Home > PUBLICATIONS & RESOURCES > JOURNAL >

Reform and Opening-up and China’s Participation in International Human Rights Cooperation Process
January 10,2019   By:CSHRS
Reform and Opening-up and China’s Participation in International Human Rights Cooperation Process
 
LUO Yanhua*
 
Abstract: The process of China’s participation in international human rights cooperation is closely related to the process of reform and opening-up launched at the end of the 1970s, while participation in international human rights cooperation is based on the process of reform and opening-up. It is the fruit of the reform and opening-up policy and the emancipation of the mind for China to decide to par-ticipate in international human rights cooperation. Since then, along with the process, the process of China participating in international cooperation can be divided into four periods. The first established the multi-ministries cooperative group to do research on international human rights activities in 1980. The second, was the first white paper on human rights published by the government in 1991. The third was the incorporation of human rights in the Constitution in 2004, and the fourth been putting forward the idea “a community with shared future for human beings” in 2013. All of these are landmark events for China to participate in international human rights cooperation against the general background of the reform and opening-up policy.
 
Keywords: reform and opening-up  China’s participation in in-ternational human rights cooperation
 
China’s reform and opening-up refers to economic reforms at home and open-ing-up to the outside world after the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, which was held on December 18, 1978. After this plenary session, an ideological path was established to emancipate people’s minds and seek truth from facts and to stop using the slogan of “taking class struggle as the key link”. At the same time, the Chinese government shifted the focus to economic development and reform and opening-up. Since then, China’s participation in international human rights cooperation has been closely related to the advance of reform and opening-up. So far, China’s participation in international human rights cooperation can be divided into several stages based on reform and opening-up.
 
From the founding of People’s Republic of China to the commencement of re-form and opening-up, China, affected by the Cold War and tense foreign relations at that time, participated little in international human rights activities. On the human rights standpoint, China mainly emphasized the right to self-determination of the na-tion and gave our support to the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial movements of the third world countries. During this period, influenced by China’s foreign relations and unbalanced understanding of human rights issues, China was less involved in interna-tional human rights activities but the necessary counterattacks against human rights attacks from some western countries. After China’s restoration of its lawful seat in the United Nations in 1971, although China attended the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to discuss human rights issues, it always balked at talking about human rights issues. At that time, China did not take part in the UN Commission on Human Rights, which specializes in dealing with human rights issues, and it was a complete outsider to international human rights conventions.1 Since re-form and opening-up, China’s participation in international human rights cooperation can be roughly divided into four stages. The characteristics and main activities of each stage will be introduced and analyzed respectively as follows.
 
I.  The First Stage (1978-1991)
 
China’s decision to participate in international human rights cooperation bene-fited from reform and opening-up, emancipating the mind, and the policy of seeking truth from facts. With the implementation of reform and opening-up, China’s views on human rights issues have changed. Since then, China has tried to participate in inter-national human rights activities, hoping to understand and adapt to the procedures of international human rights activities.
 
After the third plenary session of the Eleventh Central Committee in 1978, Chi-na’s foreign exchanges were greatly expanded due to the emancipation of people’s minds and its opening-up to the outside world. At the same time, China’s attitude to-ward international human rights issues has also changed a lot. China has begun to rec-ognize that international human rights law has positive impacts on safeguarding world peace and advancing human civilizations. It has also formed certain common norms or regulations on human rights in modern international society and has become the theoretical basis for cooperation among countries in the field of international human rights.
 
In 1980, China began to participate in international human rights activities. To this end, China established a collaborative task force among multiple ministries. The main issues studied by the task force included: guidelines for participation in inter-national human rights activities, whether to join important international human rights conventions or not, China’s basic standpoints on existing human rights issues. Before China’s official participation in the Human Rights Commission, it participated in the meetings of the Human Rights Commission as an observer for three consecutive years after 1979. After on-the-spot investigations and in-depth thinking, China formed its own opinions and suggestions with Chinese characteristics. That is, it was imperative for China to participate in international human rights activities and the advantages of this decision would outweigh all the disadvantages. In 1981, China took part in the election of the UN Commission on Human Rights and ended up with becoming a full member of it in 1982. At that time, China adhered to the principles of being indepen-dent, active, and careful while participating in international human rights activities with stable progress achieved. To be more specific, China gave its support to the con-cept of human rights that has had been practiced before. China believed that struggles in the field of international human rights should be promoted in favor of anti-imperi-alist, anti-colonial and anti-hegemonic movements. What’s more, China insisted on fighting against hegemony to safeguard the interests of third world countries without interfering in their internal affairs. It also proposed that the United Nations should pay more attention to large-scale and severe violations of human rights. Accepting the concept of basic human rights and expressing its objection to interference into other countries’ domestic political affairs, strictly preventing western countries from slandering and attacking China on the excuse of human rights, disclosing the mali-cious comments outside China, supporting and participating in justifiable international cooperation and exchange activities, fulfilling the necessary obligations, expanding international conventions on human rights by adding anti-imperialist, anti -colonial and anti-hegemony articles into them, studying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultur-al Rights in advance. At that time, taking such a major decision and taking such huge steps on human rights issues were remarkable and undoubtedly the results of such pol-icies as reform and opening-up, emancipating the mind, and seeking truth from facts.2
 
