introducing free nine-year compulsory education, have all been implemented.35
 
B. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
 
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a treaty body composed of 18 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). China has submitted 17 reports on the implementation of the Convention to the Committee in batches. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as the first UN human rights treaty monitoring mechanism, are committed to the prosperity of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples; urging all Member States to take effective measures to ensure the elimination and prevention of discrimination on grounds of race, color, origin, national origin or race; and the full protection of various rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. Part II of the Convention empowers the Committee to consider reports of States parties. States may also make declarations under Article 14 recognizing the competence of the Committee to consider complaints from individuals, while Articles 11 to 13 also provide for an inter-state system of complaints. Besides, although not provided for in the Convention,the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination established in 1993 an early warning and emergency action procedure for the prevention of serious violations of the Convention.36 Through this procedure, the Committee may inform the State party of its particular concern through a decision and bring the issue to the attention of the relevant United Nations bodies.
 
On November 26, 1981, China acceded to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, while declaring its reservations to the provisions of Article 22 of the Convention (Disputes to be submitted to the International Court of Justice), and that it would not be bound by this article.37 The Convention entered into force for China on January 28 the following year. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination is one of the core UN human rights conventions that China acceded to early on. By the provisions of the Convention, China submitted its first report on its implementation on February 22, 1983, and accepted the consideration by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.38 After that, China submitted its second report on implementation in 1985, the third report in 1987, the fourth report in 1990, combined fifth, sixth, and seventh periodic reports in 1996, combined eighth and ninth periodic reports in 2000, and combined its 10th to 13th periodic reports in 2008.39 On January 24, 2017, China submitted its combined 14th to 17th periodic reports, which introduced China’s progress in implementing the Convention from 2008 to 2015 and responded to the recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in the concluding observations of the last review by showing specific laws, regulations, policies, and measures.40 For example,regarding the Committee’s proposal to eliminate differences in regional economic and social development to allow ethnic minorities to benefit from economic growth, the report responded from many aspects, including the in-depth implementation of the Great Western Development Strategy, formulation of ethnic minority development plans, implementation of the action of vitalizing border areas and enriching the people living there, supporting the development of ethnic minorities with small populations,carrying out poverty alleviation work in ethnic minority areas, environmental protection and resource conservation, etc.41 In August 2018, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered the report and adopted concluding observations. The concluding observations affirmed China’s efforts to further implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,including the formulation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, the plan for supporting the development of ethnic groups with small populations, and the program for rural poverty alleviation and development.42
 
C. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
 
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is a treaty body composed of 23 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. China has submitted nine reports on its implementation in batches. Part V of the Convention empowers the Committee to consider reports of States parties. Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1999), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is also empowered to receive and consider individual communications from individuals or in their joint name or on their behalf, within the jurisdiction of a State party, who have been the victims of a violation of any of the rights outlined in the Convention by that State party. Besides, if the Committee receives reliable information indicating grave or systematic violations of any of the rights outlined in the Convention by a State party, it may appoint its members to inquire and, if necessary, conduct a country visit with the consent of the State party. Since China has not ratified the Optional Protocol, the systems of individual communications and inquires of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women are not applicable to China.
 
China signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on July 17 and ratified it on September 29, 1980, and has made a reservation to paragraph 1 under Article 29 (submission of disputes to arbitration) of the Convention.43 On December 4 of the same year, the Convention officially entered into force for China. The Convention is the first core UN human rights convention that China ratified into force. By the provisions of the Convention, China submitted its first report on the implementation of the Convention on May 25, 1983, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women approved its review of the first report at its third session in 1984.44 Subsequently, China submitted its second report on implementation in 1989, its combined third and fourth periodic reports in 1997, its combined fifth and sixth periodic reports in 2004, and its combined seventh and eighth periodic reports in 2012.45 On March 26, 2020, China submitted its ninth report on implementation, which mainly introduced China’s implementation of the Convention from 2014 to 2017, as well as its implementation of the concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. For example, regarding the recommendations made by the Committee on combating domestic violence, the report introduced a series of efforts and achievements made by China in the field of combating domestic violence, including the Anti-Domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China adopted in 2015; the Official Reply to Issues concerning the Relevant Procedures for Cases on Personal Safety Protection Orders issued by the Supreme People’ Court in 2016; the Ministry of Public Security incorporating the Anti-Domestic Violence Law into the law enforcement qualification examinations, law enforcement training and law education of the people’s police in public security organs; the Ministry of Civil Affairs carrying out professional training, instructing working methods and putting forward work requirements on domestic violence shelter, etc.46
 
D. The Committee against Torture (CAT)
 
The Committee against Torture is a treaty body composed of 10 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. China has submitted six reports on the implementation of the Convention to the Committee in batches. Under the provisions of the Convention, the main functions of the Committee against Torture include: first, to consider reports submitted by States parties on the implementation of the Convention; second, to conduct a cooperative examination with a State party of credible information received that contains well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practiced in the territory of that State party and to make a confidential inquiry when it considers that this is justified; third, to receive and consider communications from one State party claiming that another State party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention and to make available its good offices to the States parties concerned; fourth, to receive and consider communications from individuals or their representatives within the jurisdiction of a State party who claim to be the victim of a violation of the provisions under the Convention by that State party. In 2002, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted, and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture was established as a treaty body, which is also an international prevention mechanism.
 
China signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on December 12, 1986, and ratified it on September 5, 1988.47 On November 3 of the same year, the Convention officially entered into force for China. China has made reservations to Article 20 (inquiry procedure) and paragraph 1 under Article 30 (submission of disputes to arbitration) of the Convention. By the provisions of the Convention, China submitted its first report on the implementation of the Convention on December 1, 1989.48 The Committee against Torture considered the report on April 27, 1990, after which China submitted a supplementary report to its initial report on October 8, 1992, which provided the Committee with more background information and China’s implementation of the specific provisions of the Convention. 49 Subsequently, China submitted its second report on the implementation of the Convention in 1995, its third in 1999, and the combined fourth and fifth reports in 2006.50 China also responded positively to the concluding observations of the Committee against Torture. For example, concerning the recommendations made by the Committee on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports on implementation, China submitted to the Committee in December 2008 and November 2009, respectively, Comments of the Chinese Government about the Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture in Examining China’s Report and Response of the Chinese Government to the “Concluding Observations” of the United Nations Committee against Torture. 51 On June 20, 2013, China submitted its sixth periodic report on implementation. In addition to supplementing the relevant information from 2005 to 2007, the report focused on the new measures taken and new progress made by China in implementing the Convention since 2008, including the legislative, administrative, and judicial measures for prevention against torture such as the Administrative Enforcement Law of the People’s Republic of China in 2011 and the Decision on Amending the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China in 2012.52
 
E. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
 
The Committee on the Rights of the Child is a treaty body composed of 18 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee is also responsible for monitoring the implementation by States parties of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) (2000) (hereinafter referred to as The First Optional Protocol) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and China Pornography (OPSC) (2000) (hereinafter referred to as The Second Optional Protocol). Under the Convention and the two Optional Protocols, State parties are required to submit periodic reports on their implementation to the Committee on the Rights of the Child for its consideration. China has submitted to the Committee in batches its four periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention and its first report on the implementation of the two Optional Protocols. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Third Optional Protocol, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. Under this Protocol, the Committee may receive communications from individuals or groups within the jurisdiction of a State party claiming a violation of any of their rights outlined in the Convention or the previous two Protocols by that State party, as well as communications from a State party claiming that another State party has failed to fulfill its obligations under the above-mentioned documents. This Protocol also stipulates that in cases of grave or consistent violations by a States party of the rights outlined in the Convention and the first two Protocols, the Committee may appoint members to make inquiries and, if necessary, conduct a visit with the consent of the State party concerned.
 
China signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child on August 29, 1990, and ratified the Convention on December 29, 1991, stating that it would fulfill its obligations under Article 6 (Survival and Development of the Child) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the relevant provisions of the Law on the Protection of Minors.53 On April 1, 1992, the Convention entered into force for China. China also ratified the Second Optional Protocol on August 29, 2002, and the First Optional Protocol on December 29, 2007.54 According to the provisions, China submitted its first report on the implementation of the Convention to the United Nations on March 27, 1995, which focused on an overview of China’s implementation of the Convention from the aspects of national laws and practices, including existing difficulties and problems.55 Subsequently, China submitted its second report on implementation in 2003 and combined third and fourth reports on implementation in 2010.56 As a party to the two Optional Protocols, China also submitted its first reports on the implementation of the Second Optional Protocol in May 2005 and the First Optional Protocol in November 2010.57 At its 64th session in 2013, the Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed China’s third and fourth reports on implementation and the first report on the First Optional Protocol and affirmed the measures taken and progress made by China in implementing the Convention and its protocols, including the amendments to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors in 2006 and 2012, and the Outline for the Development of Children (2011-2020) of China issued in 2011.58
 
F. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
 
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a treaty body comprising 18 independent experts that monitors the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. China has submitted three periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention to the Committee in batches. The Convention empowers the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to consider reports from States parties. Under the Convention, the Committee is also empowered to receive and consider communications from individuals, either on their own, jointly or in their name, within the jurisdiction of a State party, claiming to be victims of a violation of the Convention by that State party. Besides, when a State party commits a grave or systematic violation of any of the rights outlined in the Convention, the Committee may appoint its members to make inquiries and, if necessary, conduct a visit with the consent of the State party. Since China has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, the systems of individual communications and inquiries are not applicable to China.
 
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the most recent UN core human rights convention that China has ratified. China signed the Convention on March 30, 2007, and ratified it on June 26, 2008, stating that its provisions on “freedom of movement” and “nationality” do not alter the effect of the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China relating to immigration control and nationality applications.59 The Convention entered into force for China on August 31, 2008. By the provisions of the Convention, China submitted its first periodic report on August 30, 2010, giving an overview of China’s implementation of the Convention, mainly including its laws and policies concerning persons with disabilities and their implementation.60 At its eighth session in September 2012, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reviewed China’s initial report and affirmed China’s efforts in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, especially the progress made in promoting accessibility, protecting workers with disabilities,prohibition of discrimination against children with disabilities and reducing poverty for persons with disabilities.61 On August 31, 2018, China submitted its combined second and third periodic reports, which updated China’s implementation of the Convention and responded to the recommendations in the last concluding observations of the Committee. For example, concerning the national action plan that includes persons with disabilities proposed by the Committee, the report described the goals and implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plans in different periods of China concerning the protection of persons with disabilities.62
 
III. Other United Nations Organs Responsible for the Protection of Human Rights and China’s Participation
 
In addition to the bodies established under the UN Charter and the international human rights treaties, there are also several important United Nations organs involved in the promotion and protection of human rights. These organs include the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Security Council, and the International Court of Justice, plus several specialized agencies, programs, and funds of the United Nations, as well as other entities and bodies.63 The specialized agencies involved in human rights are autonomous organizations that participate in the work of the United Nations through special agreements, including the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), etc. Relevant United Nations programs and funds include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and other entities and bodies include the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The Chinesen government and other parties have played an important role in advancing the process of different areas of human rights by actively participating in the work of relevant organs and fostering cooperation and communication.
 
