Protecting the human rights of the mentally ill in China by using indigenous idiom: an example of the application of the receptor approach
July 25,2017   By:chinahumanrights.org

Protecting the human rights of the mentally ill in China by using indigenous idiom: an example of the application of the receptor approach 

Tom Zwart

1. Introduction

In Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the literary masterpieces of all time, the presence in Chinese society of mental illness was made visible for the first time by its author, Cao Xueqin. 1 Since the publication of the book, around the middle of the 18th Century, more information on the mentally ill has become available, and the picture is rather bleak. Many of those suffering from mental illness are leading a tough life because of the stigma attached to psychiatric diseases. They face social exclusion because they are shunned by the community. Consequently, they tend to avoid diagnosis and treatment, which makes their plight even greater. As a result, the human rights of the mentally ill in China are under great pressure.

This pressure continues despite the great efforts made by the State to alleviate the burden. Thus, on 26 October 2012, after a long gestation period, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress adopted the Mental Health Law of the People's Republic of China. 2 According to Article 1, the object and purpose of the law is to guarantee the legal rights and interests of persons with mental orders. Article 5 bans stigmatising, humiliating, abusing, and illegally restricting the personal freedom of persons with mental orders. Article 16 contains the obligation for schools to include mental health topics in their curriculums, and calls on teachers to study relevant information about mental health, to care for the psychological well-being of their students and provide appropriate guidance and encouragement. In Article 21 family members are entrusted with the responsibility to look after each other, to create a healthy and harmonious family environment and to improve their awareness of the prevention of mental disorders. The Articles  26, 27, 35 and 44 contain important safeguards concerning the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Finally, according to Article 62, the People's Government at all levels shall increase financial support to ensure that the funds necessary for mental health work will be available.

The adoption of this comprehensive legislation shows that the State is making serious efforts to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness. However, the human rights protection of the mentally ill has improved only little, if at all. As will be explained in section 2, the reason for that is that the stigma attached to mental illness is ingrained in Chinese culture. Cultural problems call for cultural, rather than legal, remedies. One such cultural strategy, i.e. relying on indigenous idiom, will be presented in that section. Pursuing cultural remedies is part of the receptor approach to human rights, which will be discussed in section 3. In this section the case will be made that the receptor approach does not only fit within the four corners of international human rights law, but that it is also very well suited for application within Chinese society. Section 4 contains some concluding observations.

On the basis of their socio-economic, political and cultural differences, countries from the Global North, which includes Europe, North America and Australia, are usually distinguished from countries from the Global South, which includes Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. This terminology will be used in this paper.
2. A cultural remedy for a cultural problem

2.1 Culture as cause

The stigmatisation of the mentally-ill does not flow from ignorance or lack of sympathy, 3 but roots in traditional Chinese culture. According to Confucianism, upon birth everyone become as member of the human race. But this biological min status does not confer any rights or social standing upon the individual. These are the prerogatives of the person or ren. Such personhood can only be acquired through self-cultivation and taking part in society. To become ren one is therefore supposed to leave behind the animal-like instincts and desires of the min stage by joining others in creating a better society. 4

In order to be able to be treated as a person with rights, one reciprocally has to act as a person by engaging in social relationships and building social networks. People who are incapable of fulfilling such social obligations, such as the mentally ill, are therefore regarded as non-persons who belong nowhere. This lack of personhood invites humiliation, discrimination and stigma.5  Therefore, losing personhood is not the consequence of stigmatisation, but paves the way for it. 6

2.2 Culture as solution: the use of indigenous idiom

Anthropologists tend to make a distinction between disease and illness. Disease is part of the biomedical paradigm and applies to bodily malfunctioning, while illness represents the cultural response to such discomfort.7  Analysing illness therefore amounts to identifying the cultural factors governing perception, labelling and explanation of the discomforting experience. While patients tend to look at the discomfort only through the cultural illness  prism, doctors usually limit themselves to applying a biomedical disease lens. However, effective treatment requires that attention will be given to both cultural and biomedical factors, which then are remedied through healing and curing. 8 Relying on such medical anthropological insights cannot only lead to more effective medical treatment, but also to combating illness-related stigma. This will be illustrated by laying out experiences with one mental illness in particular, i.e. schizophrenia.

The process of 'labelling', whereby people attach a particular label to a phenomenon, is a key mechanism in initiating stigma processes.9  As soon as a psychiatrist in China diagnoses a person as suffering from schizophrenia, this not only paves the way for effective treatment, but also sets into motion a process of stigmatisation. 10 The sufferer becomes a social outcast, whom from then onwards will be kept hidden in the family homestead.