After 1981, China dispatched representatives to attend the experts meetings at which the Declaration on the Right to Development was drafted by the UN Commis-sion on Human Rights. It was ratified by UN General Assembly in 1986. China also designated representatives to participate in the drafting of legal instruments on interna-tional human rights and successively became a member of other UN drafting groups. Since 1984, China was continuously elected to several Human Rights sub-committees as commissioner or alternate member, in which roles it aimed at eliminating discrim-ination and defending human rights for ethnic, racial, linguistic, and religious minori-ties. Besides, Chinese members played an important role in sub-commissions, they have become members of the working group on indigenous populations and the work-ing group on communications affiliated to the sub-committees.
 
In the 1980s, as the most intensive period of its accession to international human rights conventions, People’s Republic of China joined 11 international human rights treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Protocol Relating to the Status of Refu-gees, Protocol I Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (August 12, 1949), Protocol II Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-Interna-tional Armed Conflicts (August 12, 1949), Convention on the Prevention and Pun-ishment of the Crime of Genocide, International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, International Convention Against Apartheid in Sport, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Persons with Dis-abilities) Convention. In addition, China justified 14 international labor conventions approved by Nanjing national government. They are the Convention Fixing the Mini-mum Age for Admission of Children to Employment at Sea, Right of Association (Agri-culture) Convention, Weekly Rest (Industry) Convention, Convention Fixing the Mini-mum Age for the Admission of Young Persons to Employment as Trimmers or Stokers, Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation) Convention, Convention Concerning Seamen’s Articles of Agreement, Repatriation of Seamen Convention, Convention Concerning the Creation of Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery, Convention Concern-ing the Marking of the Weight on Heavy Packages Transported by Vessels, Convention Concerning the Protection against Accidents of Workers Employed in Loading or Un-loading Ships, Convention Concerning the Employment of Women on Underground Work in Mines of All Kinds, Convention Fixing the Minimum Age for the Admission of Children to Industrial Employment, Convention on the Amendment of Final Articles.3 The reason why China in the 1980s actively join so many international conventions on human rights lies in the fact that people’s recognition of human rights changed as a result of the policy of reform and opening-up.
 
From 1989 to 1991, influenced by the 1989 incident, China became the prime victim of Western attacks on human rights issues. Western countries, led by the United States, slammed and vilified China. What’s worse, they imposed the so-called “human rights diplomacy” on China, seeking to interfere in China’s domestic political, eco-nomic, and military affairs. During this period, China waged a tit-for-tat struggle with western countries on the one hand, and resolutely opposed western countries’ interfer-ence in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights. On the other hand, China adopted some flexible ways to deal with specific issues closely connected with national interests.
 
II.  The Second Stage (1991-2003)
 
In the early 1990s, remarkable measures were made to adjust China’s diplomatic strategies on human rights issues, which was marked by the publication of the White Paper on the Human Rights Situation in China in November 1991. The white paper gave a succinct account of the history of human rights development by clearly refer-ring to human rights as“the ideals that humans have pursued for a long time” and “the lofty goals required by Chinese socialism” with historical facts and specific theories, breaking the traditional views about the relationship between socialism and human rights. Hence, in a socialist country, “the great banner of human rights was held high document discussing human rights issue in China.5 In the white paper, China expressed, for the first time to the international community its po-sition on international human rights cooperation: “China is willing to pay its respect to the goals and objections stipulated by the UN Charter to protect and promote human rights, appreciates and supports the UN’s efforts to promote human rights and funda-mental freedoms, and actively participates in UN human rights activities. China advo-cates strengthening international human rights cooperation through building mutual understanding and seeking common ground while reserving differences.”6
 
With the vagaries in the international situation and the western countries’ attack on China’s human rights activities, the publication of this white paper coincided with China’s national conditions. It’s important to note that these achievements were insep-arable from the reform and opening-up policy. It was the further ideological emancipa-tion brought about by reform and opening-up that made this ideological breakthrough possible.
 
In the early 1990s, China’s reform and opening-up entered a new stage that was marked by Deng Xiaoping’s southern tour speeches in January 1992. The 14th Na-tional Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was held in October 1992, was characterized by the reform and opening-up, indicating that China’s reform and opening-up had entered a new era. It is precisely in this context that China’s major diplomatic strategic adjustments on human rights issues took place.
 