A. The United Nations General Assembly
 
Established in 1945 following the Charter, the General Assembly is composed of 193 Member States of the United Nations. It is the most representative deliberative and decision-making body of the United Nations. According to the provisions of the Charter, the General Assembly may discuss any issues or matters within the scope of the Charter. Its functions include receiving and examining reports of the Security Council and other United Nations organs, launching studies and making recommendations, to “promote the progressive development of international law and its codification” and “promote international cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, educational and health fields, and assist in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinctions as to race, sex, language or religion.”64 The General Assembly meets annually in regular sessions from September to December and special sessions as necessary and will discuss various issues,including human rights, through such forms as high-level meetings. Among them, the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee (the Third Committee), one of the six main committees of the General Assembly, is mainly responsible for the work on human rights issues and will communicate with the relevant personnel of the Charter bodies, human rights treaty bodies, and other bodies. The General Assembly normally assigns to the Third Committee agenda items relating to the advancement of women, the protection of the rights of children, the rights of indigenous peoples, refugee-related issues, the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, social development, including those relating to youth, aging, and persons with disabilities. Therefore, since the establishment of the United Nations, the General Assembly has not only provided a platform for multilateral discussions on human rights issues but also played an important role in promoting standard-setting and international cooperation in the field of human rights.
 
First, the General Assembly routinely includes a wide range of human rights issues on its agenda for discussion at its annual regular session and has adopted several important human rights documents in the form of resolutions. For example,the Third United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during its 183rd plenary session, held on December 10, 1948;65 The 21st United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during its 1496th plenary session, held on December 16, 1966.66 The General Assembly committees also adopt resolutions aimed at specific countries, or rights and groups. For example, during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly in 2020, the Third Committee adopted resolutions on the human rights situations in Syria, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and other countries, as well as resolutions on the rights to development, food, privacy, and other rights, as well as on indigenous peoples, children, and refugees.67 Special rapporteurs, independent experts, Human Rights Council working groups, and relevant personnel from other United Nations bodies are also involved in the Third Committee’s work on human rights agenda items. For example, under the “Project for the Advancement of Women”, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, the Chairperson of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and other relevant program and fund personnel will conduct regular interactions with the Third Committee.68
 
Second, the General Assembly accepts and considers reports submitted by the Charter and human rights bodies. As a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council should make recommendations to the General Assembly on the further development of international law in the field of human rights and submit an annual report to the General Assembly.69 Besides, according to General Assembly resolutions, the Human Rights Council should review its work and functioning five years after its establishment and report to the General Assembly.70 Treaty bodies also report to the General Assembly following the procedures set out in the relevant conventions and documents. For example, paragraph 2 under Article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulates that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination shall submit its work report to the Secretary-General for transmission to the United Nations General Assembly every year, and the comments and general recommendations based on the examination of reports and information of States parties shall be submitted to the General Assembly. In accordance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights shall submit regular reports to the Council on its activities to assist the Council in making available to the General Assembly at any time summaries of reports, recommendations and information on the implementation of the Convention by States parties.71
 
As a founding member of the United Nations, China has played an active role in promoting and cooperating with the work of the General Assembly, its subsidiary bodies, and the main committees in the field of human rights. China was the first signatory to the Charter and participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As the Vice-Chairman of the Drafting Committee, the representative of China Zhang Pengchun contributed to the content and form of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In content, he introduced Confucian culture and ideas; in form, at the suggestion of Mr. Zhang Pengchun and others, the Conference finally adopted a declaration, a convention, and an implementation document. This program saved time for the world human rights to be drafted smoothly and sent to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote in time.72 Besides, China also sent representatives to participate in the drafting of international human rights documents such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities and the Declaration on the Right to Development and put forward their suggestions and ideas.
 
With the outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the United Nations General Assembly also put it as a priority to join forces for the fight against the novel coronavirus. In the relevant meetings of the General Assembly, China called for strengthening international cooperation, which reflected the responsibility of a major country. On September 22, 2020, President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the general debate of the 75th UN General Assembly, pointing out that “in the face of the epidemic, we must practice the concept of people first and life first” and “we need to enhance solidarity and pull together in the times of trouble”, and that China adheres to the consistent “spirit of responsibility” and “actively participates in international anti-epidemic cooperation and contributes Chinese strength to safeguarding global public health and safety.”73 The UN General Assembly also held a special session on the COVID-19 pandemic on December 3, 2020, to discuss the response to the crisis.President Xi Jinping’s Special Representative, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a speech at the special session, calling for strengthening unity and cooperation, and said that China “has launched the largest global humanitarian action in the history of New China”, and is helping countries in need through various channels, “making contributions to building a global community of health for all.”74
 
B. The United Nations Security Council
 
As one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the UN Security Council(hereafter referred to as Security Council) has an important political status. The Security Council consists of 15 members. There are five permanent members, including China, and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Decisions on all matters other than procedural matters require the affirmative votes of nine members, including all permanent members. The Charter assigns primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security to the Security Council, which may investigate any dispute or any situation likely to give rise to international friction or conflict.75 Such disputes or situations are likely to have serious human rights implications, and the Security Council is entitled to determine whether they are serious enough to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security and to take measures, if necessary, under the relevant provisions of Chapter VII of the Charter, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
 