The negative consequences of stigmatisation may be remedied with the help of a cultural process that relies on lay explanations to label mental illnesses.11  Such indigenous idioms are not based on biomedical diagnosis but instead on culturally formulated interpretations of illness. 12 These lay theories of mental illness consists of beliefs that are rooted in a society's history, philosophy and culture. 13 Contrary to the psychiatric classification of diseases, which are aimed at identifying basic patterns for independent and de-contextual examination, such indigenous idioms view illness contextually.14  Such inclusive idioms may secure the continuity of a person's social and moral status, reduce stigma and allow for continued participation in social life. 15

Interestingly, schizophrenia is referred to in lay terms as 'excessive thinking' (xiang tai duo). The belief that the disorder which psychiatrists call schizophrenia is caused by 'excessive thinking' is widely held by the Chinese people and therefore serves as an indigenous label.16 To be restrained and moderate in one's actions is an important cultural requirement in China and therefore excessive behaviour will normally be frowned upon. 17 However, most Chinese people will admit that they too will occasionally engage in such excessive thinking. 18 Consequently, since excessive thinking will occur to everyone occasionally, this indigenous idiom has normalising power.

When a person is diagnosed as suffering from excessive thinking, she or he will not be seen as the moral 'other' who merits stigma and discrimination,19  but as 'one of us'. Therefore the use of this idiom provides a social script for accommodating extraordinary behaviour as a result of which sufferers are recognised as full status group members.20  This allows for continued integration of mentally ill individuals into social groups while avoiding stigma. Application of these idioms thus mitigates the strangeness of the patients' behaviour and diminishes their social rejection.21

Therefore, by using the socially acceptable label of 'excessive thinking' instead of the biomedical diagnosis of schizophrenia, mental illness stigma may be mitigated. By using the indigenous idiom of 'excessive thinking' the group members make the diagnosis of this mental illness culturally manageable. As part of this vernacularisation process, an extraordinary disease, which normally makes the patient stand out and leads to her or his exclusion, is put within the framework of common behaviour in which all group members occasionally engage.

Empirical research conducted by Yang and others has demonstrated that such an inclusive labelling strategy is effective.22  If this labelling strategy would be applied at a larger scale, this would restore the human rights of tens of millions of people.

3. The Receptor Approach

3.1 An outline of the theory

Relying on indigenous idiom to protect the human rights of the mentally ill is an example of applying the receptor approach.23  Many human rights challenges have a cultural origin and can only be solved effectively with the help of a cultural solution. Underlying the receptor approach is the idea that culture can serve as such a building block rather than a stumbling block for human rights protection and promotion. Many human rights have long been part of all societies, including the Southern ones, in the shape of values and social institutions. Social institutions are sets of patterned strategies, consisting of norms, values, and role expectations, which people develop and pass on to succeeding generations for dealing with important social needs.

By relying on ethnographic research such social institutions and cultural values that match international human rights obligations can be identified. This is called the matching phase. Where these institutions and values fall short of the obligations, they can be amplified with the help of home-grown remedies. Where possible, the receptor approach relies on the remedial force of local culture and the agency of the people rather than on Eurocentric transplants.

The receptor approach is based on sensitivity to and respect for the culture of every society. 24 It assumes that every value system, whether it is Northern or Southern, has its own inner logic and is aimed at achieving its own conceptualization of fairness and human dignity. This means that every concept in every system has to be approached with an open mind in order to identify its rationale.

The receptor approach is based on two interlocking premises. First, states are bound by the obligations laid down in the human rights treaties to which they have signed up. In other words, they may not water down nor compromise such obligations unilaterally while invoking local cultural values, but should implement them diligently and in good faith. Second, in order to enable states to fulfill their treaty obligations to the full, they are encouraged to rely as much as possible on their own culture and social institutions at the implementation stage.

3.2 Its legitimacy within the international human rights system

3.2.1 Culture as a legitimate means of implementation

Some tend to equate the implementation of human rights treaties with granting enforceable rights to individuals. 25 However, in many Southern societies texture is being provided by social institutions other than rights, like community, duties and religion. 26 In the North the Southern reluctance to translate human rights obligations into legal rights is then regarded as a failure to implement them. 27 The question therefore is whether international law and human rights treaties require implementation by taking legal steps or by conferring enforceable rights, or whether states parties may rely on other social arrangements instead.

