COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD EXAMINES REPORTS OF CHINA ON THE CONVENTION AND ON CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT
27 September 2013
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today completed its consideration of the combined third to fourth report of China on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the initial report of China on how the country was implementing the Optional Protocol on Children Involved In Armed Conflict.
Presenting the report, Jia Guide, Deputy Director-General, Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that there were about 280 million children in China, which was one of the largest child populations in the world. In 2011 China adopted a 10-year National Program for Child Development. In 2012, China had added to the Criminal Procedure Law a special criminal procedure for juvenile offenders, and in 2013, China had issued an Action Plan against Human Trafficking. China had put in place the largest education system in the world, with 520,000 educational institutions of all types nationwide. Representatives from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macao Special Administrative Region provided the Committee Members with information on the implementation of the Convention in the two Special Administrative Regions, where the rights of the child had been enhanced in several areas such as healthcare, education and social welfare.
In the interactive dialogue that followed, the Committee commended positive steps taken by China such as legislative reform and adoption of various programmes aimed at improving the situation of children. Committee Members raised questions concerning a wide range of issues, including China’s one-child policy and the problem of infanticide, selective and forced abortions, the teaching of ethnic languages to ethnic minorities, and freedom of religion and expression. The Committee expressed concern about reports of ongoing and systematic violations against children, in particular children of minority groups, children belonging to Falun Gong, children with disabilities, migrant children and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Questions were also asked about juvenile justice, lead poising, healthcare, breastfeeding, access to education and the adoption of orphans. The provision of military training in secondary schools, the minimum age of conscription and the exports of small firearms were also among issues raised.
In concluding remarks, Hatem Kotrane, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for China, said that China had made significant efforts to protect and promote the rights of the child, and education and health provisions were increasingly improving. The Committee would like children’s voices to be heard so children could participate more actively in all aspects of family and social life. Further efforts should be made to ensure greater respect for the freedom of religion, to eradicate all forms of torture against children, to eliminate all measures which might result in a de facto discrimination against children with disabilities, and to strengthen education programmes and policies.
Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Committee Member acting as Country Co-Rapporteur for China, said that the delegation had shown openness and willingness to engage in dialogue but there was much room for improvement. China should tackle the issue of military-related education from mainstream schools, review its role of in the export of arms which did not necessarily take into consideration the best interests of children in other countries, and re-examine its role as a permanent member of the Security Council.
The Delegation of China included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Social Welfare Bureau of Macao Special Administrative Region, the National Working Committee on Children and Women, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Security, the State Council Information Office, the Supreme People’s Court, the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of Justice, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Education Bureau of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Immigration Department of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Department of Justice of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Labour and Welfare Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Social Welfare Department of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Law Reform and International Law Bureau of Macao Special Administrative Region, the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau of Macao Special Administrative Region, the Public Security Police Force of Macao Special Administrative Region, and the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the Office of the United Nations at Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerland.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, 30 September, when the Committee will consider the combined third and fourth periodic report (CRC/C/LUX/3-4).
The third and fourth combined report of the Central Government of the People’s Republic of China on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, can be read via the following link: CRC/C/CHN/3-4.
The combined third and fourth reports of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) can be read via the following link: CRC/C/CHN-MAC/2.
The second periodic report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be read via the following link: CRC/C/CHN-HKG/2.
The initial report of the Central Government of the People’s Republic of China on its implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict can be read via the following link: CRC/C/OPAC/CHN/1.
The reports are available in other languages, along with annexes and addendums, the lists of issues, and written replies by the States party, and can be found on the Committee’s webpage.
Presentation of the Reports
JIA GUIDE, Deputy Director-General, Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, began that saying the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, where the Convention also applied, enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and therefore would present their own reports under the Convention.
Mr. Jia said that there were about 280 million children in China, one of the largest populations of children in the world. The respect and protection of human rights was an important principle of Chinese governance. China had consistently and earnestly fulfilled its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and attached great importance to the promotion and protection of the child. The Chinese Government had made serious efforts to implement the concluding observations made by the Committee at its last review in 2005.
In 2011 China adopted a 10-year National Program for Child Development which was based on five principles for the promotion and protection of child rights. They were first, ‘the protection of children according to law’; second ‘putting children first’; third the ‘best interests of children’; fourth the ‘development of children on an equal footing’; and fifth the ‘participation of children’. This year China issued an Action Plan against Human Trafficking, which included measures to prevent and punish human trafficking, as well as the rescue, relief and rehabilitation of victims.
Regarding legislative reform, in 2012, China added a special criminal procedure for juvenile offenders to the Criminal Procedure Law, which complimented the policy of education, reformation and redemption that was applied to juvenile offenders. Other reforms included amendments to the Military Service Law to ensure that no ineligible person would be enlisted, and the Regulations on School Bus Safety Management which had helped to enhance school bus safety in rural areas. Violations of the rights of the child were punished severely. Supervision of employers had been enhanced to stop the employment of child labour as soon as possible, while the Ministry of Public Security had instituted a mechanism to quickly locate missing children; as a result, around 3,000 kidnapped children were able to find their birth parents.