The Security Council also has the authority to establish UN peacekeeping operations to carry out its functions under the Charter. In response to changing patterns of conflict and threats to peace and security, the mandate of United Nations peacekeeping operations has expanded considerably to include the protection and promotion of human rights. Most UN peacekeeping operations include a human rights group designed to protect and enhance human rights through short- and longterm actions, to push governments and other national institutions to meet their human rights obligations, and to uphold the rule of law. For example, the United Nations Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), the Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and the Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, which carry out peacekeeping missions, are all set up with human rights groups.76 The activities of these groups include monitoring, investigating, and analyzing the human rights situation, publishing public reports on human rights issues of special concern, and preventing human rights violations by establishing early warning mechanisms and other measures. They will also work closely with other departments of peacekeeping operations to promote the protection of civilians, solve conflict-related child sexual violence and sexual assault, and support transitional justice mechanisms and accountability mechanisms.
 
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is a responsible major country. It has always observed the purposes and principles of the Charter and earnestly performed its duties. On the international stage, because of its special status and role, China has become an important force in safeguarding world peace and security. First of all, China has actively promoted the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which complement and reinforce the Charter. Based on inheritance and further development of the basic contents of the Charter, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence have evolved from norms governing the handling of bilateral relations between states to basic standards guiding international relations and resolving international disputes. China has been guided by the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in handling national and regional disputes, such as the Afghan issue, the Cambodian issue, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Middle East issue, and has made tremendous efforts for the peaceful settlement of these issues, which has won widespread appreciation from the international community.77 Second, China has taken an active part in peacekeeping operations, supported the United Nations with concrete actions in maintaining world peace, and worked for peace and happiness for the people of other countries. Since April 1990, when the Chinese military sent five military observers to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO),the Chinese military has participated in 25 UN peacekeeping operations, sending a total of more than 40,000 peacekeeping officers and soldiers. China has become the second-largest contributor to the peacekeeping costs of the UN, and the largest troop contributor among the permanent members of the Security Council.78
 
C. The United Nations special agencies
 
The specialized agencies of the United Nations are also engaged in human rights related work in different fields. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (hereinafter referred to as “UNESCO”) is designed to promote cooperation among countries through education, science, and culture to make contributions to peace and security, to enhance universal respect for justice, the rule of law and the human rights and fundamental freedoms enjoyed by all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion recognized by the Charter of the United Nations.79 Many of its work topics involve human rights, such as education and gender equality, the culture of peace and non-violence, social transformation, and vulnerable groups. UNESCO promotes the development of related fields by establishing international norms and standards, setting up specific projects, and sponsoring scientific research institutions with funds. For example, UNESCO will promote the work in the field of education through the Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education (PVE-E) and other projects.
 
After China resumed its lawful seat in the United Nations in October 1971, UNESCO became the first UN specialized agency to recognize China’s lawful representation in the same year.80 In February 1979, the China National Committee for UNESCO was formally established to take charge of cooperation between China and UNESCO.
 
Today, China’s role at UNESCO has changed from a full learner to an in-depth participant, from a marginal recipient of aid to a powerful facilitator of funding and experience sharing. China has ratified international conventions developed by UNESCO, including the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Besides, the two carry out extensive cooperation in education, science and technology, and cultural heritage, with China assisting SouthSouth countries in their development through a series of projects. For example, the “Enhancing Teacher Training for Bridging the Education Quality Gap in Africa” project, sponsored by UNESCO and funded by the China Trust Fund, was launched in 2012.81 The project is a powerful catalyst for developing countries to strengthen the capacity of education and training institutions to provide higher quality teacher training.
 
The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a United Nations specialized agency that plays an important role in the field of human rights. The organization works to promote social justice, labor rights, and other internationally recognized human rights. It holds a firm belief that only social justice can lead to lasting peace in the world. Through the tripartite involvement of governments, employers, and workers, the ILO promotes decent work for all by setting standards, developing policies, and devising programs. The international conventions and recommendations developed by the ILO cover many human rights issues, including freedom of association, collective bargaining, forced labor, child labor, equal opportunities and treatment, employment security, remuneration, working hours, workplace safety and health, social security, maternity protection, etc. The groups covered include domestic workers, migrant workers, seafarers, fishermen, dock workers, indigenous and tribal peoples, and other specific types of workers.
 
China is one of the founding countries of the International Labor Organization. Since China officially resumed its relations with the ILO in 1983, it has made great contributions to the healthy development of the international labor cause.82 In 1985, the organization established an office in Beijing, the Beijing Bureau of the International Labor Organization, which further enhanced its relations with China. China has ratified 26 international conventions of the ILO, 20 of which are still in force, including the four core conventions of the Convention on Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, the Convention concerning the Elimination of Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation 1958, the Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, and the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. 83 China has also further advanced the implementation of international labor standards domestically through participation in country programs. In 2016, the Chinese government, workers’ and employers’ organizations signed the “Decent Work Country Program, 2016-2020” (DWCP) with the International Labor Organization, which set out clear country priorities.84 The parties in China have also promoted and defined bilateral cooperation through the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the ILO, exchanging views, and formulating plans in specific areas. Besides, China has funded and participated in several ILO projects to promote decent work and the realization of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
 
IV. Suggestions on Enhancing China’s Participation in the UN Human Rights Affairs
 
As is stated above, China’s constructive participation in the UN human rights mechanism has been significantly enhanced in scope, depth, and intensity, making substantial contributions to the common development and progress of the human rights cause in China and the world at large. However, the role China plays in the UN human rights mechanism is incommensurate with China’s status as a major power and its national strength, which necessitates the further enhancement of China’s voice and influence in the UN human rights mechanism to increase China’s contribution to the world’s human rights development. It is urgent to construct institutions and promote actions at both domestic and international levels.
 
