FIAN welcomes UN recommendations on China’s human rights obligations

Last week, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights released its Concluding Observations following its review of China. The committee raised clear concerns about China’s failure to uphold its human rights obligations regarding economic, social, and cultural rights (ESC rights), both at home and abroad.

The expansion of China’s business and activities outside its territory has been accompanied by a considerable increase in human rights abuses and detrimental environmental impacts affecting local communities’ ability to feed themselves. FIAN and several civil society organizations strongly urged the CESCR to call on China to respect and protect the human rights of people affected by its overseas investments and business activities. Some organizations have also addressed the alarming fact that China continues to finance and construct new coal power plants abroad – despite a 2021 pledge to stop – to the detriment of local communities’ human rights.

The committee shared these concerns. It also noted the lack of adequate and effective measures to ensure that companies do not abuse ESC rights and called on China to hold its business entities, including sub-suppliers and financiers  to account for violations of ESC rights. It further called for the establishment of follow-up and monitoring mechanisms to investigate and sanction such harmful activities.

“The Concluding Observations clearly depart from those issued in 2014. There is a much stronger emphasis on human rights accountability, beyond due diligence,” for corporations said Stephan Backes, FIAN’s Extraterritorial Obligations Coordinator.

“FIAN also welcomes the committee’s effort to oblige China to guarantee access to remedy for people suffering from ESC violations caused by its breaches of human rights obligations overseas.”

The Committee recommended that China adopts necessary measures (both legislative and administrative) to ensure the legal liability of business entities, including subsidiaries and sub-suppliers and to be guided by the committee’s General Comment 24 which highlights states’ human rights obligations in the context of business activities.

And on the controversial issue of China continuing to fund coal power plants, the committee’s recommendation is straightforward: Suspend the construction of new power plants and stop ongoing financing of construction.

“These CESCR recommendations support RERI’s claims made over the past several years regarding the activities of Chinese companies in Serbia, specifically Zijin Copper DOO and Linglong Tire's Factory,“ said Hristina Vojvodi?, Senior Legal Officer at the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI).

“As strategic partners of the Serbian Government, these companies enjoy a privileged position in the market, often avoiding labor and environmental regulations,“ she added.

“We hope these recommendations will encourage and persuade China to adopt appropriate measures which will guarantee protection from harmful effects stemming from Chinese business activities in Serbia.“

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China must respect human rights in overseas business op...