Under general international law states enjoy discretion with regard to the implementation of treaty obligations within the municipal order.28  As long as they meet the obligations laid down in the treaty to which they have signed up, they are free to choose the most appropriate way of doing so at the domestic level. In other words, domestic application is an obligation of result rather than an obligation of means.29  Therefore, the implementation of treaties, including human rights conventions, is governed by the principle of ‘domestic primacy'.30

This domestic primacy has been reconfirmed by the implementation clauses of international human rights treaties. Thus, Article 2 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereafter: the Covenant) obliges the states parties “to adopt such laws or other measures [emphasis added; TZ] as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant”. Therefore the Covenant regards law as a means, but not the sole means to implement the treaty. Furthermore, the Covenant does not require the contracting states to grant individual enforceable rights to those who are under their jurisdiction. It is true that the Human Rights Committee has indicated that incorporation into national law of the Covenant guarantees may enhance their protection, but it has also made clear that Article 2(2) CCPR does not require such action. 31 This rebuts the view expressed by Seibert-Fohr that incorporation is required by the Covenant. 32 In addition, some provisions expressly require the states to take legal measures to implement their obligations,33  but these confirm the rule that in general they are free to choose the means they see fit. Consequently, both under public international law and the implementation clauses of human rights treaties the states parties enjoy discretion with regard to the means they would like to employ to meet their treaty obligations, be they laws or other social institutions. 34

Public international law regards the implementation of human rights treaties as a discretionary authority, leaving it to the contracting states to choose the most appropriate means.35  These include, for example, organizing awareness-raising campaigns,36  setting up training programs, 37 initiating educational reform,38  and providing childcare and similar support services to allow women to continue their education.39  Consequently, human rights treaties adopt an approach which is both discretionary and functional, leaving it to the states to choose the most suitable national means to meet their obligations.

As a result, Southern states are perfectly free to implement these treaty obligations without using legal means or conferring individual, enforceable rights. They are allowed to rely on other social arrangements, like bonds of kinship, community relations, and duties, which may fit better into their culture and traditions. The social arrangements in place are meant to give meaning to the human rights obligations entered into by the state. Only when the existing social institutions fall short of this aspiration the problem may be lifted to and dealt with at the international level, where the state will be held accountable in legal terms. While Northern countries may prefer rights, others are free to opt for functional equivalents. Therefore, if a state chooses to implement a human rights provision through another social arrangement than rights it is not failing its duties, but using one of several legitimate courses of action open to it. 40

3.2.2 Supporting rather than undermining universality

Finally, there is some criticism that the receptor approach might undermine universality. The core meaning of universality is that every human being is entitled to human rights. The objective of the receptor approach is to ensure that human rights protection extends to as many people as possible. Thus, the use of the 'excessive thinking' approach is to promote the restoration of human rights for as many mentally ill people as possible. This means that the receptor approach meets the universality test.

However, some critics use 'universality' as a code word for liberal modernism. In this view the receptor approach, through its emphasis on the remedial force of culture, undermines this worldview. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (hereafter: UDHR) is then portrayed as an ode to liberal modernism. However, when one applies the public international law tools for the interpretation, such as object and purpose, the travaux préparatoires, and subsequent agreements and practice, 41 a different picture emerges.

The object and purpose of the UDHR has been expressed in the concluding recital of the Preamble, which describes the promotion and observance of the rights contained therein by every individual and every organ of society as its end. 42 Therefore, in the words of the Chilean member of the Drafting Committee, the UDHR was meant as a spiritual guide for humanity: 43 the rights laid out in the UDHR should be brought to life by the people in their relations with other people. This has been confirmed in the second recital of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which emphasises that the human person is not only the prime beneficiary of these rights and freedoms, but should also participate actively in their realization.

The idea that it is mainly up to the people to respect and realise the rights of their fellow human beings is also expressed in other ways in the document. Thus, during the final stages of the drafting process, the title of the UDHR was changed from 'international' to 'universal'. This was done to shift the focus of the document away from the delegates and nations that did the drafting to the ordinary men, women, and children to whom it was primarily addressed.44  The drafters were also intent on keeping the document short, so that it could be understood by the common man. 45

This intention to rely mainly on the people to bring the rights and freedoms of the UDHR to life is the 'object and purpose' of the UDHR within the meaning of article 31 of the Vienna Convention. It acts as the interpretative polestar which can assist us in navigating the document. It is both amplified by and provides meaning to other key elements of the UDHR. 