After major diplomatic strategic adjustments on human rights issues, China be-gan to actively participate in international human rights activities, make full use of the international platform to publicize its stance on human rights issues, and refute the aggression from western countries with great confidence in the strength of China’s achievements in human rights over the past decades. China advocated equal dialogue in the field of international human rights, resolutely opposed hegemonic behavior in international human rights activities, band the vast number of developing countries together in international human rights activities and made unremitting efforts to enrich and develop international human rights ideas and safeguarding the rights and interests of developing countries. The characteristics of China’s participation in international human rights activities during this period were mainly explained as follows.
 
A.  Proactively demonstrating China’s views on human rights and forming human rights theories with Chinese characteristics
 
In November 1991, the Chinese government published a white paper entitled the Situation of Human Rights in China. For the first time, it systematically explained China’s basic position and practice of human rights issues to the international com-munity, indicating that the Chinese government attached great importance to human rights issues and that China’s policy on human rights issues had undergone major ad-justments. After that, the Chinese government intensified its publicity on human rights issues and published a series of crucial human rights documents to show the world the achievements of China’s human rights construction.
 
During this period, a set of human rights theoretical systems with “Chinese char-acteristics” has gradually been established. Under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping’s theory of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, the “leftist” understanding about human rights has been broken. The China Human Rights Research Associa-tion, established in January 1993, actively organized research on human rights theory. Through research on emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts, China began to form a new understanding of the rich connotations of human rights. On this basis, a prototype of a human rights theory system with Chinese characteristics combined with China’s specific national conditions began to form. The main points of China’s human rights theory will be clarified in the following part.
 
First of all, what is the relationship between human rights and sovereignty? When it comes to this issue, Comrade Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “In fact, national power outweighs human rights”.7 “China should view sovereignty and national security as our top priorities. We are more sober about this than ever before.”8 These ideas later became the basic principle for China’s participation in international human rights activities. The Chinese government has repeatedly declared that human rights are essentially an issue within the scope of a country’s sovereignty. “Respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs is an acknowledged principle of international law and it was applicable to all areas of international relations, not to mention human rights issues.”9
 
Second, China emphasized the particularity and specificity of human rights. Al-though human rights are universal in nature, the complexity and diversity embodied in the specific cultural, historical and economic development levels of each country must be fully taken into account.
 
Third, it set forward the rights to life and development as the fundamental human rights. In the white paper entitled the Human Rights Situation in China issued by Chi-na in November 1991, the title of Chapter 1 is the right to subsistence is the Primary Human Right, which the Chinese people have long been fighting for. In the White Pa-per on the Progress in China’s Human Rights issued in 1995, 1997 and 1999 respec-tively, the title of Chapter 1 was the people’s right to survival and development. This fully demonstrates the importance the Chinese government attaches to human rights. China believes that the rights to life and development are the primary human rights.

If there are no rights to life and development, no other human rights can be discussed. In short, it is a basic conclusion drawn by the Chinese people on their human rights issues based on their own history and national conditions.
Fourth, countries should respect each other in terms of human rights issues, seek equal dialogue, reach common ground while respecting differences, strengthen cooperation, and resolutely oppose the practice of certain countries to impose their own values on other countries. The 1998 White Paper on China’s Progress on Human Rights clearly states that China proposes dialogue and cooperation with the interna-tional community on human rights issues on the basis of equality and mutual respect.10
 
In addition, the Chinese government has expressed its viewpoints on other as-pects of human rights, such as citizens’ political, economic, social and cultural rights and human rights protection. All of these have become an important part of human rights with Chinese characteristics.
 
B.  Starting to play an active role on the international platforms for human rights and actively participating in and hosting several significant conferences of human rights
 
In March 1993, China sent a delegation to attend the Asian preparatory meet-ing of the World Conference on Human Rights in Bangkok, and served as the vice president of the first preparatory meeting, Asia’s Preparatory Meeting and the World Conference on Human Rights, contributing a lot to the preparation and success of the meeting. In the same year, Chinese representatives participated in the World Confer-ence on Human Rights held in Vienna and participated in the discussion, drafting and formulation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and put forward many constructive comments as well. In September 1995, China successfully hosted the fourth World Conference on Women Plenary Session in Beijing, making an im-portant contribution to the realization of women’s rights worldwide. In addition, Chi-na has also held a series of bilateral or multilateral seminars, such as the first interna-tional seminar held in October 1998 with the theme “World Human Rights for the 21st Century”. The International Human Rights Seminar on “Oriental Culture and Human Rights Development” held in October 2002 had wide ranging international repercus-sions.
 
