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Establish an International Communication Platform for Human Rights and Promote China’s Discourse Power on Human Rights — A Review on Ten Years of Beijing Forum on Human Rights
May 17,2019   By:CSHRS
Establish an International Communication Platform for Human Rights and Promote China’s Discourse Power on Human Rights

—  A Review on Ten Years of Beijing Forum on Human Rights

REN Danhong*
 
Abstract: The Beijing Forum on Human Rights is a global human rights forum founded by the China Society for Human Rights Studies in 2008. It has been successfully held for nine times. In the past 10 years, the forum has kept up with the trend of the times and carefully set up issues; seeking common ground while reserving differences, seeking the greatest consensus on human rights; being open and inclusive, and building a model of international human rights exchange and cooperation. The forum has become a high-level academic platform for human rights exchanges and cooperation on the basis of equality, harmony, tolerance, openness and mutual respect, and has played an important role in promoting the healthy development of the international human rights cause. With the socialism with Chinese characteristics entering a new era, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights needs to position new roles in the new era, seek more clear development momentum and direction, and promote the vitality, cohesiveness and international influence of the Forum in a deep and all-round way and contribute to the development of world human rights cause and global human rights governance.

Keywords: Beijing Forum on Human Rights w international human rights exchanges w discourse power on human rights
 
The 2018 Beijing Forum on Human Rights has just come to an end. As a witness of all previous Beijing Forum on Human Rights, I cannot help sighing. Time flies so fast, and the Forum has already been held ten times. 2008 was the 30th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, and the 60th anniversary of releasing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On April 21, 2008, the first Beijing Forum on Human Rights sponsored by the China Society for Human Rights Studies opened. Government officials on human rights affairs and academic scholars from all over the world gathered in Beijing to discuss the common development of human rights in China and the world.

2018 marked the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. China respects human rights, protects human rights and promotes human rights in the process of reform and opening-up, successfully embarking on a path of human rights development that conforms to its national conditions, which creates new experiences and miracles of human rights protection in the history of the development of human civilization. As the development of China’s human rights cause in miniature, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights has been successfully held for nine times along with the process of China’s reform and opening up. Chinese President Xi Jinping once sent a congratulatory letter to the “2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights”. Each Forum has attracted hundreds of dignitaries, senior officials and well-known think tank scholars from more than 40 countries, regions and international organizations, including the United States, the UK, France, Switzerland, Russia, Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, South Africa, the United Nations and the European Union.

Ten years have passed. The Forum holds high the banner of dialogue and cooperation, upholds the principles of frank exchanges, mutual learning and common progress, expands the participation scope year by year, improves its personnel level year by year, deepens its themes and enhances its international influence significantly. It has become a high-level academic platform for human rights exchanges and cooperation among countries on the basis of equality, harmony, tolerance, openness and mutual respect, which has played an important role in promoting the healthy development of international human rights cause. To sum up, it has the following outstanding characteristics.

I. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Congratulatory Letter Pointed out the Direction for the Development of China’s Human Rights Cause and the Forum

Respecting and protecting human rights is the firm will and unremitting pursuit of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government. Over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, “respect and protect human rights” has successively been included in the report of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Constitution, the Constitution of the Communist Party of China and the strategic plan for national development. It has been an important policy goal of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government to continuously implement the National Human Rights Action Plan of China to protect human rights.

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the CPC Central Committee, with President Xi Jinping as the core, has attached great importance to human rights. President Xi Jinping emphasizes that the realization of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is essentially a process of continuously promoting the development of the human rights cause. President Xi Jinping congratulated the “2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights”, fully affirming the great significance of this forum, profoundly stating China’s positive contribution to promoting the cause of world peace and concentrating on the basic positions and views of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese Government on human rights issues. It embodied President Xi Jinping’s persistent pursuit and mission to promote the development of the international human rights cause and to promote the building of a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings. The content of the letter was as follows:

“On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression as well as the World Anti-Fascist War, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights this year is themed with “Peace and Development: Victory of World Anti-Fascist War and Human Rights Advancement,” which helps all parties deeply reflect on the guarantee of rights to peace and development of mankind. On behalf of the Chinese government and people and in my own name, I would like to extend a sincere congratulation to the opening of the forum.