Thus, in Article 1 of the UDHR trough use of the words 'conscience' and 'in a spirit of brotherhood' the people are called upon to turn human rights into a reality by doing good to others. In addition, because rights are shaped mainly within horizontal relations, the UDHR emphasises the importance of duties as corollaries of rights of other members of the community. Moreover, the framers have done their utmost to draft a common document which would be appealing to the largest possible group of people, regardless of their philosophical, religious or political outlook. Therefore, they avoided elevating one philosophy above the others in order not to unnecessarily alienate part of the world population.

By using understandable language, by avoiding statements that would be off-putting to some, and by limiting the length of the document, the drafters made clear that the people at grassroots level were its target audience: the rights contained in the UDHR would only acquire meaning if the people would make them part of their relationships. There is little mention of the state in the document.

In view of its object and purpose, the delegates were intent on and did succeed in drafting a document which does justice to all civilizations and has the potential of touching the soul of every human being. They went our of their way to turn the UDHR into a 'big tent'. Although regrettably as a result of colonialism the representatives from Asian and African countries were small in numbers, they more than made up for that by the high quality and aptness of their contributions, which represented the worldview and the interests of the people of those continents. Thus, the Egyptian and Chinese representatives ensured that the Preamble made it clear that the UDHR would also apply to people living in the colonies. 46

Although some of the language used in the UDHR is reminiscent of Enlightenment philosophy, 47 this was not the dominant view among the drafters. Morsink argues that most drafters did not share the Enlightenment belief in a single - divine or natural law - source of value.48  They came from a great variety of ideological and philosophical backgrounds, such as Judeo-Christianity, Marxism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Islam and they did not think that the rights in the UDHR were the prerogative of any particular philosophy. 49 Therefore, those who only apply an Enlightenment lens run the risk of misreading the document.50

The diverse nature of the UDHR is also exemplified by the fact that the human rights provisions of a large number of constitutions from across the world served as its building blocks. They were gathered by the Secretariat, which brought them together is a voluminous document on which the first drafts were based. Both Panama and Cuba tried to seize the initiative by submitting their own text proposals early on in the process.51  Although these texts were eventually added to the larger collection, this shows that the negotiation process was not the prerogative of the Northern delegates. It was clearly the intention of the drafters, therefore, to reach consensus between these approaches, as repeated calls were made to draft a declaration which would be acceptable to all the participating states.52  As the Chinese representative Zhang Peng Chun indicated, the process was meant to bring together the strong points of different civilizations. This course, which was both respectful and result-orientated, led to a document which was deserving of the widest support possible.

3.3 Its legitimacy within China

The receptor approach has been developed in close consultation with Chinese scholars, and China has since become one of the main testing grounds for its application. There are five factors which make Chinese society such a suitable base for the receptor approach.

First, Chinese civilisation was the first to recognise and protect human rights, albeit without using the 'human rights' label, while relying mainly on social rather than formal institutions. Although China has a longstanding and rich legal tradition, until 'Reform and Opening Up' conduct was mainly regulated through ethics and culture. The traditions of the Chinese people, whether they are Confucian, Taoist or Buddhist, serve as a human rights treasure trove and the receptor approach is a very effective means to uncover such rights and enhance their application.

Second, the receptor approach represents the principle of putting people first which is being promoted by the Communist Party. This principle roots in Marxism, 53 and is part of the theory of mass line. 54 As General Secretary Xi Jinping has made clear on numerous occasions, policy making should be closely attuned to the voices and expectations of the people.55  Developing human rights policy with the help of the receptor approach therefore is a manifestation of the putting people first principle.
Third, as General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasised, the Communist Party and the people should rely on cultural self-confidence and cherish their values. Thus, in his speech marking the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party, he emphasised that both China's cultural traditions and its revolutionary accomplishments house the deepest aspirations of the Chinese people.56  Although he did not mention them by name, these include the promotion and protection of human rights, where China's cultural confidence can serve as the backbone of the human rights protection system. Cultural self-confidence has been and will remain a cornerstone of human rights protection in China.

Fourth, this same cultural self-esteem also serves as the foundation of human rights protection in many other Southern countries, which are all proud of their cultural heritage. Thus, in Africa, Latin-America, the Arab region and South-east Asia culture and human rights are closely intertwined. As yet, the importance of cultural self-confidence for human rights protection has not been acknowledged by the international human rights treaty bodies, which still tend to stick to legal and formal concepts. In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Xi Jinping made clear that the global governance system has not embraced the changes that have occurred in the world during the past decades, which undermines its representativeness and inclusiveness. 57

Therefore, China is striving towards a more just and equitable global governance system, based on a community of shared future for humankind. While President Xi in Davos mainly focused on global economic governance, Foreign Minister Wang Yi has since made clear that safeguarding human rights too is part of building a community of shared future of human kind.58  In a recent contribution to China Daily he indicated that this concept includes the development of a fair and equitable international human rights governance system. It would be in line with Minister Wang's comments to recognise cultural self-confidence as the base of international human rights governance.

