Free Tibet response to the Concluding Observations of the review of China by the Committee Against Torture

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

In response to today’s publication by the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture of its “Concluding Observations” following its review of China’s record on torture [1], director of Free Tibet and Tibet Watch Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:


Despite the diplomatic phraseology, the Committee’s concluding observations are a vindication of everything we’ve published relating to torture in Tibet.  In describing torture as “deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system” [paragraph 20] the Committee makes clear their finding that torture is institutional in China and cannot be dismissed as the unauthorised action of over-zealous individuals.

The Committee opens and closes the document with their concerns about Tibet.  The first paragraph of the recommendations notes that China has still not accounted for “events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties” dating back to the previous review in 2008.  The document goes on to criticise a number of failures, noting that many of them are repeat failures, and highlights all of the key issues raised by Free Tibet, Tibet Watch and Gu Chu Sum in our joint reports [see note 2].


The Committee notes and rebuffs China’s attempt to discredit our reports as “groundless” allegations, emphasising that they have “received numerous reports from credible sources that document in detail cases of torture, deaths in custody, arbitrary detention and disappearances of Tibetans” [para 40].  They call for independent investigation into all reports of custodial deaths, disappearances, allegations of torture or ill-treatment, and use of excessive force against Tibetans.  They also point out very clearly that that are “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” that can justify the use of torture [para 41].

We expect the usual bluster from China in response to the Committee’s criticism.  However, this document provides unambiguous guidance for the international community.  The Committee Against Torture – a UN established body of independent experts – has concluded they have evidence of torture taking place in China, including against Tibetans.  It is time for governments around the world to get their heads out of the sand and seriously consider whether they really want to be friends with a government that continues to breach fundamental human rights and allows torture to take place with impunity.





Contact: Free Tibet media manager Alistair Currie


Office telephone: +44 (0)207 324 4605



Notes for editors


(1) Committee Against Torture  Concluding observations of the fifth periodic report of China, December 2015 available at


The People’s Republic of China ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1988. The United Nations’ Committee Against Torture (CAT) reviews countries’ compliance with the Convention approximately every five years. The committee receives initial evidence from sources including international NGOs and civil society organisations and adopts a List of Issues submitted to the state being reviewed for reply. Further written evidence from the state and other organisation is then considered before the state representatives are questioned by committee members in Geneva (China’s review took place on 16 and 17 November). The Concluding Observations are the end of the review process.


China was last reviewed by CAT in 2008, when it found torture across China and Tibet to be “widespread” and “routine” and expressed “great concern” about reported torture and state violence in Tibet


(2) As part of the CAT review process, Free Tibet (in collaboration with Tibet Watch and Tibetan political prisoner association Gu Chu Sum submitted two reports to the committee. See Free Tibet press release here  The full February submission is available at ; the full October submission is available at


Issues and concerns regarding torture in Tibet that were raised in the February submission by Free T Tibet, Tibet Watch and Gu Chu Sum were submitted to China in the List of Issues this June. List of issues in relation to fifth periodic report of China, June 2015