UN Treaty Bodies and China
UN Treaty Bodies are committees of experts charged with monitoring the implementation of the nine core international human rights treaties. Each of these international human rights treaties establishes a committee of independent experts, who are nominated and elected by state parties and serve in a personal capacity. The committees play a critical role in clarifying the scope of obligations under the treaties and evaluating each state party’s implementation progress through general comments and regular reviews. In addition, when states recognize their competence to do so, some committees may accept complaints and communications from individuals or initiate an inquiry if there are allegations that state parties have committed rights violations.
As of mid-2014, China is party to the below six UN human rights treaties, listed by order of ratification:
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): EN, CH
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD): EN, CH
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT): EN, CH
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): EN, CH
- International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR): EN, CH
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): EN, CH
Although China signed on to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on October 5, 1998, it has yet to ratify it. As such, China is not yet bound to the specific provisions of the ICCPR. However, as a signatory, China has the obligation to act in good faith and not defeat the purpose of the ICCPR. In recent years, domestic Chinese voices as well as the international community have been more actively calling for China’s ICCPR ratification. For example, an increasing number of Chinese citizens have been organizing open letters and urging the leaders to ratify the ICCPR. Echoing these domestic voices, comments and recommendations related to ratification of the ICCPR were advanced by over 30 UN member states at China’s 2013 UPR, making it the most widely advanced topic.
Human Rights Treaties Ratified by China
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and entered into force two years later, faster than any previous human rights treaty. Also known as the “bill of rights for women,” the CEDAW defines what constitutes discrimination against women and outlines state parties’ obligations to end such discrimination.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was adopted in 1965 by the UN General Assembly, and entered into force in 1969. With 175 state parties as of 2014, CERD is one of the most widely ratified human rights treaties. The CERD defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms. . . .”
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984 and entered into force in 1987. In its own words, the Convention was established “to make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment throughout the world.”
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted in 1989 by the UN General Assembly and entered into force one year later. The most widely ratified human rights treaty, the CRC was created in response to the grave injustices that children suffer as well as their often special needs, and defines the rights that belong to all children.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was adopted on December 16, 1966 by the UN General Assembly and entered into force ten years later. The ICESCR together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), constitute the International Bill of Human Rights. The ICESCR defines a broad set of rights related to the economic, social, and cultural elements of life that states must provide to their citizens.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 and entered into force in 2008. The CRPD promotes and protects the full and equal enjoyment of rights by all persons with disabilities, and clarifies adaptations that are necessary in certain cases in order for persons with disabilities to fully enjoy and exercise these rights.
China and the United Nations
- How to Follow up On United Nations Human Rights Recommendations: A Practical Guide for Civil Society: EN
- Compilation of Guidelines on the Form and Content of Reports to be Submitted by States Parties to the International Human Rights Treaties: EN
- (Video) “What is a treaty body?”: EN
- More about human rights treaty bodies: EN