UN expert says unilateral sanctions must not be used as foreign policy tool and means of economic coercion: China

OHCHR

States should lift sanctions against China and also take strong action to curb sanction over-compliance by businesses and other actors under their jurisdiction, the UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights, Alena Douhan, said today.

“China represents a particular case with regards to the impact of unilateral sanctions and means of their enforcement, given its strong and diverse economy and its growing global economic outreach,” Douhan said in a statement following her 12-day official visit to the country.

“Decline in business activities and the significant loss of global markets either due to unilateral sanctions per se or due to over-compliance with such measures by foreign businesses and entities have led to job losses, with consequent disruptions in social protection schemes, by disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, particularly in labour-intensive sectors, including women, older persons, and all those in informal employment,” the independent expert said.

Unilateral sanctions have been imposed against China since 2017 with mounting U.S. pressure on Chinese technological companies and the imposition of export controls, designation of companies’ officials and the launch of administrative and civil charges.

These have been followed by further sanctions and restrictions related to and in connection with Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong SAR, by expanding the list of targets to include key sectors of economic activity, including in agriculture, construction, trade, new and green technologies, energy, finance, telecommunications and others.

“During my visit I received numerous reports on the unilateral sanctions’ adverse impact and the consequent socio-economic implications affecting peoples’ lives,” Douhan said.

“Xinjiang is particularly affected, with key economic sectors and cross-border and international supply chains being disrupted for fear of primary or secondary sanctions for alleged commercial or production ties with this region,” she said. The expert received information about job cuts and interruption of production activities in third countries, as well as a suspension of international humanitarian projects, both accounting for the international negative spill-over effects.

The multifaceted negative impact of sanctions is also showcased in areas such as education and academic/scientific cooperation with the listing of several Chinese prominent universities and research centres, the interruption of exchange programmes, scholarships and joint research projects between Chinese and foreign – mainly U.S. and European – institutions, as well as the broader stigmatisation of Chinese students and scholars who may be denied entry visas or submitted to thorough background checks on national security grounds in pursuing their studies or academic and professional careers.

“Access to justice and the fundamental principles of due process and the presumption of innocence are also seriously undermined by the listing and de-listing procedures, based on the rebuttable presumption of wrongfulness of everything with any nexus to Xinjiang or designated companies,” Douhan said. “Designated individuals and entities are not provided with the evidence of grounds for their designation and have extremely limited capacity to pursue administrative and judicial proceedings before the sanctioning states’ court systems, which often are lengthy, costly, non-transparent and non-efficient.”

“I wish to reiterate the illegality of extraterritorial application of unilateral sanctions and I call on states, in particular sanctioning states, to effectively address over-compliance of businesses and other entities under their jurisdiction in order to mitigate or completely eliminate any adverse humanitarian impact.”

During her visit the UN expert met representatives from national and local government institutions, non-governmental organisations, associations, humanitarian actors, businesses, UN entities, academia, businesses, as well as the diplomatic community. In addition to the capital Beijing, she also visited Urumqi, Shihezi, Changji, Hotan, and Shenzhen.

The Special Rapporteur will present her country visit report to the Human Rights Council in September 2024.

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