Civil Society Organizations Are Urging Chinese Government to Respect Human Rights In Light of Its Crackdown on Anti-Covid Protests

Civil Society Organizations Are Urging Chinese Government to Respect Human Rights In Light of Its Crackdown on Anti-Covid Protests
3D Empty Protest Set: © nidwlw/iStock, February 20, 2020.

Theresa Erna Jürgenssen

East Asia Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

On December 07, 2022, 49 civil society organizations, including Safeguard Defenders and Amnesty International, issued a joint statement urging for the Chinese government to “abide by its obligations under the Chinese Constitution and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as its commitment as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and respect people’s basic rights to privacy, freedom of expression, press, association and peaceful assembly” (Amnesty International et al., 2022). 

The statement was made because the Chinese government has been cracking down on protesters who are part of the “white paper revolution” – a series of protests that were calling for China’s zero-Covid policy to end and for numerous government officials to step down (Juergenssen, 2022). Even though China has begun to ease its anti-Covid restrictions, the Chinese authorities have been cracking down on protesters, some of who have gone missing and may have been forcibly disappeared (Amnesty International et al., 2022). At the same time, authorities have been interfering with lawyers who wanted to represent and give legal advice to the protesters, thus infringing on their right to legal representation (Amnesty International et al., 2022). Authorities have also stopped citizens on the streets in order to inspect their electronic devices and forced them to delete any content as they deemed inappropriate (Amnesty International et al., 2022).

In light of the above, the organizations pointed towards the following rights enshrined in both Chinese national as well as international human rights law (Amnesty International et al., 2022): 

  • Article 35 of the People’s Republic of China Constitution protects citizens the freedom of “speech, press, assembly, association, procession, and demonstration”;
  • Article 40 of the Constitution guarantees the right to protection and non-interference with their privacy of correspondence;
  • Article 41 of the Constitution establishes the right to criticise any state agency or staff and to make recommendations;
  • China’s Criminal Procedure Law guarantees the basic rights for suspects and dependents in the criminal process, including the right to legal representation and to a fair trial;
  • The UN Convention against Torture [1] prohibits all forms of torture and ill-treatment;
  • Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [2] guarantee the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

All of these rights are being endangered by China’s response to the protests. Consequently, it should reverse its approach and instead protect and uphold these rights in line with its national and international obligations as well as commitments. 


[1] Ratified by China in 1988 (OHCHR).

[2] China has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, it has signed it and, thus, expressed an intent to safeguards the rights protected therein. 

Sources and further reading:

Amnesty International et al. (2022, December 07). Joint Statement. Retrieved on December 19, 2022, from

Juergenssen, T.E. (2022, December 05). China Eases Covid Restrictions In Response to the So-Called White Paper Revolution. GHRTV. Retrieved on December 19, 2022, from

OHCHR. (n.d.). Ratification Status for China. Retrieved on November 15, 2022, from