A. Defining the legal status and application of international human rights conventions in China
 
The legal status and application of international human rights conventions in China have long been an important issue of concern to the UN human rights bodies. China’s Constitution and laws have no uniform and clear provisions on this issue, with wide differences in related practices and theories, which is not conducive to China’s fulfillment of its international legal obligations on human rights, the improvement of its domestic human rights protection system, the development of China’s human rights cause and the enhancement of China’s international influence in the field of human rights. It is suggested that relevant departments pay high attention to this issue and take necessary and appropriate legislative measures to solve it properly and promptly.
 
In response to the legal status and application of international human rights conventions in China, the following solutions are proposed, including: (1) The most fundamental solution is to explicitly establish in China’s Constitution the honest (or good faith) fulfillment of international (legal) obligations as a basis and principle in China’s handling of international relations, to further stipulates the relationship between international laws (international customs and international conventions) and China’s domestic laws so that a constitutional foundation can be laid for the legal status and application of international human rights conventions in China. (2) Based on provisions of the principle of the Constitution, it is advised to stipulate in the Legislative Law the honest (or good faith) fulfillment of international (legal) obligations and the respect for and protection of human rights as the guiding principles for China’s legislative activities, to provide a general legal basis for translating China’s ratification of or accession to international human rights conventions into domestic laws. (3) It is advised to establish the principle of honest (or good faith) fulfillment of international (legal) obligations more widely in legal documents directly related to human rights, requiring domestic authorities to directly apply or prioritize the application of the rules of international law with different provisions from domestic laws, and to encourage domestic authorities, when necessary, to interpret and apply relevant domestic laws following the rules of international law, to provide a specific legal basis for domestic authorities to translate and apply international human rights conventions China has ratified or acceded to. (4) Before or after ratifying or acceding to an international human rights convention, it is advised to make necessary revisions to or abolish current effective laws in China, or develop new legal documents, by reference to or following the spirit, principles, or specific provisions of the convention, to ensure the consistency between Chinese domestic laws and the provisions of the convention, which will provide a direct domestic legal basis for Chinese state organs and other members of society to apply international human rights conventions China has ratified or acceded to.
 
B. Strengthening cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council
 
The Charter-based mechanisms are an important channel and approach for China to implement international human rights law. The Charter-based mechanisms under the framework of the Human Rights Council include the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism, the Special Procedures, the Complaints Mechanism, and the Inquiry Procedure. These mechanisms are not only the means for the United Nations to monitor countries’ implementation of international human rights conventions but also the means for countries to affirm, criticize and advise on the human rights situation of other countries and realize human rights governance. As political monitoring mechanisms, the most prominent feature of the Charter-based mechanisms is to turn a human rights issue into an international topic for discussion and defense, and then to complete the handling of the issue through resolutions. In this process, a country can not only make its voice heard to safeguard its sovereignty and dignity, but also advocate for its concept of human rights. The focus in conducting a comprehensive dialogue with the Human Rights Council is strengthening cooperation with the Charter-based mechanisms under the leadership of the Council and reinforcing dialogue and exchanges with the human rights mechanisms. First, with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism as a platform, it is advised to take the implementation of human rights recommendations as a good opportunity to promote interaction and cooperation between China and the Human Rights Council and the UN human rights mechanisms. The Universal Periodic Review mechanism is a comprehensive, systematic, and continuous human rights mechanism that epitomizes a country’s human rights situation. The examination of a country’s reports on special procedures,treaty mechanisms, and non-governmental organizations under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism has a bearing on a country’s overall international image of human rights. Therefore, reinforced cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can drive and enhance the level of cooperation with the entire UN human rights mechanism. Second, it is necessary to further expand international exchanges and cooperation, actively invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and special rapporteurs to visit China and give active support to international human rights conferences. This will serve as an important window for China to showcase its human rights development.
 
C. Strengthening cooperation with other UN human rights bodies
 
China should further deepen its cooperation with the Security Council on the protection of human rights in the field of collective security mechanisms. With regards to participation in the UN Security Council peacekeeping operations, it is necessary to provide a legal basis for China’s deepened involvement in peacekeeping operations in a way aligned to international practices. To achieve this, it is advised to further develop the Peacekeeping Law or add new elements of foreign-related military operations other than war (MOOTWs) in the existing National Defense Law,or to develop a special Law on Foreign-related Non-military Operations involving the responsibilities and goals, military-government relations, and organization and coordination in peacekeeping operations. In terms of human rights protection in the field of the protection of international refugees, China also needs to further improve its legal system for refugee protection. Currently, the relevant provisions in China concerning refugees are still lacking in specific procedures and standards,and refugee applications are handled by the principle of “request for instructions for each case” and on a “case-by-case” basis, which is not conducive to establishing an institutionalized refugee screening mechanism. This requires the Chinese government to, by way of legislation, determine the basic principles for dealing with refugee issues, identify the procedure and process of refugee application, and establish a well developed supporting system for refugees.
 
China has taken an active part in various agendas and activities organized by UNESCO, thus contributing to the achievement of relevant sustainable development goals. According to the Charter, the United Nations and its member states shall follow the principle of sovereign equality and shall refrain from infringing upon the territorial integrity or political independence of any Member State or any other country and from intervening in any matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of a State. The Constitution of the United States Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization also stipulates that, to maintain the independence, integrity, and dynamic diversity of the cultural and educational systems in its Member State, the Organization shall not intervene in any matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of each State.85 While maintaining extensive cooperation with UNESCO, China should continue to uphold and promote multilateralism based on sovereign equality and non-interference in domestic affairs. Only in this way can we effectively advance the comprehensive development of education, science, and culture on a global scale,and China will be both a contributor to and a beneficiary of this process.
 
