Following Tianjin explosion, UN expert calls on China to ensure transparent investigation

By | 21 August 2015

China, 20 August 2015 – The Government of China and relevant businesses in the country should ensure complete transparency in the investigation of the chemical disaster in Tianjin, including both causes and effects of the explosion, says an independent United Nations human rights expert.

City landscape, Tianjin, China. Photo: World Bank/Yang Aijun

City landscape, Tianjin, China. Photo: World Bank/Yang Aijun

“The Chinese authorities should also assess whether China’s laws for hazardous substances and wastes are consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to information,” said the Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, in a press release.

Under international human rights standards, the Special Rapporteur noted, the State has an obligation to generate, assess, update and disseminate information about hazardous substances, while businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, including effectively communicating information.

“This chemical disaster serves as yet another tragic example of the need of information about hazardous substances to protect, respect and realize human rights,” the expert underlined.

“The lack of information when needed – information that could have mitigated or perhaps even prevented this disaster – is truly tragic,” he stressed. “Moreover, the reported restrictions on public access to health and safety information and freedom of the press in the aftermath are deeply disturbing, particularly to the extent it risks increasing the number of victims of this disaster.”

Mr. Tuncak underscored that information about hazardous substances must be available and accessible in order to protect and respect the rights to life, health, meaningful public participation and an effective remedy, as well as freedoms of expression and the press.

On 16 September, the Special Rapporteur will present a report on the right to information in the context of hazardous substances to the UN Human Rights Council.