Medical treatment and health care services for children had been improved. Since 2006, health care services were free for children under six years of age, while children under three years of age received free vaccinations. In 2012, China achieved Millennium Development Goal 4, which related to reduce child mortality, and also decreased the amount of children under five who were underweight. China had redoubled its efforts to improve the child welfare system. It had expanded its coverage from abandoned babies and infants to orphans, children living with HIV and dependent children without family support. It covered all children in plight across the country. Financial subsidies and welfare services ensured basic living standards for all orphans in the country.
Every child in China enjoyed the right to education. China had put in place the largest education system in the world, with 520,000 educational institutions of all types nationwide. In 2011, China universalised the principle of nine years of compulsory education nationwide, and today 99.79 per cent of school age children were enrolled in primary schools. The mechanism for protecting children with special needs was gradually being improved. China had made efforts to ensure that migrant children received education and health care services in their inflow places. A special task force provided a range of services to left-behind children in rural areas. An inter-ministry mechanism for a coordinated and holistic approach to the protection of street children had been established. Children with disabilities were encouraged to participate in mainstream schooling.
Concerning juvenile justice, Mr. Jia said that judicial procedures for juveniles had been improved. Detention was used with caution. The courts in China had implemented the idea of education through trial focusing on educating juvenile defendants in court. Pre-trial social investigation was introduced to ensure greater relevance in the trial of juveniles. Psychological counselling was provided to juvenile offenders and appropriate adults were present while interrogating minors. All sectors of society had been encouraged to participate in the protection of children. The cooperation between the Government and the civil society had injected new vitality into the work against human trafficking.
China had made considerable progress in the protection of child rights. Given historical and cultural constrains and the socio-economic development level, there were still many difficulties and challenges. In addition, there were considerable gaps in child protection between rural and urban areas and among different regions. The financial input in education, though steadily growing, was relatively low compared to developed countries. The Chinese Government would continue to respond to these challenges in a proactive manner, improve the social management model creatively and mobilise all sectors in society to promote the rights of the child. At the same time, China would enhance its cooperation with the international community, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its efforts to remove and overcome difficulties and obstacles in the way of the protection of child rights.
Regarding children in armed conflict, and China’s implementation of the Optional Protocol, Mr. Jia said that no Chinese child was involved in armed conflicts, for China had enjoyed peace for a long time. The Military Service Law had been amended to ensure that no ineligible person would be enlisted into military service. No person over the age of 17 years but less than 18 years was recruited for military service, unless they volunteered, he added.
Presentation of the Report of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong
LAU KONG -WAH, Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs for Hong Kong, said that the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong had made significant progress in terms of infant mortality, and that today the rate was 1.7 per thousand live births, making it one of the lowest in the world. Free education had been extended to 12 years. Mr. Lau said the importance of the family as the fundamental group unit and the key role it played in the development of the child was recognized by the authorities of Hong Kong, who had adopted a family-based approach to provide appropriate services to all children and families in need. A Family Council had been established to promote family core values in the community and from the family perspective examine the Government policies and programmes designed for different age and gender sectors, including children. Additionally, since this year it was a mandatory requirement for every government agency to include family perspectives when formulating policies.
Presentation of the Report of the Special Administrative Region of Macao
VONG MUI YIM, Deputy Director of the Social Welfare Bureau of the Macao Special Administrative Region, said that since the adoption of the Convention and its two Protocols (in 1999 and 2003 respectively), the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region attached great importance to the implementation of the provisions of those instruments. She drew particular attention to the important parts of the budget allocated to the RAS education and health of children. Ms. Vong said that in 2012, enrolment and school attendance reached more than 90 per cent. There was a specific protection regime for child offenders, and a concept of restorative justice had been adopted. Special measured applied to abandoned children to help non-governmental organizations working with those children to ensure their full development. Corporal punishment, and indeed all forms of physical or psychological punishment, was totally banned.
Questions by the Experts
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the reports of China, thanked the large delegation from China for their detailed written answers to the list of issues and said the State party had provided exhaustive information that enabled a rich and constructive dialogue on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Positive steps taken by China included the review of the law on the protection of minors, and the revision of the law on criminal proceedings for juveniles. The State Party’s accession to the main international instruments related to child rights was encouraging. The Committee also welcomed the adoption of various programmes aimed at improving the situation of children.
Given the fact that the Convention did not appear to be directly applicable in China’s domestic legislation, the Country Rapporteur asked whether China would adopt domestic laws to translate its international obligations into a comprehensive domestic law. Were judges empowered to directly implement the Convention if there was a conflict between domestic legislation and provisions of the Convention, he asked, also wondering whether judges could directly invoke the Convention. Could the Delegation give examples of cases where provisions of the Convention had been invoked? Did China envisage withdrawal of all of its reservations to the Convention, including the reservation on Article 6, which was related to the fundamental right to life? Various working groups were in charge of the implementation of the Convention at the domestic level, but coordination was insufficient and its implementation was fragmented. Did China intended to set up a coordination mechanism for all bodies implementing the provisions of the Convention?
