NEW YORK, New York — In January 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) submitted a review on China to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). Human Rights Watch is an investigative NGO that advocates for human rights around the world. The report on China submitted to the CESCR by HRW discusses six specific areas of concern and offers recommendations for policy change moving forward as well as suggested questions directed toward the government surrounding policy and data. HRW submitted the review for the 68th pre-session of the CESCR.
Family Separation in Xinjiang
One major area of concern outlined in the report is family separation in Xinjiang. Findings by U.S. Congress estimate that as many as 1.8 million minority Muslims in Xinjiang have been detained in “political re-education camps.” The report by HRW states that an unknown number of children of those detained have been placed in state-run welfare institutions and boarding schools. The parents have no access to their children and these placements have been implemented without their consent.
An exact figure on the number of children in these facilities is unknown. Due to mass surveillance in Xinjiang, comprehensive reporting on this issue has not been possible. Furthermore, there are severe legal consequences for those who report on the issue.
HRW recommends that China release children held in these institutions to their families and also puts forward the question of how many children were placed in these facilities in Xinjiang without consent.
Education Policy in Tibet
HRW’s report also outlines that the education policy in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is leaning toward replacing the Tibetan language with Chinese. “Bilingual education” is what the Chinese government calls the policy. Parent interviews conducted in the TAR in September 2019 reveal the introduction of a Chinese-medium teaching system in rural primary schools of at least six different townships.
Additionally, an official working on educational issues in the TAR has confirmed to HRW that he expects the introduction of a government policy that requires all primary schools in the region to complete this same shift.
This is not the first occurrence of minority languages facing the dangers of diminishment or extinction in China. Reports from more than 10 years back discuss the endangerment of languages such as Manchu and She in favor of Mandarin.
It can be dangerous for Tibetan locals to speak out against the diminishment of their native language due to potential legal consequences for what has been labeled by the government as “inciting separatism.” Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan businessman and activist, was recently released from prison in China after completing a five-year sentence for advocating on behalf of Tibetan language preservation. Wangchuk was allegedly subject to torture while imprisoned.
Additional Areas of Concern
The review also discusses reports of the shackling of people with psychosocial disabilities, barriers to education for children with disabilities, protection of education from attack and the performance of “conversion therapy” on LGBT people by hospitals. HRW has offered recommendations including a ban on shackling, the adoption of an inclusive education system and endorsing and implementing the Safe Schools Declaration. HRW also recommends that China prohibits public hospitals from performing conversion therapy. China should also update all textbooks and professional literature to de-classify homosexuality as a mental illness.
The CESCR held its 68th pre-session from March 8 to March 12, 2021. It included a review of this submission from Human Rights Watch on the formal agenda for the session.
Human Rights Watch, as the upholder and protector of all human rights globally, shows its commitment to the protection of vulnerable people in China in all its efforts.
– Katherine Musgrave