In the face of the impact of the global pandemic on the labor market, the ILO and other countries, including China, as well as employers’ and workers’ organizations,need to strengthen their cooperation to cope with the crisis together. According to the ILO, the pandemic could lead to increased unemployment and underemployment, lower incomes, and even poverty for workers, which will affect those in poor health, the elderly, young people, women, and other groups, exacerbating inequalities.86 The ILO calls on all parties to actively protect workers in the workplace, boost economic and market demand, and support employment and incomes. Previous experience and lessons show that measures such as timely and transparent information, financial support and innovative policies, and special attention to the most affected groups will help protect and restore jobs and the economy. While ensuring the protection and support of Chinese workers, the Chinese government, employers’ and workers’ organizations should actively respond to the work of the ILO, share their practices in resuming work and production and protecting workers’ rights and interests, to help and support vulnerable groups in the crisis. Besides, China should make full use of the platform and resources of the ILO, continue to advance the sustainable development process, and promote South-South cooperation, so that all stakeholders can benefit from this process.
 
(Translated by NIU Huizi)

* This paper is a simplified and adapted version of the research report of “The UN’s Human rights Mechanisms and Strategies of China’s Participation in the UN Human Rights Affairs”, a sub-project of the major human rights project of the Project for Studying and Developing Marxist Theory “Research on Some Major Fundamental Theories of Human Rights”. Project Leader: ZHANG Wei ( 张伟 ), Professor and Co-director of the Institute for Human Rights, China University of Political Science and Law. Authors of this paper: WANG Liwan ( 王理万 ), Associate Professor of the Institute for Human Rights, China University of Political Science and Law; WU Wenyang ( 武文扬 ), Lecturer of the Institute for Human Rights, China University of Political Science and Law.
 
1. Sun Meng, “On the Integration of the United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms”, World Economics and Politics 7 (2017): 119.
 
2. Ibid., 120.
 
3. United Nations. “Charter-based Bodies.” accessed December 3, 2020, https: //research.un.org/en/docs/humanrights/charter.
 
4. Economic and Social Council Resolution 1235 (XLI), Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Including Policies of Racial Discrimination and Segregation and of Apartheid, in All Countries, with Particular Reference to Colonial and Other Dependent Countries and Territories, U.N.Doc.E/4399 (1967), page 17; Economic and Social Council Resolution 1503 (XLVII), Procedure for Dealing with Communications Relating to Violations of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. U.N. Doc. E/4832/Add.1 (1970), page 8.
 
5. The State Council Information Office. “Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China.” September, 2019, see the full text at: http: //www.scio.gov.cn/zthps/32832/Document/1665072/1665072.htm
 
6. U.N.Doc.A/59/2005, In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All, 21 March 2005, page 45
 
7. U.N.Doc.A/59/2005/Add.1. In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All Addendum), 23 May 2005, page 3.
 
8. General Assembly Resolution 60/251, Human Rights Council, U.N.Doc.A/60/251 (2006), page 2.
 
9. “China Has Been Re-elected as a Member of the UN Human Rights Council,” People’s Daily, October 15,2020.
 
10. General Assembly Resolution 60/251. Human Rights Council, U.N.Doc.A/60/251 (2006), page 2-3.
 
11. Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1, Institution-Building of the United Nations Human Rights Council U.N.Doc.A/HRC/RES/5/1 (2007).
 
12. “China Delivered Joint Statement on Behalf of 140 Countries on Promoting and Protecting Human Rights and Building a Community of Shared Future for Human Beings,” accessed December 3, 2020. http: //world. people.com.cn/nl/2017/0302/c1002-29117928. html.
 
13. Human Rights Council Resolution 34/4, Question of the Realization in All Countries of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, U.N.Doc.A/HRC/RES/34/4 (2017), page 1: Human Rights Council Resolution 34/12. The Right to Food, U.N.Doc.A/HRC/RES/34/12 (2017), p.2.
 
14. “ ‘Build a Community of Shared Future for Human Beings’ Written into United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions for the First Time”, published on xinhuanet, accessed on December 3, 2020, http: // www.xinhuanet.com/mrdx/2017-03/25/c_136156644.htm
 
15. General Assembly Resolution 60/251, Human Rights Council, U.N.Doc.A/60/251 (2006), page 3.
 
16. Human Rights Council Resolution 16/21.Review of the Work and Functioning of the Human Rights Council,U.N.Doc.A/HRC/RES/16/21 (2011): Human Rights Council Resolution 17/119, Follow-up to the Human Rights Council Resolution 16/21 regarding the Universal Periodic Review, U.N.Doc.A/HRC/DEC/17/119(2011)
 
17. the United Nations. “Cycles of the Universal Periodic Review.” https: //www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/CyclesUPR.aspx.
 
18. U.N.Doc.A/HRC/WG.6/4/CHN/1, China’s national report submitted in accordance with paragraph 15 (a) of the annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1, December 5, 2008.
 
19. Human Rights Council Decision 11/110, Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review: China, U.N.Doc.A/HRC/DEC/11/110 (2009)
 
20. U.N.Doc.A/HRC/WG.6/17/CHN/1, China’s national report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, August 5, 2013.
 