Regarding China’s ‘one child policy’, the Country Rapporteur said the right to life was fundamental, and the issue of infanticide was very worrying. He noted that there were public campaigns that promoted the value of girls in order to combat selective and forced abortions, and infanticides. However, the one-child policy exacerbated detrimental practices. What steps were envisaged to review China’s very rigorous family policy and to combat infanticides in order to protect the right to life of every child?
Cases of self-immolation of Tibetan children were on the rise according to various reports, said the Country Rapporteur. The detention of Tibetan children accused of incitation to self-immolation was also worrying. The Country Rapporteur also expressed concern about allegations of acts of persecution of political opponents’ children, including in schools. What urgent measures were being taken to prevent persecution of parents and their children?
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Members acting as Country Co-Rapporteur for the reports of China, asked if China had any existing complaints mechanisms to combat discrimination. The Committee was worried about ongoing and systematic violations against children, in particular children of minority groups, children belonging to Falun Gong, children with disabilities, migrant children and children affected by HIV/AIDS. What measures were taken to combat those forms of discrimination? What programmes were implemented with regard to patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes?
Ms. Sandberg said that lead poison was the most common paediatric medical problem in mainland China. Would China adopt a comprehensive programme to ensure that children received appropriate care and to prevent any kind of pollution?
Concerning the death penalty, Ms. Sandberg asked what was done to support children who had a parent on ‘death row’ facing execution. The best interests of the child were paramount to all decisions concerning children.
Birth registration was low in rural areas, especially for girls and children from poorer households. The Committee saw administrative barriers to birth registration and asked what was being done to improve the situation in that regard, Ms. Sandberg asked.
A Committee Expert noted that efforts were being undertaken with regard to improving the participation of children and many organizations were involved in those programmes, such as the Pioneers and the Youth Communist Leagues. However, only a few children took part in the events which were held to foster their participation. Had the participation of children increased? Did these organizations have enough resources and what was their link with the Government? What were the results of the various consultations that were organized throughout the country, and had children participated in them?
An Expert said that following consideration of China’s last report, the Committee had recommended a set of measures to be taken with regard to upholding and respecting freedom of religion. What had been done in this regard?
China’s steps to ensure children’s involvement in judicial processes was protected were commendable, an Expert said. He asked what measures existed to ensure the privacy of children and to protect children from bullying in school? Based on the information contained in the report, corporal punishment was prohibited, an Expert noted, and asked what compensation victims received. An Expert enquired about the measures adopted to protect children from domestic violence.
What measures had been taken to combat discrimination against children from vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrant children, an Expert asked, also enquiring whether minority groups had equal access to information and Internet.
An Expert enquired about resource and budget allocation for child rights programmes and policies and asked if the regional differences had been reduced in this regard? Were there specific budget lines for children in vulnerable situations? There was no independent National Human Rights Institution in line with the Paris Principles and with a clear mandate to monitor child rights, he noted, asking whether China intended to set up such an institution. Did the authorities use Internet to disseminate the provisions of the Convention, and if so what effect had?
Response by the Delegation
Responding to the questions raised by the Committee Members, the Delegation said that the aim of China’s reservation on Article 6 was to avoid misunderstanding about the family planning policies in China. The reservation was not contradictory to the right to life. According to the law on the protection of minors, children were defined as all persons from birth to eighteen years old, not including the foetus. Women had the right to be informed about contraceptive methods to reduce involuntary pregnancy. The laws strictly regulated abortion, in order to protect the safety of women and their autonomy in the decision.
The Delegation answered questions raised about the legal status of the Convention and on the opportunity to adopt a comprehensive law on the protection of children. According to laws and regulations, domestic law had to be applied if it was in line with international instruments. Through the application of domestic law, relevant provisions of international instruments were implemented. If there was a conflict between domestic law and international instruments, international instruments could be invoked, unless there was a reservation.
Birth registration was the basis for the protection of the child. Newborns had to be registered within one week of birth. Abandoned children or children in welfare institutions were registered by the relevant institution. For children who had been adopted, public security bodies had to register the child concerned in line with relevant provisions. Children born out of wedlock or exceeding family planning policies were also registered. The implementation of the relevant regulations was quite good. In some places, especially in rural areas, the implementation was compounded by weak awareness of the law. The laws and regulations would be more widely publicised in order to ensure that all newborns were registered. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Security were gradually implementing a system of medical certification in order to monitor birth registration and to avoid the non-registration of girls. The registration of left-behind or abandoned children was based on the principle of registration at the place of residence.
The establishment of a comprehensive action plan on child rights and a children rights commission in Hong Kong was envisaged to oversee the implementation of the Convention, a delegate representing the Hong Kong Special Administrative region said. A Children’s Rights Forum was established in 2005 to strengthen interactions between the authorities, children and civil society organizations. The Forum encouraged the participation of people from different sectors. In 2007, the Family Council was established to study and address family-related problems.