Fifth, since the establishment of the New China, the Communist Party itself has applied the receptor approach avant la lettre. Thus, in 1950 the Marriage Law was promulgated, which brought an end to patriarchal marriage traditions while strongly enhancing the legal position of women. The leaders were aware of the fact the law might meet some resistance from traditionalists and therefore decided to stage a Ping opera named Liu Qiao'er in Beijing. 59 The opera was later adapted into a musical film which was shown across China. By relying on such popular means of communication, the leaders expected to broaden the appeal of the new law and to increase support for it. This, therefore, is a good example of amplification, where the human rights protection is enhanced with the help of social engineering, while sticking to home grown remedies.

4. Conclusion

Many people in China who suffer from mental illness are leading a tough life because of the stigma attached to psychiatric diseases. They face social exclusion because they are shunned by the community. Consequently, they tend to avoid diagnosis and treatment, which makes their plight even greater. The adoption of the comprehensive Mental Health Law shows that the State is making serious efforts to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness. However, the human rights protection of the mentally ill has improved only little, if at all.

The reason for that is that the stigma attached to mental illness is ingrained in Chinese culture. Cultural problems call for cultural, rather than legal, remedies. One such cultural strategy, relying on indigenous idiom, is likely to bear fruit. Using the lay term 'excessive thought' to diagnose and discuss schizophrenia provides a social script for accommodating extraordinary behaviour, as a result of which sufferers are recognised as full status group members. As part of this vernacularisation process, an extraordinary disease, which normally makes the patient stand out and leads to her or his exclusion, is put within the framework of common behaviour in which all group members occasionally engage.

Relying on indigenous idiom is an example of application of the so-called receptor approach to human rights. This receptor approach is aimed at implementing human rights obligations through culture and social institutions. It fits within the four corners of international human rights law and meets the universality requirement. It is very well suited for Chinese society, because it can rely on its rich cultural traditions; it matches the putting people first principle; it gives a voice to cultural self-confidence; it can act as a building material for a community of shared future for mankind; and it is a continuation of similar practices applied by the Communist Party since the establishment of the New China.  

1Cao Xueqin, Dream of the Red Chamber, Garden City, 1958, translated by Hong Lou Meng.

2The English translation published in 24 (2012) Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry, 305-321, was relied upon for this paper.

3Guo Jinhua and Arthur Kleinman, HIV/AIDS, Mental Illness and China's Nonpersons, in: Arthur Kleinman and others (eds.), Deep China, The Moral Life of the Person, What Anthropology and Psychiatry Tell Us About China Today, Berkeley, 2011, 257.
4Randall Peerenboom, What's Wrong with Chinese Rights? Toward a Theory of Rights with Chinese Characteristics, 6 (1993) Harvard Human Rights Journal, 29-57, 40-41.
5Jinhua and Kleinman supra note 3, 243.
6Jinhao Guo, Stigma, An Ethnography of Mental Illness and HIV/AIDS in China, Hackensack, 2016, 12.
7See for African vignettes: David Westerlund, African Indigenous Religions and Disease Causation, From Spiritual Beings To Living Humans, Leiden, 2006.
8Arthur Kleinman, Leon Eisenberg and Byron Good, Culture, Illness, and Care, Clinical Lessons from Anthropologic and Cross-cultural Research, 88 (1978) Annals of Internal Medicine, 251-258, 252.
9Lawrence H. Yang and others, Effects of Labeling and Interpersonal Contact upon Attitudes towards Schizophrenia: Implications for Reducing Mental Illness Stigma in Urban China, 47 (2012) Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 1459-1473, 1460 (l and r).

10Lawrence H. Yang and others, "Excessive Thinking" as Explanatory Model for Schizophrenia: Impacts on Stigma and "Moral" Status in Mainland China, 36 (2010) Schizophrenia Bulletin, 836-845, 837 (l).

11Yang supra note 9, 1461 (l).




15Yang supra note 10, 837 (l).

16Yang supra note 9, 1461 (l).

17Ibid. at 1461 (r).


19Yang supra note 10, 836 (r).

20Yang supra note 9, 1461 (r) - 1462 (l).