C.  Strengthening efforts on contracting and compliance of duties
 
In the 1990s, China joined four international human rights conventions: the Convention on Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Employment Policy Convention, and the Convention on Minimum Age for Employment. In addition, during President Jiang Zemin’s visit to the United States on October 28, 1997, China signed the Internation-al Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. On October 5, 1998, China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In March 2001, with the approval of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights came into force. In June 2003, the Chinese government formally submitted to the United Nations the first implementation report of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cul-tural Rights. In December 2002, China ratified the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
 
D.  Actively engaging in dialogue and cooperation on human rights with the United Nations
 
China actively advocates an equal international human rights dialogue and has reached many consensuses with other countries. China’s partners in the field of human rights dialogue include Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Germany, Ja-pan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and many other countries. The China-US Human Rights Dialogue began in 1990 and is held twice a year according to the agreement. The first human rights dialogue began in Central Europe in 1995 and has been held semi-annually since then. The human rights dialogue between China and Australia began in 1997.
 
In September 1998, China invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson to China. The two sides exchanged views on human rights issues and signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Technical Cooperation Projects. In 1999, the Chinese government also invited a delegation of experts from the Office of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner to China. The expert group held friendly consultations with relevant departments of the Chinese government and non-governmental organizations on advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights. In addition, the Chinese govern-ment also invited the United Nations rapporteur on religious intolerance, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the United Nations rapporteur on torture to China. In November 2000, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Mrs. Mary Robinson, paid a visit to China. Representatives of China and the United States signed a memorandum on technical cooperation on human rights and signed a cooperation agreement for the second stage in 2001. Under this framework, the two sides have carried out cooperative projects such as misde-meanor punishment, prison management, human rights education and human rights scholarships. In 2000, China also co-organized the 8th Asia-Pacific Regional Human Rights Seminar with the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.
 
III.  The Third Stage (2004-2012)
 
In March 2004, the Second Session of the 10th National People’s Congress sol-emnly declared to the world that China has enshrined in the Constitution “China re-spects and protects human rights.” The inclusion of human rights in the Constitution was not only crucial for promoting China’s human rights cause and overall social progress, but also for improving China’s international image and enhancing China’s international status and promoting China’s foreign human rights cooperation. Reuters commented at the time that the inclusion of human rights in the Constitution was a momentous event for China, which showed that the Communist Party of China, as the ruling party, represented the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of people. The Associated Press also published an article pointing out that China would include human rights in the Constitution, which is something that people could not have imagined before, and it is a huge change in Chinese society.11
 
The inclusion of human rights in the Constitution was realized on the basis of the further achievements of reform and opening-up. On December 11, 2001, China officially joined the World Trade Organization, which showed that China’s reform and opening-up had reached a major turning point. After 2001, more reforms emerged. The reform and opening-up process has directly brought about further ideological emancipation. The inclusion of human rights in the Constitution was a major break-through for human rights in China achieved on the basis of further ideological eman-cipation.
 
The inclusion of human rights in the Constitution in 2004 was not only a mile-stone in the development of China’s human rights cause, but also opened up a new stage in China’s participation in international human rights cooperation, which strengthened the intensity and breadth of China’s participation in international human rights cooperation. This is reflected in China’s more active participation in interna-tional human rights activities and its stronger voice in international human rights. The cooperation between China and international human rights institutions was brought to a new high.
 
A.  Playing a significant role in the establishment and review of the UN Human Rights Council
 
China played an indispensable role in the establishment of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006. Most countries identified with the proposals put for-ward by China. On May 9, 2006, when the 60th UN General Assembly elected the first members of the Human Rights Council, China successfully became a member with 146 votes for a term of three years. On May 12, 2009, in the first the third session of the UN General Assembly, 18 UN Human Rights Council members were reelected, China was reelected with 167 votes for a term from 2009 to 2012. In the course of being a member of the UN Human Rights Council, China has earnestly fulfilled its duties, actively participated in the meetings held by the Human Rights Council, and seriously participated in the universal periodic review of the Human Rights Council.
 
According to the review system of the UN Human Rights Council, on February 9, 2009, the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Team reviewed China’s Report on Human Rights. During the period, representatives from more than 40 countries including Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cuba and Brazil spoke highly of the progress that China has made in the fields of economic and democratic legal system since the founding of People’s Republic of China over the past 60 years. On February 12, the report for China’s universal periodic review was successfully ratified by the UN Human Rights Council. Most developing countries gave objective, pertinent and appreciative opinions and positive comments on China’s Report on Hu-man Rights and its human rights situation. The review report of the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review team concluded that the international community hoped that China would continue to develop and protect human rights, share with other countries its experiences of alleviating poverty and developing the economy, and continue to play a proactive and constructive role in the international human rights activities, encour-aging China to explore a development path suited to its national conditions.12 In the third part of the review report “Achievements, best practices, challenges and restric-tions”, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted with appreciation China’s achievements in poverty reduction, which enabled China to achieve some of the major goals set out in Millennium Development Goals. United Nations Development Assis-tance Framework for the People’s Republic of China (2006-2010) noted China’s tre-mendous progress in a range of social development indicators, such as life expectancy, child mortality and illiteracy rate.13
 