Regarding domestic violence, a delegate said that appropriate protection was provided to victims of family violence and a new draft law on protection against domestic violence was in the final stage of drafting and would be submitted soon to Parliament. If adopted, it would provide a comprehensive set of measures to protect minors from domestic violence. Furthermore, programmes had been implemented to combat domestic violence.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert said that 60 million children were left behind when their parents had to go far away to find employment. Children could not go with their parents as they were not allowed to register for school in their parents’ temporary place of residence. That was in contradiction with the best interests of the child. How China ensured that the right of children to live with their family was upheld? What future programmes were envisaged to provide more public housing to families in need in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region?
Despite China’s impressive achievements, there was a fast-growing issue with regard to the overcrowding of kindergarten, an Expert said. Free education was not applied everywhere and there were hidden extra costs. What was being done to ensure that education was free? What were the quality measures taken to ensure that teachers were adequately qualified? Was human rights education included in the standard curriculum?
Children who had been sexually abused by teachers and local officials were often abandoned or ‘left behind’ children, who were particularly vulnerable. What kind of research was done to improve the situation?
In Tibet, schools taught Chinese and not Tibetans. There were many villages in which there were no schools at all, which forced many parents to send their children to India to receive an education. Free pre-school services could resolve a lot of issues. How could China ensure that all children, including migrant children, received a high-quality education?
Regarding breast-feeding, there were still many prevalent issues. The rate of exclusive breast feeding rate was falling, made worse by the information on contaminated milk. That problem could be sorted out by vigorous breast-feeding programmes, an Expert said. Establishing and maintaining baby-friendly hospitals was important.
Adolescent health was a global issue, an Expert commented, saying that adolescent healthcare in China had not received the appropriate attention. Did school included courses on reproductive health and on drug prevention? What was the coverage of those programmes? The one child policy placed a great deal of pressure on young people. Concerning HIV/AIDS, what programmes existed in terms of protection of young people and mothers?
What programmes were in place to study and address the issue of street-children, and was vocational training provided to street-children, an Expert asked. Left-behind children faced a number of challenges in terms of healthcare services and education. Were there specific programmes that addressed those problems?
The situation of refugee children and asylum-seeking children was also raised, especially with regard to the exploitation of child labour. The State Party had failed to recognise children fleeing from Myanmar and Democratic People's Republic of Korea as refugees. What was done to ensure that they did not face mistreatment upon their return? The detention of unaccompanied children in Hong Kong was also worrying. What was done by China to ensure that children seeking asylum benefitted from the principle of non-refoulement?
China had undertaken to prohibit economic exploitation of child labour; however the Committee was concerned at the absence of disaggregated data with regard to child labour in the country. There was a mismatch between the minimum age of employment and the obligatory school age.
The Committee welcomed the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code but said that the “re-education through labour programme” could lead to violations of children’s rights. According to reports, children in such programmes could be abducted, arbitrarily detained and tortured. The persistence of the use of solitary confinement was also worrying. What measures had been taken to remedy that issue? What did China intended to do to protect the rights of child who were victims or witnesses of crimes?
Bearing in mind that there were over 700,000 children in institutions in China, had any studies been conducted on children placed in institutions to ascertain whether it was better for them to be raised in foster families than in institutions, an Expert asked. The number of children with disabilities placed in institutions in mainland China seemed to be increasing steadily. What was China doing to get children with disabilities out of institutions? Also, serious concerns had been expressed about the abduction of children with mental disabilities who were subsequently exploited.
Regarding children with disabilities, more support was needed for public care institutions looking after those children. What plans were there to prevent the institutionalisation of children with disabilities and children without families? Another Expert asked about measures to combat discrimination of children with disabilities in education settings. She noted that the screening of newborns was to be commended as it allowed a monitoring that reduced the number of children with disabilities
Asking questions about the situation of children in the Special Administrative Region of Macao, an Expert said the Committee regretted the fact that information was missing on specific questions, especially on the question of the prohibition of all forms of sale and trafficking in children.
What statistical data was available about children with disabilities in Macao? How many children did not meet the conditions to be in inclusive education and how many children with disabilities were in inclusive education, an Expert asked. An Expert asked why the few orphans in Macao were placed in institutions and not in foster care. Why were orphans not given for adoption?
Did persons working with children, such as doctors, social workers and teachers, have an obligation to report cases of child abuse? The Committee also expressed concern about isolation used as a corrective practice for juvenile offenders.
Response by the Delegation
The delegation said that over 30 Government bodies were responsible for the implementation of the Convention. In recent years, China had implemented three child development programmes through the coordination of different departments. In provinces and local communities there were committees which coordinated efforts in the area of children rights protection. The programme for the development of children was integrated in the National Development Plan.
An evaluation and monitoring system was in place to ensure that objectives were attained. Concerning the reporting system, implementation bodies reported to the coordinating Committee and to the Government at least once a year. The working committees held appraisal exercises every year and carried out annual evaluations. After the first five years there was a mid-term evaluation and at the end of the ten-year period a final evaluation took place. A set of indicators had been established to facilitate the evaluation process. Local governments, along with the central Government, guided and evaluated the implementation of the programme. In recent years, two evaluations had been carried out, one in 2006 and one in 2011.