Seventy years ago, in order to safeguard the peace, justice and dignity of mankind, all countries and people loving peace and freedom in the world won the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War after tenacious struggle at the cost of the loss of tens of millions of lives. During the war, the Chinese people resisted Japanese militarists’ brutal aggression for 14 years, making huge sacrifices and remarkable contributions to the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. The Chinese people, having gone through much suffering in modern times, know very well the great significance of human value, basic human rights and human dignity to social development and progress and especially cherish the hard-won peaceful development environment, and will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and steadfastly advance the human rights cause in both China and the world.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government always respect and ensure human rights. For a long time, China, by connecting the universality principle of human rights with China’s reality, has constantly advanced social and economic development, improved people’s welfare, promoted social fairness and justice, strengthened the legal guarantees for human rights and strived for comprehensive and coordinated development of economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. This has significantly elevated the guarantee for people’s existence and development rights and paved a path for human rights development compatible with China’s national conditions.

Attaining people’s full enjoyment of human rights is a shared goal of humanity. There is no best only better human rights guarantees. The international community should actively push forward the global human rights cause, and, particularly, pay attention to the existence and development rights of people in developing countries. The Chinese people are striving for the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, which will guarantee Chinese people’s human rights at a higher level and promote their comprehensive development.

       China advocates that we should enhance exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations and push exchanges and cooperation among all countries, thus ensuring a better development of the human rights cause in all countries. I hope that participants from around the world pool their ideas through active discussion and contribute to promote a healthy development of the human rights cause around the world.”

       All participants in the forum highly appreciated President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter to the forum. Tom Zwart, president of The Netherlands School of Human Rights Research, said that the congratulatory letter of President Xi Jinping to the 2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights and participation of several senior officials of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese Government fully reflected the great importance attached to it and provided a clear signal and a special perspective for the world to further understand China. Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, Muzanur Rahman, has pointed out that President Xi Jinping has put forward the idea of promoting a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings on many occasions. This congratulatory letter is a clear and sincere expression of the Chinese people’s love, yearning and persistence in pursuit of peace to the international community. China is a firm force for maintaining world peace and promoting common development. Domestic experts and scholars participating in the forum agree that the congratulatory letter, with its lofty intentions, rich connotations and ideological nature, is a guide for action to promote the development of China’s human rights cause for quite a long time in the future. Vice President of the China Society for Human Rights Studies Li Junru, says that President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter is of great significance in guiding human rights research. As human rights theorists in China, we have the responsibility to further study and explain the rich human rights ideas embodied in President Xi’s congratulatory letter, and constantly provide theoretical support for the development of China’s human rights cause. Liu Hainian, a Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, points out that China’s human rights theorists should seriously study President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter, constantly enhance confidence in our path, in our theory and in our system as well as strategic determination, further build a discourse system of human rights with Chinese characteristics, and tell Chinese human rights stories to the outside world.

II. Following up the Times and Carefully Setting Forum Topics

The topic setting of the forum is the key to the positive results of the forum. All the forums have designated themes and sub-themes determined with an open and inclusive mind, grasped the trend of the times and the general trend of the world, faced the realistic problems of the development of human society directly, and echoed the concerns of the international community, reflecting not only Chinese elements, but also the understanding, thinking and responsibility of a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings and international human rights affairs.

In summary, the topics have mainly focused on the following issues (see Table 1).
 