B.  Actively participating in formulation of international human rights rules
 
At the end of 2009, a delegation from China participated in the first meeting on formulating the Optional Protocol on communication of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and participated in discussions on various issues in depth and extensive-ly.14 In addition, China designated a delegation to participate in the annual meeting of the UN Anti-Terrorism Special Commission and continued to participate in the negoti-ation of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). To further improve the current international anti-terrorism legal framework, China endorsed the development of a completely new Comprehensive Convention on International Terror-ism (CCIT) and endorsed the initiative to hold a high-level anti-terrorism conference at the appropriate time under the auspices of the United Nations, then providing policy guidance for international legal cooperation against terrorism.15 On July 12, 2011, at the UN Security Council’s open debate on “Children and Armed Conflict”, Ambassa-dor Wang Min, deputy permanent representative of People’s Republic of China to the United Nations, suggested that international community strengthen the protection of children in armed conflict and put forward several action plans.16
 
C.  Deepening cooperation with the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the special human rights mechanism and the human rights treaty bodies
 
In August 2005, UN high commissioner Ms. Louise Arbour visited China. During the visit, the two sides signed a new Cooperation Memorandum of Under-standing, which established a framework for technical cooperation for the next three years. China actively supported the work of the Office. In 2005, it organized the 13th Asia-Pacific Human Rights Seminar with the Office. In 2009, it donated 20,000 US dollars to the Office. The Director of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Anders Kombs, visited Beijing in October 2010 to participate in the third session of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights. In September 2011, Ms. Jane Connors, Director of the Institute of Special Human Rights Mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, was invited to Beijing to participate in the Fourth Beijing Forum on Human Rights.
 
China also attached great importance to the significant role of the UN special human rights mechanism in international human rights activities and maintained a good cooperative relationship with it. The Chinese government responded to the letter from the United Nations Special Human Rights Mechanism in a responsible manner and successively invited many representatives from the United Nations to visit China, including the rapporteur on religious intolerance, the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, the United Nations special rapporteur on disability, and the United Nations rapporteur of the right to education and the United Nations Special rapporteur on the right to food.
 
China also actively recommended experts to participate in the work on human rights conventions. Chinese experts served as members in such bodies as the Commit-tee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the Committee against Torture. In 2011, Chinese experts served as members or vice-chairmen of five out of nine core human rights UN committees. They were, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Elimination of Discrimina-tion against Women, Committee against Torture, and Committee on the Rights of Per-sons with Disabilities.
 
D.  Joining in international human rights treaties
 
From 2004 to the end of 2010, China ratified several important international human rights treaties. These were: the Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2002), the United Nations Convention Concerning Human Rights and Related Human Rights Security (2004), the Convention Concerning the Elimination of Discrimination in Em-ployment and Occupation (2005), Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (2007), the Interna-tional Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008), and Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2009) Supplementary to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Orga-nized Crime. On January 1, 2011, three international treaties related to the right to life China acquiescently joined in came into force. They are: the Amendments to the Inter-national Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 (Annex 2), the Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974, the Amendments to the Protocol of 1988 Relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974.
 
E.  Participating in activities organized by non-governmental human rights organizations
 
In addition to international human rights cooperation at the official level, Chinese non-governmental human rights organizations have also played an important role in international human rights exchanges. Among them, human rights organizations rep-resented by the China Society for Human Rights Studies and the China Foundation for Human Rights Development actively participate in international human rights activities. There are mainly the following ways in which these organizations conduct human rights exchanges.
 
1. Hosting international human rights forums and seminars
 
The China Society for Human Rights Studies is the largest national academic group in the field of human rights. It is a member of the UN Conference on Non-Gov-ernmental Organizations (CONGO) and enjoys special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. It has been included in the UNESCO World Di-rectory of Human Rights Research and Training Institutions. In November 2006, the International Human Rights Seminar on “Respecting and Promoting Human Rights and Building a Harmonious World” organized by the China Society for Human Rights Studies was held in Beijing. More than 70 experts and scholars and officials from 19 countries such as Asia, Africa, Europe and the America made extensive exchanges and discussions. From 2008 to 2012, China hosted the Beijing Forum on Human Rights for five consecutive years. More details are given in table one.
 