Regarding parenting skills and ways to enhancing parents’ child-raising techniques, the delegation said that in 2006 the law on the protection of minors had been amended and family education had been confirmed as central to the reform of the education system. China had established a 2012-2020 Plan for the Development of Family Education, but the family education system needed to be developed further in order to enhance parents’ child-raising skills.
The Family Education Guiding Plan included training in parenting skills and knowledge, and specific guidelines for guardianship and child-raising. The school system was fully utilized to promote awareness of the importance of good parenting skills. In addition, there were many local centres with experts who guided parents living in the local community and helped them to enhance their parenting skills.
Concerning the children of migrant workers, the delegation said that many policies were in place for the “left-behind” children of migrant workers who went to other cities to work. The phenomenon of “left-behind” children was linked to the urbanization and industrialization of China, where there were 200 million migrant workers annually and millions of left-behind children. China had elaborated many policies and had improved existing policies to ensure that the education of left-behind children was incorporated in public policy programmes. There were also policies for the compulsory education of those children. Placing children in foster families was regarded as a better solution for children than being place in an institution. A system was in place to find the best possible foster family for the child and to ensure that it received the appropriate care.
Concerning “inflow places”, the areas where migrant parents resided, China had adopted an equal treatment policy between local children and the children of migrant workers in the area of education. Last year, 30 million migrant worker children were educated in urban areas and 80 per cent of them were educated in State schools. Starting from this year, 26 provinces and regions had resolved the accompanying children’s education issues, and the rest of the provinces were working on those issues.
Children received education on an equal footing regardless of whether their parents were part of any cults or Falun Gong practitioners, a delegate said. Pre-school education had long been an area of deficit in China. The main reasons for that were lack of awareness of the importance of pre-education and lack of investment in pre-school education. In the past three years, there had been radical changes in that area. An outline for education reform had been released, with emphasis placed on pre-school education, and a plan had been established until 2020. China was focused on improving early childhood education facilities, and, to that end, it had adopted ten policies and eight major projects. All provinces and municipalities were implementing the eight-year Pre-School Education Plan, while also conducting an evaluation of staff training and kindergarten facilities.
China had made awareness-raising about the principles of the Convention a priority. Outreach work was a key-element of the implementation of the Convention, which had been incorporated into general legal education programmes. In the sixth five-year Legal Education Plan for the People, which was launched in 2011 in different areas of the country, the protection of children rights was presented as an important task for local governments. In ethnic areas summer camps and other activities were organized to promote children’s rights, disseminate information about the Convention to children, and solicit views and suggestions from children. Further, to make more people aware of the basic principles of the Convention, the Government used various channels of communication such as newspapers, periodicals, the radio, books and the internet. Attention was also paid to encouraging people to accept and support the Convention. To facilitate the process, the Convention had been translated into seven languages of ethnic minorities, including Tibetan, Mongolian and Korean.
Concerning children’s access to the internet, the delegation said that there were no restrictions and the internet could be freely accessed from within China. Restrictions applied only in the case of pornographic websites and other illegal online material.
Responding to questions about divorce, the delegation said that there were two types of divorce in China: one granted through legal proceedings and one registered through the civil authorities. Statistics on those could be accessed through the relevant websites of legal and civil authorities. In cases where a married couple with a child wanted to separate, the first priority was providing mediation and during that period the views of the child were also heard.
On the question of violence against children, the delegation said that it tackled the issue from different aspects to protect children from violence. At the legal level, it was important to increase the scope of protection for children and to strengthen protection. For that reason, China had amended all relevant laws and regulations, including the compulsory education law, the marriage law, and the laws on the protection of women’s and minor’s rights. There were also laws in place which penalized violence against children, violence in schools, sexual exploitation and forced labour. It was also envisaged to include safety education in children’s education as a means of increasing the children’s capability to deal with violence.
About law enforcement, measures were taken to ensure that children who had suffered violence could be looked after. The Government and civil affairs bodies at the county level should establish relief centres to help children who had been victims of domestic violence and to provide all necessary assistance. For now, several projects were carried out at the local level to assist children who suffered violence. A nationwide law against violence, which had been based on research and studies conducted in that area, was going to come into force soon. Research in the field was important because it could pave the way for legal measures.
Concerning those practising Falun Gong, the delegation said that Falun Gong had nothing to do with religion. It was an evil cult which had been banned in the accordance with Chinese law. Children of parents who practised Falun Gong were severely affected, because their parents did not look after their children sufficiently and there was evidence that practising Falun Gong had had a negative impact on families. No data was currently available on children who themselves practised Falun Gong.
Regarding freedom of religion, the delegation said that all Chinese citizens, including children, could freely choose their religious beliefs and had the right to have no religion at all, without any interference from the Government. Families visited religious sites and children received religious education. China was a secular country, and therefore separated education and religion. That separation was also enshrined in the Constitution and legislation. No legal guardian had the right to force a minor to adopt a certain religion or deprive a minor of his or her right to compulsory education.