Table 1 Themes of Beijing Forum on Human Rights (2008-2018)

Year Theme Sub-themes
2008 Security, development and human rights 1.Security and Human Rights
2.Development and Human Rights
3.Diversity of Civilizations and Human Rights Development
2009 Harmonious Development and Human Rights 1.Human Rights Protection in the Context of International Financial Crisis
2.People-oriented Development and Human Rights Protection
3.Elimination of Poverty and Protection of Human Rights
2010 Human Rights and Development: Rethinking Concepts, Models and Approaches 1.Scientific Development and Human Rights
2.Cultural Diversity and Human Rights
3.Global Governance and Human Rights
2011 Cultural Tradition, Values and Human Rights 1.Values and Human Rights
2.Cultural Tradition and Human Rights
3.Human Dignity and Human Rights
2012 Science &Technology, Environment and Human Rights 1.Technological Development and Human Rights
2.Information Age and Human Rights
3.Environment and Human Rights
2013 Constructing a Sustainable Environment for Human Rights Development 1.Rule of Law and Human Rights
2.Society Construction and Human Rights
3.Regional Security and Human Rights
2014 The Chinese Dream: New Progress in China’s Human Rights. 1. The Human Rights Significance of the Chinese Dream
2. Cross-cultural Exchange of Human Rights
3. National Governance Innovation and Human Rights Guarantee
4. Anti-terrorism and Human Rights Guarantee
2015 Peace and Development: Victory in the World Anti-Fascist War and Human Rights Advancement 1. World Anti-Fascist War: Human Rights and Anti-Human Rights Game and Lessons
2. Safeguarding Human Rights and World Peace: China’s Excellent Contribution
3. The Right to Peace: An Important Connotation of Human Rights
4. Realization and Guarantee of the Right to Development after the Victory of World War II
2018 Poverty Elimination: Seeking Common Development to Build a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings 1. Poverty Elimination and the Realization of the Rights to Subsistence and Development
2. The Thought, Achievements, and Experience of China in Poverty Elimination and its Significance to Human Rights
3. International Cooperation and Human Rights Protection in Poverty Alleviation
4. Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings and Human Rights Protection
 
A.    Human rights and development issues

Human rights and development have always been major issues of deep concern to the international community, and particularly important issues facing developing countries. The right to development is an inalienable human right. Development is the key to solving all the problems of contemporary society and the important foundation and prerequisite for realizing security and human rights. In the past years, development issues have been the focus of five forums. The theme of Security, Development and Human Rights of the first Beijing Forum on Human Rights in 2008 was to start from a new historical point, to review and summarize the experience and lessons of human rights development in the 60 years after the issue of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to analyze current opportunities and challenges, and to actively promote the benign interaction and coordinated progress of world development, security and human rights. In 2009, the second Beijing Forum on Human Rights was held against the background of the continuing spread of the international financial crisis, which posed unprecedented challenges to global development and a serious threat to the universal enjoyment of human rights. The forum focused on the “Harmonious Development and Human Rights”, and set three sub-theme, namely “Human Rights Protection in the Context of International Financial Crisis”, “People-oriented Development and Human Rights Protection”, and “Elimination of Poverty and Protection of Human Rights.” In 2010, the second year after the outbreak of the international financial crisis, the third Beijing Forum on Human Rights opened. The international financial crisis exposed the drawbacks of the capitalist development model and its human rights model, highlighted the advantages of China’s development path, and further prompted people to think that what kind of development concept could better promote the harmonious development of the world and universal human rights, and what kind of development path could better enable us to cope with new global challenges and create a better life for mankind. The theme of “Human Rights and Development: Rethinking Concepts, Models and Approaches” established by the forum reflected the international community’s general concern for accurately understanding the relationship between human rights and development and actively exploring the promotion of human rights through scientific development, which was well-directed, necessary and practical.

Participants held that development is the inherent requirement of progress in human society, the material basis for the realization of national prosperity, national rejuvenation, social harmony and people’s happiness, and an inalienable human right of people in all countries. Human rights are closely related to harmonious development. The international financial crisis calls for a new outlook on development and human rights. When taking policy measures to deal with the international financial crisis, countries should insist on giving priority to the protection of human rights, ensuring that measures are introduced to help solve the problems of employment, poverty and hunger of ordinary people, and help to guarantee the basic right to survival and development of vulnerable groups. We should reform unreasonable and unfair international financial systems, establish fair, effective, transparent and responsible international financial systems, and fundamentally prevent the financial crisis and its adverse impact on human rights. All countries, especially the developed countries, should actively take on their international responsibilities and strive to eliminate the negative impact on human rights in other countries without reducing foreign development assistance or adopting protectionist measures.