21Ibid. at 1461 (r).

22Yang supra note 9 and Yang supra note 10; Ka Fai Chung and John Hung Chan, Can a Less Pejorative Chinese Translation of Schizophrenia Reduce Stigma? A Study of Adolescents Attitudes toward People with Schizophrenia, 58 (2004) Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 507 - 515, found that the use of less pejorative labels did not have a statistically main effect on attitudes. However, their research did not include the label 'excessive thought' and was conducted in Hong Kong rather than on the mainland.

23Tom Zwart, Using Local Culture to Further the Implementation of International Human Rights: The Receptor Approach, 34 (2012) Human Rights Quarterly, 546-569.

24This approach is also being promoted by Makau Mutua, Human Rights, A Political and Cultural Critique, Philadelphia, 2002, 109-110.

25John Charvet & Elisa Kaczynska-Nay, The Liberal Project And Human Rights, The Theory And Practice Of A New World Order, Cambridge, 2008, 223-288.

26Mutua supra note 24, at 71-93 and 112-125; Daniel A. Bell, East Meets West, Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia, Princeton, 2000, 23-105.

27Jack Donnelly, Human Rights and Human Dignity: An Analytic Critique of Non-Western Conceptions of Human Rights, 76 (1982) The American Political Science Review, 303-316.

28Manfred Nowak, U.N. Covenant On Civil And Political Rights, CCPR Commentary, 2nd edition, Kehl am Rhein, 2005, 57.

29Oscar Shachter, The Obligation to Implement the Covenant in Domestic Law, in: Louis Henkin (ed.) The International Bill Of Rights, The Covenant On Civil And Political Rights, New York, 1981, 311;  Nowak, supra note 28, at 57.

30Douglas L. Donoho, Human Rights Enforcement in the Twenty-First Century, 35 (2006-2007) Georgia. Journal of International & Comparative Law, 1-52, 12.

31General Comment No 31 Nature of the General Legal Obligation Imposed on States Parties to the Covenant, adopted 29 March 2004, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13.

32Anja Seibert-Fohr, Domestic Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Pursuant to its Article 2 para. 2, 5 (2001) Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, 420-439.

33Like the obligation to protect the right life by law laid down in Article 6(1) of the Covenant.

34Shachter supra note 29, at 313-315; Nowak supra note 28, at 58.

35Shachter supra note 29, at 319-320.

36Summary Record of the 630th Meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 30th Session, CEDAW/C/SR.630, 3, 5.

37Summary Record of the 606th Meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 28th Session, CEDAW/C/SR.606, 7; Summary Record of the 630th Meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 30th Session, CEDAW/C/SR.630, 9.

38Summary Record of the 606th Meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 28th Session, CEDAW/C/SR.606, 6.

39Summary Record of the 606th Meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 28th Session, CEDAW/C/SR.606, 7.

40T.W. Bennett, Human Rights And African Customary Law, Cape Town, 1995, 4.

41See the articles 31 and 32 of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties.

42Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Origins, Drafting and Intent, Philadelphia, 1999, 35.

43William A. Schabas (ed.), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Travaux Prépataratoires, Cambridge, 2013, 719.

44Morsink supra note 42 at 324.

45Schabas supra note 43 at 161, 784; Morsink supra note 42 at 33-34.

46Morsink supra note 42 at 98.

47Ibid. at 282.

48Ibid. at 283.



51Schabas supra note 43 at 4, 5.

52Ibid. at 21.

53Li Buyun, Putting People First and Protection of Human Rights, available at: http://ww.chinahumanrights.org/html/2014/Paper_0923/673.html.

54Ciu Jian, From Mao Zedong to the 18th National Congress of the CPC: The Developing Logic of the "Mass Line", 6 (2014) Higher Education of Social Science, 65-70.

55See e.g. Xi Jinping, Focusing on Six Aspects in Fully Implementing the Guiding Principles of the Eighteenth national Congress of the CPC, 15 November 2012, Qiushi  Journal, available at: http://english.qstheory.cn/magazine/201302/201305/t20130528_234940.htm.



58Wang Yi, Work Together to Promote and Protect Human Rights and Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind, available at:http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2017-02/27/content_28355797.htm.

59Xiaoping Cong, Marriage, Law and Gender in Revolutionary China, 1940-1960, Cambridge, 2016.

(The author Tom Zwart is Professor of Cross-cultural Law, Utrecht University and Director of the Cross-cultural Human Rights Centre)

From:The Third Session of China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights , July 2-3