In ethnic Tibetan areas, children had free access to temples. Similarly, in Uyghur areas, such as the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, children were not prohibited from visiting mosques or from participating in Muslim activities. After the compulsory nine-year education, children were allowed to go into monastic life if they so wished.
Concerning the use of minority languages such as Tibetan in schools, ethnic groups had the right to receive education in their ethnic language. There were several laws and regulations in place providing for the right to use ethnic languages. Textbooks and teaching materials in ethnic languages were widely available.
The delegation said it was widely known that China was a unified, multi-ethnic country, where there were over 50 ethnic groups. Those with a small population were called “ethnic minorities”, and all them together made up Chinese culture. Social progress and economic achievements at the country level were shared by all ethnic groups, and China’s destiny was linked to the destiny of its ethnic groups which were a member of the big Chinese family. The Government had always paid attention to the development of ethnic groups, particularly to the right to education. China favoured equality, solidarity, common development, prosperity and regional autonomy. The Constitution provided that all ethnic groups were equal and prohibited oppression of any ethnic group in education or any other area. Participation in politics and State affairs was also guaranteed for all ethnic minorities, and several members of ethnic groups, including Tibetans, participated in State bodies.
To protect the rights of children, China placed emphasis on the education of ethnic minority groups. In 2011 China had established a nine-year compulsory education system for all minority areas, including Tibet. The enrolment rate for primary school children exceeded 99 per cent.
Responding to questions about bilingual education in mainland China, the delegation said that ethnic languages were widely used in ethnic minority areas, and those languages were protected and further developed. The bilingual education was that both ethnic language and Chinese were taught, not only Chinese. The idea was to reduce the barrier of communication between different groups in the country.
To prevent the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS, since 2009 the central Government had implemented a project of HIV prevention. To date 30 million pregnant women had been given HIV screening and 90,000 HIV-positive pregnant women had accessed the appropriate services. As a result, the mother-to-child transmission rate had dropped to seven per cent, and over 4,000 children had been protected from contracting the disease from their mother.
In 2006, China had conducted a survey on persons with disabilities and had adopted a policy aimed at ensuring the provision of compulsory education to children with disabilities. In September 2012, there were 78,000 children with disabilities who could not go to school because of their disability, lack of transport or the financial situation of their parents. Targeted assistance and subsidies were provided to those families to ensure their children’s right to compulsory education. There were special schools which those children attended, but in certain cases home education was provided. Concerning special schools for children with disabilities, the delegation said that some of them were daytime schools while others were boarding schools.
The delegation said that were juvenile offenders made up 0.9 per cent of the total number of detainees, and they were detained in special facilities. Female detainees were administered by female officers and ethnic minority offenders were separated from the rest. Visiting time and frequency was more relaxed for young offenders than for adults, and the identity of juvenile offenders was kept confidential. For juvenile offenders who had not completed compulsory education, basic education was provided in detention. Those who had already completed compulsory education were given the opportunity to receive higher education in detention. In China it was strictly forbidden to use torture or any other inhumane form of punishment, especially with regard to juvenile offenders.
Response from Delegation of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong
Regarding data collection in relation to children, the representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said a consolidated pool of data and information was now available on the website of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. Based on suggestions made by non-governmental organizations, the authorities had improved the presentation of data and more information was available on the website.
Regarding housing, the delegation said that in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong the supply of public rental properties had been increased to relieve housing pressure, and internal coordination with the Government was further strengthened in that regard. Meanwhile, measures would continue to be adopted to improve children’s housing.
In relation to the application of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the delegation said that Hong Kong had a solid legislative framework to combat human trafficking, child pornography, child prostitution and child sex tourism. There was no shortage of laws for combatting activities involving sexual abuse of children within its territory and its law enforcement agencies would continue to maintain close cooperation with partners and counterparts locally and overseas to combat the relevant illegal behavior.
Regarding human rights education in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, a delegate said that over the past two years, over three thousand teachers had received training in human rights. A new subject, “Life and Society”, in the curriculum for junior secondary students was implemented in 2012, and included a module on the basic rights of the child as one of its core modules. Human rights education occupied approximately 12 per cent of the total lesson time of the subject. Hong Kong students’ performance in international civic knowledge and human rights knowledge was above average internationally, and surveys indicated that Hong Kong students had a positive view on ethnic groups and immigrants.
Bullying in schools was not tolerated and there was a clear strategy to protect students, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Great importance was attached to communication with stakeholders, which helped to ease worries about bullying and similar issues.
Concerning education in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, a delegate said that assuring a high quality of teaching and of school programmes was an important issue to Hong Kong, which was currently collecting classroom evidence and examples of effective pedagogical practices to cater to the needs of those learning Chinese as a second language. The delegation said that there was statistical evidence showing that the Chinese language requirement was not an obstacle to entering University Grant Committee funded under-graduate programmes. Support measures would continue to be reviewed to make further improvements to the system. The mode of support to schools had been amended to provide schools with more choices and to remove the “labelling effect” of the so-called “designated schools”. Also, measures were taken to give all students the opportunity to learn the Chinese language.
