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Speech of opening ceremony at Europe-China Human Rights Seminar
July 03,2017   By:chinahumanrights.org
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Speech of Opening Ceremony at China-Europe Human Rights Seminar 
 
July 3, 2017 -- China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights is a mechanism platform of deep-level communication and mutual learning and reflecting which established by China Society for Human Rights Studies(CSHRS). It aims to promote communication and cooperation in human rights between experts and scholars from China and Europe. The session of China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights this year was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands on July 2-3, 2017.

1. Introduction 
 
Honourable Vice-minister Cui Yuying,
 
Honourable Secretary-General Lu Guangjin,
 
Dear friends and colleagues,
 
On January 17th  of this year, President Xi Jinping gave a speech at the Davos Economic Forum which caught the imagination of the international community because of his staunch support for globalisation.
 
But in his speech he also touched upon another international issue which was perhaps even more important.
 
The President noted 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.
 
This is why he has called for building a community of shared future for mankind.
 
President Xi's analysis of the failure of the international community to keep pace with and to do justice to the changes that have taken place certainly applies to the field of international human rights.
 
To remedy this we have set up the Cross-cultural Human Rights Centre in 2014.
 
In fact, the activities of the Centre answer the call of President Xi's to build a community of shared future for mankind.
 
During this speech I will give one example of an activity which can contribute to building such a community.  
 
2. Getting rid of the stigma related to mental illness
 
To do so, I will borrow one element from the paper that I will be presenting during the third panel this afternoon.
 
In my paper I will be focusing on the stigma people with mental illness face in China. This stigma severely restricts their human rights.
 
The State Council and the National People's Congress have done everything possible to tackle this stigma. In particular they have adopted wide-ranging legislation which prohibits attributing this stigma.
 
The improvement brought by this legislation is limited at best. The reason for this is that some human rights problems are so intertwined with culture that it is difficult to tackle them only with legal means. Cultural problems sometimes are best solved with cultural solutions.
 
This is also true for stigma relating to mental illness, which is closely related to Chinese culture.
 
The negative consequences of stigmatisation may be tackled by relying on lay people's explanations to characterise mental illnesses.
 
For example, 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.
 
Most Chinese people will admit that they too will occasionally engage in such excessive thinking. Consequently, since excessive thinking will occur to everyone occasionally, 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, but as 'one of us'. 
 
3. The receptor approach 
 
Using lay language to get rid of the stigma associated with mental illness is an example of applying the receptor approach.
 
This is a culturally sensitive, bottom-up human rights approach which has been developed within the Cross-cultural Human Rights Centre.
 
The receptor approach assumes that culture sometimes offers better opportunities to solve human rights challenges than law.
 
Underlying the receptor approach is the idea that human rights as such have always been and are still part of Southern civilizations, well before they were discovered in the North during Enlightenment. They are indigenous human rights, which offer a stronger protection to people in the Global South than laws and formal institutions.
 
Since many Southern civilizations have been protecting human rights for centuries with the help of their culture rather than through law, they should be allowed to present these cultural achievements at the international level.
 
Relying on culture is a legitimate way to implement human rights obligations, since under international law states are free to choose the means of implementation they see fit.
 
The receptor approach is based on ethnology. It identifies cultural institutions which match the international human rights obligations of a particular state. This is called the matching phase.
 
Under the receptor approach, states parties to human rights treaties are encouraged to meet their obligations with the help of existing cultural institutions. If these existing cultural institutions fall short of the treaty requirements, they will have to be adjusted or amended in order to bring them into line with these standards.
 
On the basis of the receptor approach adjustments made to meet international human rights standards should respect local culture and make use of home-grown remedies as much as possible.
 
The receptor approach is based on the idea that reforms should add to but not replace the existing social arrangements. It opposes the introduction of Euro-American elements if home-grown remedies can be found which, while undoing the violation, remain loyal to the social relations existing in that particular society.
 
4. Using the receptor approach to build a community of shared future for mankind 
 
To take President Xi's call to build a community of shared future for mankind seriously, we should start taking action.
 
This could be done, for example, by discussing the receptor approach during a side event at the Human Rights Council, to which academics, NGOs and government representatives would be invited.
 
The Cross-cultural Human Rights Centre has assisted four African countries in drafting state reports on the basis of the receptor approach. These reports were meant for the Committee that oversees the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The countries were Senegal, Liberia, Cameroon and Swaziland.
 
What we could do is discuss these four draft reports in the presence of representatives from these countries. They can serve as best practices.
 
We could add a workshop during which we teach officials and consultants how to draft reports on this basis.
 
In this way we will be taking concrete action to build a community of shared future for mankind. 
 
Honourable guest, ladies and gentlemen, I wish you all a very successful seminar!