21. Human Rights Council Decision 25/111, Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review: China, U.N.Doc.AV HRC/DEC/25/111 (2014).
 
22. U.N.Doc.A/HRC/WC.6/31/CHN/1, China’s national report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 16/21, August 20, 2018.
 
23. Human Rights Council Decision 40/113.Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review: China, U.N.Doc.A/HRC/DEC/40/113 (2019).
 
24. Manual of Operations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, August 2008, page 16-20.
 
25. United Nations. “View Country Visits of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council since 1998.” https://spinternet.ohchr.org/ViewCountryVisits.aspx? visitType = all&country = CHN&Lang =en.
 
26. U.N.Doc.A/HRC/35/26/Add.2, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on His Mission to China, 28 March 2017, page 5.
 
27. Foreign Ministry. “We Hope that ‘Some People’ Can Take an Objective View of China’s Human Rights Progress.” accessed August 24, 2016. https: //world.huangiu.com/article/9CakrnJXfC7.
 
28. The nine core UN human rights conventions: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention against Torture and (Continued on Next Page)(Continued)Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
 
29. United Nations. “Treaty-based Bodies.” https: //research.un.org/en/docs/humanrights/treaties.
 
30. General Assembly Resolution 68/268, Strengthening and Enhancing the Effective Functioning of the Human Rights Treaty Body System, U.N.Doc.A/RES/68/268 (2014)
 
31. The ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17, Review of the Composition, Organization and Administrative Arrangements of the Sessional Working Group of Governmental Experts on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the 22nd plenary meeting, on May 28, 1985, https: //documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NBO/663/26/MG/NR066326.pdf ?OpenElement 
 
32. Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the Ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted at the 20th Session of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People’s Congress on February 28, 2001. In accordance with this decision,the Chinese government will handle the provisions concerning the organization and participation of trade unions in paragraph 1 (a) under Article 8 of the Convention in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China and other laws.
 
33. U.N.Doc.E/1990/5/Add.59, addendum to the initial report submitted by China under articles 16 and 17 of the Convention, March 9, 2004
 
34. U.N.Doc.E/C.12/CHN/2, the second periodic report submitted by China under Articles 16 and 17 of the Convention, July 6, 2012, page 308
 
35. U.N.Doc.E/C.12/CHN/3, the third periodic report of China due in 2019 under Articles 16 and 17 of the Convention, August 5, 2020, page 40.
 
36. Fact Sheet No. 30 (First Revision): The United Nations Human Rights Treaty System, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2013, page 34.
 
37. Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Acceding to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted at the 21st Session of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress on November 26, 1981.
 
38. U.N.Doc.CERD/C/101/Add.2 (1983).
 
39. U.N.Doc.CERD/C/126/Add.1 (1985): U.N.Doc.CERD/C/153/Add.2 (1988): U.N.Doc.CERD/C/179/Add.1 (1990); U.N.Doc.CERD/C/275/Add.2 (1996); U.N.Doc.CERD/C/357/Add.4 (Part I) (2001); U.N.Doc.CERD/C/CHN/10-13 (2009).
 
40. U.N.Doc.CERD/C/CHN/14-17, China’s fourteenth to seventeenth periodic reports due in 2015, April 18,2017.
 
41. Ibid, page 4-9.
 
42. U.N.Doc.CERD/C/CHN/CO/14-17, concluding observations on the combined fourteenth to seventeenth periodic reports of China (including Hong Kong, China and Macao, China), September 19, 2018, page 1.
 
43. Decision of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress on Ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted at the sixteenth session of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress, on September 29, 1980.
 
44. U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/5/Add.14 (1983); U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/SR.33 (1984); U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/SR.34 (1984); U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/SR.36 (1984).
 
45. U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/13/Add.26 (1989): U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/CHN/3-4 (1997): U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/CHN/5-6 (2004): U.N.Doc.CEDAW/C/CHN/7-8 (2013).
 
46. U.N. Doc.CEDAW/C/CHN/9.Ninth Periodic Report Submitted by China under Article 18 of the Convention,due in 2018. 15 December 2020, page 21-22.
 
47. Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted at the Third Session of the Standing Committee of the Seventh National People’s Congress on September 5, 1988.
 
48. U.N.Doc.CAT/C/7/Add.5.Initial Reports of States Parties Due in 1988 Addendum China, December 6, 1989.
 
49. U.N.Doc.CAT/C/SR.50 (1990): U.N.Doc.CAT/C/7/Add.14 (1993).
 
50. U.N.Doc.CAT/C/20/Add.5 (1996); U.N.Doc.CAT/C/39/Add.2 (2000); U.N.Doc.CAT/C/CHN/42007).Clarifications: CAT/C/CHN/4 includes the fourth and fifth periodic reports, while the real content of U.N.Doc. CAT/C/CHN/5 is the sixth periodic report, but the concluding observations given by the Committee on December 2 and 3, 2015 were still titled “Concluding Observations on the Fifth Periodic Report of China”,see U.N.Doc.CAT/C/CHN/CO/5 (2016).
 
51. U.N.Doc.CAT/C/CHN/CO/4/Add.1 (2008); U.N.Doc.CAT/C/CHN/CO/4/Add.2 (2009).
 
52. U.N.Doc.CAT/C/CHN/5, the sixth report of China on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, April 4, 2014, page 5-9.
 
53. Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted at the 23rd Session of the Standing Committee of the Seventh National People’s Congress on December 29, 1991.
 
54. Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, adopted at the 29th Session of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People’s Congress, on August 29, 2002; Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict,adopted at the 31st Session of the Standing Committee of the Tenth National People’s Congress on December 29, 2007.
 