Concerning transportation arrangements for cross-boundary students, a member of the delegation for the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, special facilitating measures had been taken, such as allowing local school buses to access restricted areas in order to transport students to and from school, granting a special quota to school coach services exclusively for students, and enhancing clearance procedures at boundary check points to facilitate traffic. At the same time, Hong Kong was actively encouraging parents to consider sending their children to schools close to their home. No student would be deprived of education opportunities because of a lack of financial means. As of the 2008-2009 academic year, Hong Kong had been subsidizing vocational courses for early school-leavers. A wide range of subsidies were in place for students with financial problems, covering textbook costs and providing free access to learning activities and other events.
Concerning students with disabilities, the delegation said that subject to the recommendations of specialists and parents’ consent, students with more severe or multiple disabilities were placed in special schools where they could receive intensive support, while other children with special educational needs attended mainstream schools. No child with disability in Hong Kong who had reached the formal schooling age was deprived of education. The Disability Discrimination Ordinance and the Code of Practice on Education ensured equal opportunities for the students with disabilities and provided schools with practical guidance on making provisions for students with disabilities. Additional resources, professional support and teacher training were provided to both ordinary and special schools to create a suitable learning environment in consideration of the students’ learning needs, and to cultivate an inclusive culture in schools. More than 30,000 students with special educational needs were attending mainstream schools in the 2012/12 school year.
An inter-departmental collaboration system was in place to early identify children with disabilities. To prevent stigmatization, measures were taken to promote the notion of integration and inclusiveness. Students’ views and opinions were important and were regularly heard and there were various assessment programmes which collected students’ thoughts and ideas. Last year, more than 17,000 young persons’ views had been taken into account for the formulation and review of the New Academic Structure and the new senior secondary curriculum in Hong Kong. Regarding the issue of kindergarten education, the Education Bureau had set up a designated committee in April 2013 to study and make specific proposals on how to practicably implement free kindergarten education.
The Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organizations provided a range of supportive, preventive and remedial services to families which experienced domestic violence and abuse. It was illegal to assault a child or a young person and treat it in a manner which caused unnecessary injury or other suffering. Such acts were liable to prison sentences of up to ten years. There was a clear definition of physical abuse in Hong Kong legislation. However, introducing specific laws about corporal punishment within the family was a complex issue, which required an extensive social discussion taking into account values and views of different communities and other factors. As regards maternity leave, the delegation said that pregnant employees enjoyed employment protection and paid maternity leave in accordance with the Employment Ordinance.
Regarding the detention of unaccompanied minor non-refoulement claimants, a delegate said that teh Director of Immigration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government would not normally detain an illegal immigrant or overstayer who was under the age of 18 unless with strong reasons, such as the unaccompanied child would not be properly taken care of if he was not so detained. If necessary, the child would be admitted into the Tuen Mun Children and Juvenile Home operated by the Social Welfare Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government that would provide proper care and guidance. The order also guaranteed that a child under detention shall receive the same treatment as that which is accorded to the local child or juvenile.
Response from Delegation of the Special Administrative Region of Macao
A representative of the Macao Special Administrative Region said although there was no overall plan of action for children, various institutions concerned coordinated their efforts in line with the different needs of children, especially in terms of healthcare. Macao had adopted different policies for children with regard to education and specific efforts which sought to improve the situation of children with special needs. Coordination among different departments would be enhanced.
Concerning efforts undertaken by Macao to help young people express themselves, the Government had created various platforms where adolescents could voice their views. The Government had also posted parenting training advice on its website and provided parenting training sessions through the school system and in the community.
Concerning internet use, information was provided to young persons about making good use of the internet without exposing themselves to risks, for instance by meeting strangers online and receiving inappropriate requests. A firewall was used to shield young internet users from risks.
To facilitate access to services for persons with disabilities, Macao had issued disability cards to children with disabilities, who accounted for eight per cent of all persons with disabilities. The Social Welfare Bureau, the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau and the police had dealt with 93 cases of child abuse in 2012. Legislation had been put in place better to deal with such cases, and a central registration system had been set up to provide a comprehensive view of data collection so as to strengthen the provision of services.
The number of orphans in Macao was very small, so there was no special orphanage there. There were nine special institutions, where orphans were placed. To reduce the impact on children who had special needs so they could receive appropriate care, a plan for foster care had been put together. In the institutions where they were placed they were divided into small units which simulated a family environment.
A total of 433 children in Macao had intellectual disabilities. Thanks to an evaluation system, every effort was being made to provide better services to those children. A system of subsidies was available to all children with disabilities, including those with milder forms of disability. Citizens in Macao could receive several subsidies at the same time.
Concerning education for children with disabilities, children underwent a comprehensive evaluation and the team of evaluators would include psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to decide who could be placed in mainstream education. Pupils in special education were put in classes of three to twelve persons and were taught by a teacher, an assistant teacher, and a general assistant.
