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UN rights expert questions China’s ethnic discrimination policy

Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. (Photo courtesy: UN)
Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. (Photo courtesy: UN)

(TibetanReview.net, May10, 2017) – A UN rights expert has criticized China for exposing ethnic minorities in the country to serious human rights and socio-economic challenges. In a report on his visit to China in Aug 2016, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has written that the plights of Tibetans and Uighurs were “deeply problematic”. He has also said “most ethnic minorities in China are exposed to serious human rights challenges, including significantly higher poverty rates, ethnic discrimination and forced relocation”.

He has challenged China’s claim that “nationalities” in the country enjoyed equality as guaranteed by the constitution, criticizing the “head-in-the-sand” mentality of the Chinese government department dealing with ethnic minorities. He has said that the Chinese government implements “top-down” and “one-size-fits-all policies” while insisting, at the same time, that there had been “no resistance to its poverty alleviation projects” and “no protests”.

The Special Rapporteur has listed various attempts by the Chinese authorities to obstruct his fact-finding mission through intimidation and reprisals of civil society actors, surveillance of movement, and control of the visit, preventing him from meeting “with the great majority of civil society actors with any degree of freedom or confidentiality.”

The report, which covers a wide range of poverty related issues in the PRC, is set for discussion at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

While being critical of the ethnic minorities’ situation, the report has applauded China’s efforts “to promote economic and social well-being” and “extraordinary” achievements in poverty alleviation. However, it has noted that “this has not yet been translated into an approach based on treating economic and social rights as human rights.” The report concludes: “Most of the relevant rights are not recognized in domestic legislation, domestic institutions do not promote them as such, and existing accountability mechanisms are largely ineffectual.”

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