Geneva: China's refusal to adopt numerous recommendations aimed at addressing its worsening human rights crisis has drawn sharp criticism from a coalition of human rights organisations.

The Chinese government's response on June 11 to the recommendations of the Universal Periodical Review (UPR) conducted by the United Nations earlier this January, has been seen as a clear display of Beijing's disregard for international human rights standards.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an examination that all 193 UN member states must undergo every four to five years to assess their human rights record.

In the recent review, China has accepted 290 out of 428 recommendations, partially accepted 8, noted 32, and rejected 98 recommendations.

However, none of the accepted recommendations tackle the severe human rights abuses cited by UN member states, such as crimes against humanity, torture, forced disappearances, and the persecution of human rights defenders and journalists.

Leading up to the review, the Chinese government, as in previous UPR cycles in 2009, 2013, and 2018, submitted misleading information and barred domestic civil society groups from participating in the preparation of the state report or contributing to the review nongovernmental organizations said in a joint statement released on June 25 this year.

An extensive lobbying campaign ensured that several states posed mild questions and offered vague recommendations, allowing Beijing to present a skewed image of compliance.

Despite this, several countries took a principled stand, raising genuine concerns based on evidence compiled by non-governmental organizations, UN special procedures, treaty bodies, and the UN Human Rights Office.

Nevertheless, China categorically dismissed all recommendations addressing serious human rights violations and the impunity of perpetrators, resulting in a 30 per cent rejection rate, significantly higher than the 18 per cent rejection rate in 2018, as per the Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU), a non profit organization.

China's refusal to end reprisals against individuals engaging with the international human rights system, especially on the tenth anniversary of Cao Shunli's death in detention, underscores its ongoing contempt for human rights advocacy, the

The prominent Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli was detained as she attempted to travel to Geneva ahead of China's 2013 UPR. After being held for several months without charge, she fell gravely ill and died in March 2014.

Human rights organizations argue that Beijing's acceptance of numerous recommendations does not signify a genuine commitment to improving its rights record.

Research conducted by the NGO Campaign for Uyghurs indicates that many accepted recommendations from the 2018 review were so weak or vague that progress towards them cannot be verified. Some even endorse human rights violations, such as Belarus's recommendation to combat separatism in Tibet.

Since the 2018 UPR, civil society groups have reported various acts of intimidation and reprisals, including Chinese diplomats photographing civil society representatives and journalists within UN premises. Intimidation was rampant during the January 2024 review, with China violating its legal obligation to uphold the right to unhindered access to the UN by attempting to silence critics.

Beijing's dismissive stance towards the UPR and other UN human rights mechanisms challenges the authority of the review process and disparages the professionalism of UN human rights experts.

China has falsely labelled the August 2022 OHCHR report on human rights abuses in Xinjiang as "completely illegal and void."

The adoption of China's UPR at the current Human Rights Council session of the UN should serve as a critical moment for HRC member states and other actors to press Beijing to follow through on recommendations made by independent UN human rights monitors and officials.

The UN High Commissioner and member states should act on the landmark 2022 OHCHR report on abuses in the Uyghur region and hold China accountable, said rights organisations.

Over 50 UN human rights experts have called for collective and decisive action to ensure China respects human rights and abides by its international obligations.

This includes holding an HRC special session on China and establishing an impartial and independent UN mechanism to monitor and report annually on China's human rights situation. Such measures are crucial in the face of Beijing's persistent intransigence and deepening repression.

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