Table 1    Details of Beijing Forum on Human Rights (2008-2012)
 
Name Time Theme Participants  
         
The 1st Bei- April 21- Development, Security Over 110 Chinese and foreign human rights  
jing Forum on officials, experts and scholars from 31 countries  
Human Rights 22,2008 and Human Rights on 5 continents  
         
The 2nd Bei- November Harmonious Develop- Nearly 100 senior human rights officials, ex-  
jing Forum on  
2-3, 2009 ment and Human Rights perts and scholars from 26 countries  
Human Rights  
         
The 3rd Bei-   Human Rights and Nearly 100 senior human rights officials,  
  experts and scholars from 28 countries, and the  
jing Forum on October Development: Rethinking Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions of China  
Human Rights 19-21, 2010 Concepts, Models and and representatives from UN and other interna-  
    Approaches tional organizations.  
       
         

 
2018] REFORM AND OPENING-UP AND CHINA’S PARTICIPATION 387  
  IN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COOPERATION PROCESS  
      (Continued)  
         
Name Time Theme Participants  
         
The 4th Bei-   Concept of Value and Nearly 100 people from 26 countries and rep-  
  resentatives from international organizations such  
jing Forum on September Human rights, Cultural as the United Nations, as well as senior human  
Human Rights 21-23, 2011 Traditions and Human rights officials, experts and scholars from the  
    Rights Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions of China.  
       
         
T h e  5 t h   Science and Technol- Over 120 senior human rights officials, experts  
Beijing Forum December and scholars from 32 countries and regions and  
ogy, Environment and  
o n  H u m a n 12-13, 2012 Human Rights representatives from international organizations  
Rights   such as the United Nations.  
     
         
 
The China Foundation for Human Rights Development also make full use of its own advantages to cooperate with foreign foundations, relevant institutions and do-mestic provincial and municipal departments to hold several international seminars and forums on bilateral and professional human rights issues. For example, the China Foundation for Human Rights Development has jointly hosted many Sino-German human rights seminars with the China Association for Cultural Exchanges with For-eign Countries and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The China Foundation for Hu-man Rights Development hosted the First International Forum on Human Rights and Museology. The China Foundation for Human Rights Development and the National Committee on United States-China Relations have co-hosted several sessions of the Sino-US Seminar on justice and human rights.
 
2. Sending human rights delegations go abroad
 
The China Society for Human Rights Studies has visited Austria, Australia, Bel-gium, European Union, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Swit-zerland, New Zealand, Morocco, Egypt, Australia, South Africa, Singapore, United States, the United Kingdom, and other foreign countries, and engaged in exchanges with people from all walks of life in these countries. The China Foundation for Hu-man Rights Development has also dispatched a delegation to visit several countries at the same time.
 
3. Receiving foreign delegations
 
Since its establishment, the China Society for Human Rights Studies has received and conducted exchanges with many foreign delegations, which has enhanced mutual understanding.
China now has many academic institutes for human rights studies, such as hu-man rights research centers in universities and research institutes all over the country. These human rights research institutions are also conducting various forms of inter-national human rights exchanges, including participating in international academic conferences on human rights, inviting foreign human rights scholars to give lectures in China, teaching human rights courses and lectures abroad, and conducting human rights studies abroad, cooperating with foreign scholars to study human rights issues, conducting various research and training in collaboration with UN human rights institutions and so on.
 
IV.  The Fourth Stage (2013-Now)
 
The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in Beijing in November 2012, which blew a new horn for further deepening reform and open-ing-up. China was at a new historical starting point, and a new generation of Chinese leadership led by Xi Jinping as the core has continued to lead China’s great practice of reform and opening-up.
 
China entered a new era of comprehensively deepening reform in 2013. During this period, an important feature of China’s reform and opening-up was to lead inter-national cooperation at a height that focused on the destiny of mankind. It was against this background that China began to put forward the concept of “a community with a shared future for human beings” on the international stage. President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech entitled “Keeping up with the Trend of the Times and Promoting World Peace and Development” at the Moscow Institute of International Relations on March 23, 2013. In this speech, President Xi first put forward the con-cept of “building a community with a shared future for human beings”. He pointed out: “In this world, countries all over the world have an unprecedented degree of interconnection interconnectedness and interdependence and human beings live in the same global village, as well as the same time and space where history and reality meet, which is more and more like a community with a shared future.”17 In September and October 2013, President Xi respectively proposed cooperation proposals for the construction of the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The Belt and Road Initiative advocates the active development of economic partnerships with countries along the route to jointly create a community of common interests, common destiny and common responsibility featuring political mutual trust, economic integration, and cultural inclusion.
 
