Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Isolated in Yunnan

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 26 June 2012
Related Document(s) Isolated in Yunnan: Kachin Refugees from Burma in China's Yunnan Province
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Isolated in Yunnan , 26 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


To the Government of China

  • Institute a temporary protection regime for Kachin refugees in view of ongoing armed conflict and widespread human rights violations in northern Burma. The temporary protection regime should grant Kachin refugees a time-bound but renewable status that protects them against refoulement, allows them to remain in China, and permits them to work and to receive humanitarian assistance as needed. Chinese authorities should conduct periodic and transparent assessments of conditions in Burma and renew the temporary protection regime until conditions in Burma allow the Kachin to return to their homes in safety and dignity.
  • Institute a temporary protection regime that takes into account the special protection needs of women and of children in the refugee population.
  • Provide humanitarian assistance to meet the basic needs of the Kachin refugee population in Yunnan Province, including adequate shelter, food, potable water, sanitation, basic health care, and education for children.
  • Allow unhindered access to nongovernmental and community-based organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the refugee population in Yunnan Province.
  • Allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees full and unfettered access to all refugees in Yunnan Province.
  • Investigate allegations of refoulement of Kachin refugees from Chinese territory and at the border back to Burma.
  • Ensure that border and provincial police, and national and regional security and immigration officials act in full accordance with China’s international legal obligations toward refugees and asylum seekers in Chinese territory and at the border. Take appropriate disciplinary or legal action against any security force personnel who violate the rights of refugees under international law.
  • Ensure that refugee children in Yunnan Province obtain free primary education as well as access to other education as provided in international law.       
  • Investigate allegations of labor abuses, arbitrary drug testing, arbitrary detention, and other violations of due process rights in Yunnan, and take appropriate action to end such practices.
  • Investigate allegations that landlords and employers discriminate against refugees in Yunnan with regard to rents, wages, and conditions of housing and labor, and take necessary steps to end such practices.
  • Ratify International Labour Organisation Convention No. 29 on forced or compulsory labor.
  • Ensure that future returns of refugees to Burma take place in accordance with international standards on a voluntary basis with attention to the safety and dignity of the returning population.
  • Regarding drug detention centers:
    • Immediately close all re-education through labor (RTL) centers.
    • Carry out prompt, independent, thorough investigations into allegations of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and other human rights abuses and criminal acts in China’s RTL centers. Take appropriate legal action against identified perpetrators of abuse.
    • Provide adequate compensation and medical care to current and former detainees for harm to their physical and mental health suffered while in detention.
    • Expand access to voluntary, community-based drug dependency treatment and ensure that such treatment is medically appropriate and comports with international standards.

To United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

  • Continue to press the Chinese government for access to the Kachin refugees in Yunnan and other refugee populations in China.
  • Coordinate with relevant UN agencies in Burma with regard to humanitarian aid and protection for Kachin internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burma and refugees in Yunnan, with special attention to the needs of women and children refugees and IDPs.

To United Nations Agencies and the Donor Community

  • Continue to press the Chinese government to uphold its legal obligations to refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, including the creation of a temporary protection regime and humanitarian assistance for Kachin refugees, as detailed above.
  • Support expanded assistance to Kachin IDPs and refugees via nongovernmental and local community-based organizations in China and Burma.
  • Continue to press the Burmese and Chinese governments and ethnic armed groups to facilitate humanitarian access by impartial humanitarian agencies to the Kachin and other armed conflict-affected populations.
  • Provide the necessary diplomatic and financial support for UNHCR to fulfill its mandate to assist Kachin refugees.
  • Support the initiation of humanitarian mine clearance and mine risk education programs in Burma and provide expanded assistance to landmine survivors.
  • Expand assistance via nongovernmental organizations to other refugees in need in China.
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