Responding to a question about reporting cases of child abuse, assault or domestic violence, a delegate said that Macao had drafted a law to combat domestic violence. According to the law, teachers, doctors and other professionals working with children had an obligation to report cases of child abuse as soon as they became aware of them. Appropriate assistance was provided to the victims of abuse.
Concerning dealing with juvenile offenders, the emphasis was on rehabilitating them and helping them to become re-integrated in society and with a greater sense of responsibility. The corrective justice system had recently been reformed and new practices had been introduced. Isolation was applied only during night time, with a maximum limit of six days. Counselling was provided to juvenile offenders in detention.
Questions by Experts on the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict
Turning to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, an Expert asked how State bodies responsible for the implementation of the Optional Protocol were coordinated. The legal conscription age was 18 years, and the voluntary enlistment age was 17 years, but apparently younger persons may also be conscripted. Could the delegation explain that point? What was the minimum legal age limit for joining the armed forces? Taking into account the low rate of child birth registration, what additional safeguards were in place to verify the age of a child, especially when there was conflicting information about that, an Expert asked.
Concerning training and education, was military training included in mainstream school curricula? From what age was it legal for children to handle firearms? What was China doing to ensure that economic considerations did not override children’s rights, for example in relation to the sale of small firearms to other countries?
An Expert asked for details on how the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict was implemented on the ground. Amendments to legislation were needed to ensure that all type of offences were duly prosecuted.
Response by the Delegation on the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict
Answering questions on the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict, the delegation said that concerning military enlistment, it came down to the decision of the individual involved. Many persons had graduated at the age of 17 years old and had a strong desire to join the army. The number of persons who wanted to join the army had steadily increased in recent years. In 2009, 550,000 persons wanted to join the army. Identity checks were carried out to certify the age of children and ensure that they were not below the age of 17 years old. Strict regulations were in place to ensure that underage persons were not illegally enlisted.
China had put in place an advanced export control system, which also covered small and light arms, and acted fully in line with the law in that respect.
Concerning China’s abstention vote in the Security Council in August 2013 in relation to broadening the mandate of the United Nations Secretary-General to look into the children’s rights situation in more countries, the delegation said that many factors had determined China’s position on the matter. A “yes” vote might have led to military aggression, which was a tremendous disaster to children, but the delegation did not have more specific information about that vote. China tirelessly worked to protect the rights of children.
The delegation stressed that children in secondary education were not trained to use firearms. Regarding non-State armed groups, the formation of such groups was prohibited by law and all necessary legal provisions were already in place, so there was no need to introduce new laws.
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for China, congratulated the large, multi-sectoral delegation from China on its competence and thanked them for their responses to the Committee’s wide-ranging questions. China had been making significant efforts to protect and promote the rights of the child, and children and adolescents lived in a country where education and health were increasingly improving. China had made significant steps in implementing the Convention and the Optional Protocol on Children Involved In Armed Conflict, but much remained to be done to ensure that the State party lived up to its obligations, said Mr. Kotrane. The Committee would like to additional efforts being made, particularly so that the voice of children could be more broadly heard and children could participate more actively in all aspects of family and social life.
The Committee recommended that China ratified the fundamental human rights treaties to which it had not yet adhered, that it withdrew its reservations to the Convention, and that it strengthened cooperation between mainland China and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao. National Human Rights Institutions should monitor more closely the implementation of the Convention and should receive complaints about children’s rights violations. The regulatory framework of industries should be strengthened to ensure that enterprises were held responsible for violations of children’s rights.
China’s rigorous policy of family planning should be reviewed to reduce the number of selective abortions. Further efforts should be made to ensure greater respect to the freedom of religion and to eradicate all forms of torture against children, including the investigation of all allegations of torture. The Committee would also like to see the elimination of all measures which might result in a de facto discrimination against children with disabilities, the strengthening of programmes and policies aiming to provide quality education to all children, including asylum seeker children and children of migrant workers, and the eradication of forced labour and of the use of children workers in dangerous environments.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Member acting as Country Co-Rapporteur for China, said that the delegation had shown openness and willingness to engage in dialogue but there was much room for improvement in its implementation of the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict. The Committee would like to see China raise the minimum age of conscription to 18 years old, tackle the issue of military-related education from mainstream schools, review its role of in the export of arms which did not necessarily take into consideration the best interests of children in other countries, and re-examine its role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. China should strengthen its positive influence over the Security Council, which was a critical body. Implementation was the key word in China’s case. The Committee hoped that China would cooperate in the full and effective implementation of the Committee’s recommendations on the Convention and the Optional Protocol.
JIA GUIDE, Deputy Director-General, Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the Committee had understood the “one country two systems” particularities of China as a State Party to the Convention and the Optional Protocol on children involved in armed conflict. The Committee’s recommendations would be carefully examined and as many of them as possible would be implemented. China and its Special Administrative Regions had been making every effort to implement the Convention and the Optional Protocol and were confident that through cooperation with the international community they would overcome difficulties and make further progress in the protection of human rights. China hoped for an objective and impartial assessment by the Committee.
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