A.  Main activities in international human rights field
 
With the proposals that countries work together to build a “a community with a shared future for human beings” and advance the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s participation in international human rights cooperation entered a new stage. During this period, China’s participation in international human rights exchanges and cooper-ation continued to deepen. In October 2013, China was subject to the second round of universal periodic review of by the UN Human Rights Council. Representatives from 137 countries participated in the interactive dialogue on China’s human rights review at the meeting. Most countries fully affirmed China’s remarkable progress in human rights, understood the difficulties and challenges China faced, and some also offered sincere and constructive advice. China’s positive achievements in human rights were recognized by the international community, and they include the progress in socioeco-nomic development; the progress in the realization of the UN’s Millennium Devel-opment Goals, especially the realization of goals to eradicate poverty and ensure the right to education for all; China’s technical assistance to developing countries; China’s commitment to enact a national policy to combat child abuse, and so on. In March 2014, the UN Human Rights Council reviewed and approved China’s acceptance of the second round of national human rights review reports.
 
On November 12, 2013, the 68th session of the UN General Assembly voted to reelect the members of the UN Human Rights Council, and with a 176-vote, China was re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the term from 2014 to 2016. On October 28, 2016, China was successfully re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council with a vote of 180 votes for the term from 2017 to 2019.
 
In September 2013, China accepted the review of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. In May 2014, China accepted the UN Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ review of the second implementation report on China’s fulfillment of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In October 2014, China accepted UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s reviews on the Seventh and Eighth National Reports of China’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In November 2015, China accepted the review of the UN Committee against Torture.
 
In 2013, Ms. Cong Jun was re-elected as a member of the Committee on Eco-nomic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Ms. Zou Xiaoqiao was re-elected as a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. In 2014, Pro-fessor Zhang Kening from the Nanhai Research Institute of Xiamen University was elected as a member of the UN Committee against Torture with a term to 2017, and Ambassador Chen Shiqiu later succeeded Ms. Cong Jun as a member of the Commit-tee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 2015, Chinese expert You Liang was elected as a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2016, Ambassador Li Yanduan of China was elected as a member of the UN Com-mittee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In 2017, Ambassador Chen Shiqiu was successfully re-elected as a member of the Economic, Social and Cultural Com-mittee, and Chinese expert Song Wenyan was successfully elected as a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
 
At the same time, bilateral human rights dialogues added new partners, such as the African Union, South Africa, and Brazil and so on, and multi-channel international human rights exchange activities were carried out in an orderly manner. From 2013 to 2015, the China Society for Human Rights Studies and the China Foundation for Hu-man Rights Development held the sixth, seventh and eighth Beijing forums on human rights. The topics of the meeting were “Constructing an Environment for Sustainable Human Rights Development”, “The Chinese Dream: New Progress in China’s Human Rights”, “Peace and Development: Victory of World Anti-Fascist War and Human Rights Advancement.” In December 2016, in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the adoption of UN Declaration on the Right to Development, China hosted the “In-ternational Seminar on the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of UN Declaration on the Right to Development”. At the same time, Chinese non-governmental human rights organizations also carried out extensive activities of visits, seminars and exchanges.
 
B.  Breakthroughs in international human rights exchanges and cooperation
 
Apart from these rich and colorful international human rights cooperation and exchange activities, China has also achieved some breakthroughs in its international cooperation and exchanges since 2013, which was mainly reflected in the following aspects.
 
1.  The idea of building a community with a shared future for human beings became an integral part of the international human rights discourse
 
On February 10, 2017, the 55th session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development unanimously adopted the resolution “Social Aspects of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” and the concept of “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings” was first written into the UN resolution. On March 1, 2017, at the 34th meeting of the Human Rights Council, on behalf of 140 countries, China issued a joint statement entitled “Promoting and Protecting Human Rights and Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings”, further explaining, in the international human rights arena, the concept of “Building a Com-munity with a Shared Future for Human Beings” and its significance for promoting the development of the international human rights, which aroused widespread reso-nance in the international community. On March 23, 2017, among the numerous reso-lutions adopted at the 34th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, two resolutions, “Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in All Countries” and “Rights to Food” clearly proposed to building a community with a shared future for human beings. The former resolution stated that, “We must spare no efforts to promote de-mocracy, strengthen the rule of law, realize peace and development and respect all in-ternationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development; and believe that extensive and enduring efforts are needed to build a community with a shared future for human beings.” The later one pointed out that: “In order to realize the commitment of the international community, we must be resolved to take new steps to build on a community with a shared future for human beings through strengthening international cooperation and solidarity and making unremitting efforts to achieve significant progress in the realization of food rights.”18 This was the first time that the idea of building a community with a shared future for human beings had been included in UN Human Rights Council resolutions,19 and become an integral part of the international human rights discourse.
 
