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29 Jan 2024

China's 4th Universal Periodic Review at the UN: Business and human rights and extraterritorial obligations

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The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council that requires each UN Member State to undergo a peer review of its human rights records every 4.5 years. The UPR provides each State the opportunity to regularly:

  • Report on the actions it has taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights; and
  • Receive recommendations – informed by multi-stakeholder input and pre-session reports – from UN Member States for continuous improvement.

During China's third UPR in November 2018, China received 346 recommendations from 150 countries and accepted 284 of them. Some of the recommendations were related to business and human rights, particularly with regard to Chinese companies abroad. In the 4th cycle of China's UPR review, numerous stakeholders submitted reports on the human rights record of Chinese business actors and called on China to take measures to address human rights concerns in its overseas economic activities.

On 23 January 2024, China was examined during the session of the UPR Working Group for its 4th review. After the review, the government will consider the recommendations received and decide which ones it will implement. During the June 2024 session of the Human Rights Council, China will have the opportunity to provide further information and a limited number of governments and NGOs will be able to make comments. The Council will then adopt China's UPR report. The Chinese government is expected to implement accepted recommendations by the next UPR in 2029.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre will keep this page updated throughout the UPR process.

Business & human rights in China’s 4th UPR Review

National report (A/HRC/WG.6/45/CHN/1)

“The Chinese Government accepted 284 of the 346 recommendations put forward by various countries in the course of the third cycle of the universal periodic review. China attaches great importance to follow-up work. Immediately after the review, the Government brought the relevant domestic departments up to date via a cross-sectoral coordination mechanism, [...] paying particular attention to hearing the views of non-governmental organizations. The resulting advances are reflected in this report. (para 3)

“China has actively implemented the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and has established a China network under the United Nations Global Compact. The country’s textile, mining, overseas engineering contracting, communications and other industries have formulated industry-specific implementation guidelines. Thousands of Chinese companies voluntarily release corporate social responsibility reports.” (para 10)

Compilation of information prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/WG.6/45/CHN)

"The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern that current emission-reducing policies might not be sufficient for China to observe its obligations under the Paris Agreement, and that unsustainable practices had had an adverse impact on climate change beyond its borders, including the increase in recent years in the construction of coal-fired power plants abroad, as well as within the country, and the increase in licences and permits to construct coal-fired power plants. "(para 39)

"The same Committee recommended that China establish a clear regulatory framework for companies operating in the country to ensure that their activities promoted and did not negatively affect the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights; adopt a national action plan for business and human rights; ensure that business entities operating in the country or those domiciled under its jurisdiction and those acting abroad, including their sub-suppliers, as well as institutions that provided financing, were held accountable for their violations of economic, social and cultural rights, paying particular attention to Indigenous Peoples’ and peasants’ land rights, environmental impacts and expropriation in the context of real estate and infrastructure projects, and that follow-up and monitoring mechanisms were put in place to investigate and sanction them for their harmful activities; and ensure that victims of such violations had access to effective complaint mechanisms and affordable and effective remedies, including judicial remedies and adequate reparation." (para 40)

Summary of stakeholders' information (A/HRC/WG.6/45/CHN/3)

"AI [Amnesty International] raised serious concerns about human rights abuses linked to Chinese companies abroad, including concern about labour practices of Chinese mining companies. AI and CHRD recommended that China amend relevant laws and regulations to require all Chinese companies to respect human rights throughout their business operations and value chains, regardless of where they operate, and require Chinese companies, and companies operating in China, to conduct robust and transparent human rights due diligence in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights."(para 38)

"CSHR recommended that China adopt the Action Plan on Business and Human Rights with the full participation of stakeholders in its formulation. JS4 also recommended that China: adopt a national law on corporate legal responsibility and access to justice in matters of human rights and the environment, aligned with international standards, which established obligations to respect and protect human rights against any form of corporate abuse in its operations abroad and/or in its supply chains globally; and establish mechanisms to investigate and sanction overseas business activities that led to human rights abuses and environmental pollution. JS3, JS5, JS9, JS12, JS14, JS24, JS26, JS29, JS33, JS36 and JS40 made similar recommendations. AFREWATCH further recommended that China require its overseas companies to repair all damage caused to local communities, individuals and the environment." (para 39)

The Resource Centre has compiled a list of projects with alleged adverse human rights and environmental impacts mentioned in 15 stakeholder submissions, including the companies and financiers involved and relevant company responses.

Civil society groups raise human rights and environmental concerns related to Chinese investment overseas to UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) amid China’s third periodic reporting process in 2023

The Resource Centre has compiled a list of projects associated with adverse human rights and environmental impacts reported by CSOs.

Human Rights Action Plan of China (2021-2025) encourages Chinese businesses to abide by UN Guiding Principles

The Action Plan lists a range of targets for the 2021-2025 period, including economic, social and cultural rights, civil and political rights, education and environment rights, and minority group rights. On Business & Human Rights, the Action Plan states, "Promoting responsible business conduct in global supply chains."