Human Rights Watch welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Philip Alston, on the extent to which China’s policies and programs relating to extreme poverty are carried out in ways conforming to the country’s human rights obligations.
While the Special Rapporteur recognized China’s remarkable achievements in alleviating poverty, he rightly addressed the restrictions on civil society’s participation in shaping anti-poverty policies and programs, the violations of civil and political rights and economic and social rights arising from government action and inaction pertaining to anti-poverty work, and the lack of meaningful accountability mechanisms for such violations. As the Special Rapporteur noted, recently promulgated laws such as the Management of Foreign Non-Government Organizations and Charity Law further restrict the role NGOs play in advocacy around anti-poverty policy issues.
The findings of the Special Rapporteur are in line with Human Rights Watch’s own research. China’s top-down approach to anti-poverty work and the systematic disregard for human rights have grave consequences, especially among marginalized groups, such as children, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities. In recent years, we have documented government harassment and intimidation toward families who sought redress for their children suffering from industrial lead poisoning, the significant hurdles children with disabilities in China face in accessing education resulting in high illiteracy, unemployment and poverty rates among persons with disabilities, and the dislocation and marginalization stemming from the mass involuntary rehousing and relocation programs in Tibetan areas.
Human Rights Watch is also deeply concerned by the Chinese authorities’ determined efforts to impede the Special Rapporteur’s visit. As mentioned in the report, in violation of the Council’s code of conduct and manual of operations, the Special Rapporteur was regularly followed by security officers, his stated preferences for meetings and activities were ignored, and representatives from the Chinese civil society with whom the Special Rapporteur was supposed to meet were subjected to intimidation and reprisal. The Council should condemn the Chinese government for such interferences and urge it to respect long-established principles and allow Special Procedures to freely carry out their independent investigations.
We would like to ask the Special Rapporteur what recommendations he would have for actions this Council can take to better ensure that Special Procedures’ visits can take place free from government interference and in full protection of those with whom the mandate-holder interacts.