2.  China’s concept of “development for human rights” was introduced into international human rights discourse for the first time.
On June 22, 2017, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution proposed by China entitled “Development’s Contribution to the Enjoyment of All Human Rights”. The resolution reflected the appeals and aspirations of developing countries, won the support of a large number of developing countries, and was co-signed by more than 70 countries. It was the first time that a resolution on development issues was adopted in the history of the Human Rights Council.20 The resolution clearly stat-ed that the establishment of a community with a shared future for human beings was the common aspiration of the international community, confirmed the significant con-tribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights and called on all coun-tries to pursue people-centered development, seeking development momentum among the people, relying on the people to promote development and making the develop-ment benefit all people. The resolution appealed to all countries to strengthen inter-national cooperation and advance sustainable development, in particular to fulfill the 2030 sustainable development agenda to promote the full enjoyment of human rights. The resolution welcomed all countries to further advance development initiatives so as to promote partnerships and achieve win-win cooperation and mutual development.21 The resolution was China’s contribution to global human rights governance, which in international human rights, would enhance the developing countries’ right to speak and set agendas to a certain extent and increase the influence of developing countries.
 
3.   The concept of “promoting win-win cooperation in human rights” advocated by China becomes part of the international human rights discourse
 
On March 23, 2018, the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council adopted the resolution of “Promoting Win-win Cooperation in Human Rights” advocated by China. The resolution called on all countries to work together to build a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, win-win cooper-ation and to build a community with a shared future for human beings. It emphasized that all countries must adhere to multilateralism and strengthen dialogue and cooper-ation in human rights so as to achieve win-win cooperation. Ambassador Yu Jianhua, the Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations in Switzerland, pointed out that, “We are in the era of globalization where cooperation is the essence and win-win results is are the require-ment. Achieving the lofty goal of enjoying human rights for all requires countries to firmly embrace the concept of win-win cooperation, to conduct dialogue and coopera-tion in human rights and to jointly promote and protect human rights. In addition, win-win cooperation is the original mission of the United Nations. The United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and the series of resolutions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council strongly appeal for and advocate cooperation and dialogue. Promoting cooperation and win-win results in the field of human rights would effec-tively advance the development of international human rights and promote the build-ing of a community with a shared future for human beings. The resolution proposed by China, is in line with the development trend of the current era, and is positive con-tribution by China to global human rights governance.22
 
4.  A new high-end platform built by China for human rights exchanges and cooperation among developing countries
On December 7- 8, 2017, the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly sponsored the first “South-South Human Rights Forum” in Beijing. More than 300 officials and scholars from over 70 countries and international organizations attended the forum whose scale and high specifications were unprec-edented in human rights. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the forum, and he pointed out that: “The development of the global human rights needs the efforts of the vast number of developing countries. I hope that the interna-tional community will respect and reflect the will of people from developing countries in a the spirit of fairness, justice, openness and tolerance so as to promote the fuller human rights of the people in developing countries and achieve the common prosperi-ty and development of all mankind.”23 With the theme of “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings: New Opportunity for South-South Cooperation”, the forum had six sub-forums, these were “Building a Community with a Shared Fu-ture for Human Beings and Promoting Global Human Rights Governance”, “Realiza-tion of Inclusive Development and Human Rights Under South-South Cooperation”, “Safeguarding of the Right to Education in Countries Under South-South Coopera-tion”, “Poverty Alleviation and the Safeguarding of the Right to Food in Countries Under South-South Cooperation”, “Realization of the Right to Health in Countries Under South-South Cooperation”, and “China and South-South Cooperation: Key role in Promoting Global Human Rights Development”. The participants reached numer-ous consensuses through in-depth discussions and exchanges on relevant topics, and finally formed the “Beijing Declaration” that united these consensuses. The South-South Human Rights Forum hosted by China was a new platform for developing countries to exchange and cooperate in the field of human rights, which was not only a useful attempt to expand the South-South cooperation, but also important for pro-moting the participation of developing countries in global human rights governance and increasing the voice of developing countries in the field of international human rights.
 
V.  Conclusion
 
To sum up, China’s reform and opening-up are closely related to China’s participation in international human rights cooperation process. China’s participation in the international human rights cooperation process is based on the process of reform and opening-up. With China’s reform and opening-up entering a new historical stage, domestic ideological emancipation would will reach a new high, so and that China’s participation in international human rights cooperation would also make great strides. In the late 1970s, it was because of China’s implementation of the reform and open-ing-up that emancipated people’s mind that China began to participate in the process of international human rights cooperation and exchanges. Later, as China’s reform and opening-up continued to deepen, China made new progress in the process of its participation in international human rights cooperation and exchanges. In the context of China’s reform and opening-up, a multi-ministerial cooperation group targeting at studying international human rights activities was established in 1980; the first human rights white paper was published in 1990; the inclusion of Human Rights in Consti-tution was proposed in 2004 and the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings was proposed in 2013. These are all significant milestones in the pro-cess of China’s participation in international human rights cooperation and exchanges.
 
(Translated by LI Man)
Chinese Dictionary:

@cn_humanrights

For the latest news and analysis from our

reporters and editors:Staff Twitter List>>

E-mail:chinahrs@public.bta.net.cn