55. U.N.Doc.CRC/C/11/Add.7, report submitted by China under Article 44 of the Convention (first report of States parties due in 1994), August 21, 1995.
 
56. U.N.Doc.CRC/C/83/Add.9 (2005): U.N.Doc.CRC/C/CHN/304 (2012).
 
57. U.N.Doc.CRC/C/OPSA/CHN/1 (2005); U.N.Doc.CRC/C/OPAC/CHN/1 (2012).
 
58. U.N.Doc.CRC/C/CHN/CO/3-4 (2013), p.1; U.N.Doc.CRC/C/OPAC/CHN/CO/1 (2013), page 1.
 
59. Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted at the Third Session of the Standing Committee of the Eleventh National People’s Congress on June 26, 2008.
 
60. U.N.Doc.CRPD/C/CHN/1, initial report submitted by China in accordance with Article 35 of the Convention,February 8, 2011.
 
61. U.N.Doc.CRPD/C/CHN/CO/1, concluding observations on China’s initial report adopted at the Eighth Session of the Committee (September 14-28, 2012), October 15, 2012.
 
62. U.N.Doc.CRPD/C/CHN/2-3, the combined second and third periodic reports submitted by China in accordance with Article 35 of the Convention, June 19, 2019, page 6.
 
63. “Other United Nations human rights bodies involved in human rights work.” https://www.ohchr.org/CH/HRBodies/Pages/OtherUnitedNationsBodies.aspx.
 
64. Charter of the United Nations, signed by the United Nations Conference of International Organizations on June 26, 1945, Articles 10,13.
 
65. General Assembly Resolution 217 (III), International Bill of Human Rights, U.N.Doc.A/RES/217 (III) 1948).
 
66. General Assembly Resolution 2200(XXI). International Covenant on Economic. Social and Cultural Rights International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, U.N.Doc.A/RES/2200 (XXI) A-C (1966).
 
67. Resolutions adopted by plenary sessions and committees during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (2020), available on the UN website: https://www.un.org/zh/ga/75/resolutions.shtml.
 
68. The agenda items assigned to the Third Committee at the 75th session of the General Assembly (2020),as well as the list of special procedures mandate holders and other experts communicating with the Third Committee, see the UN website: https://www.un.org/zh/ga/third/75/documentation.shtml.
 
69. General Assembly Resolution 60/251, Human Rights Council, U.N.Doc.A/60/251 (2006), page 3.
 
70. Ibid., 4.
 
71. The ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17, Review of the Composition, Organization and Administrative Arrangements of the Sessional Working Group of Governmental Experts on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the 22nd plenary meeting, on May 28, 1985; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, Article 21.
 
72. Luo Yanhua, “Contribution of the United Nations to International Human Rights Protection and China’s Participation”, The 70 Years of UN: Achievements and Challenges (Beijing: World Knowledge Press, 2015),312.
 
73. Speech by Xi Jinping at the General Debate of the 75th UN General Assembly (full text), accessed September 22, 2020. http://www.xinhua-net.com/world/2020-09/22/c_1126527652.htm.
 
74. “Global Cooperation, Mobilization and Unity for Combat against COVID-19 - Speech at the Special Session on COVID-19”, accessed December 4, 2020. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/web/wjbzhd/t1837814, shtml.
 
75. Charter of the United Nations, signed by the United Nations Conference of International Organizations on June 26, 1945, Articles 24, 34.
 
76. “The ‘promotion of human rights’ topic in UN peacekeeping, accessed December 4, 2020.” https://peacekeeping,un.org/zh/promoting-human-rights.
 
77. Zhang Xuesen, ed., United Nations (Shanghai: Shanghai University of Finance and Economics Press, 2005),368.
 
78. the State Council Information Office, the White Paper “China’s Armed Forces: 30 Years of UN Peacekeeping Operations”, September 2020, for the full text: http://www.xinhuanet.com/2020-09/18/c_1126507977.htm.
 
79. Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, adopted on November 16, 1945, paragraph 1 under Article I.
 
80. Yang Yunyu, “China Will Play a Greater Role on the UNESCO platform — the Establishment of China National Committee for UNESCO,” China Education Daily, December 27, 2019, 6th edition.
 
81. Technical Division, China National Committee for UNESCO, “The Official Launch of UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust Project, Ministry of Education”, accessed December 6, 2021. http://old.moe.gov.cn// publicfiles/business/htmlfiles/moe/moe_880/201212/145218.html.
 
82. Zhang Longping, The International Labor Organization and China: Review of A Hundred Years of History,available on Chinese Social Sciences Net, accessed January 15, 2021. http://www.cssn.cn/skj/skjj_jjgl/ cgtb/201906/120190604_4912787.
 
83. “Ratifications for China”, International Labor Organization, https://www.ilo.org/dvn/normlex/en/f? p=1000: 11200: 0: : NO: 11200: P11200_COUNTRY_ID: 103404.
 
84. China Decent Work Country Program, 2016-2020, International Labour Organization, https://www.ilo.org/beijing/what-we-do/publications/WCMS 549135/lang--en/index.htm.
 
85. Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, adopted on November 16, 1945, paragraph 3 under Article I.
 
86. International Labor Organization. “ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the World of Work (Fifth Edition).” Accessed June 30, 2020. https://www.ilo.org/wemsp5/groups/public/--dgreports/--dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_749399.pdf.

Chinese Dictionary:

@cn_humanrights

For the latest news and analysis from our

reporters and editors:Staff Twitter List>>

E-mail:chinahrs@public.bta.net.cn