B. Human rights and poverty elimination issues

Poverty eradication is the basic right of people in all countries to pursue a happy life. Poverty directly impacts human survival, dignity and development, and limits people’s enjoyment of basic rights. Poverty is still the greatest challenge facing the development of human rights in the world. The theme of the 2018 Beijing Forum on Human Rights was “Poverty Eradication: Seeking Common Development to Build a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings”, and the sub-themes were “Poverty elimination and the realization of the rights to subsistence and development”, “The thought, achievements, and experience of China in poverty elimination and its significance to human rights”, “International cooperation and human rights protection in poverty alleviation”, and “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings and Human Rights Protection”. The Beijing Forum on Human Rights embodies the beautiful vision of human rights development, the common concern of the international community for solving poverty and better safeguarding human rights, which is of great practical significance. The forum has provided a new opportunity and fresh vitality for global cooperation in poverty reduction and human rights development.

Participants believe that poverty eradication, human rights protection and common development are the proper meaning of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings, as well as the beautiful vision described in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Poverty Reduction Strategy Project, Benjamin Davis, says that ensuring investment in agricultural areas and in rural areas was crucial to reducing extreme poverty and hunger. Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development makes us realize that fragmentation cannot solve today’s global challenges. Gaston Hakiza, Dean of the National School of Administration in Burundi, believed that poverty reduction must be combined with national development projects, balancing human rights protection and social development, and building better projects to aid people in poverty by helping them to find work and eliminate poverty.

C.    Human rights and security issues

Peace and security are the basic prerequisites for the protection of human rights, as well as the important preconditions for the realization of development and universal human rights. Peace is the blessing of mankind and war is the curse of the world. 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. With the theme of “Peace and development: Victory in the World Anti-Fascist War and Human Rights Advancement”, the forum had four sub-themes, namely, “The World Anti-Fascist War: Human Rights and Anti-Human Rights Game and Lessons”, “Safeguarding Human Rights and World Peace: China’s Excellent Contribution”, “The Right to Peace: An Important Connotation of Human Rights”, and the “Realization and Guarantee of the Right to Development after Victory in World War II.” Participants in the forum actively discussed opposing war, protecting human rights, and promoting peace, development and other issues, and reached consensuses and achieved fruitful results.

Participants agreed that ensuring human security is not only a basic need of human survival, but also the starting point for human rights protection. All countries should hold high the banner of the right to peace, oppose any attempt and action to distort and glorify the history of aggression, guard against the recurrence of wars and human tragedies, safeguard human justice and dignity, and effectively protect human rights. Lord Forbes Davidson, an MP of the British Labor Party, believes that the wars of aggression pose a great threat to the human right to life. All countries that have invaded foreign countries, including Britain, must fully understand their atrocities, acknowledge the harm done to the invaded countries, and take objective and clear measures to apologize for the violation of the right to peace in order to avoid repeating their mistakes. Vilma Thomas Ramirez, Human Rights Coordinator of the Multilateral and International Law Division of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that the right to peace is essential to the right to human survival. Those countries that are most active in promoting wars and military interventions in some parts of the world should abandon double standards and support the United Nations in codifying the right to peace.

D.    Human rights and cultural issues

Diverse cultures and civilizations have been the reality of the evolution of human society for thousands of years. They are the important driving force for humans to continuously move forward. Respect for multiculturalism and diversity of values is a guarantee of human rights. The promotion of the concept of human rights and the human rights discourse is never the preserve of any particular culture, on the contrary, they always embody the convergence and integration of multiculturalism. In 2011, the Fourth Beijing Forum on Human Rights, with the theme of “Cultural Tradition, Values and Human Rights”, had three sub-themes, namely “Values and Human Rights”, “Cultural Traditions and Human Rights”, and “Human Dignity and Human Rights”, advocated that all countries should actively safeguard the diversity of the world, promote dialogue and integration among different civilizations, respect various values, respect different national values, historical and cultural traditions and political systems, form and adhere to the scientific development model of human rights protection, and constantly expand the development space for human rights protection.

Participants generally agreed that we should actively safeguard the diversity of the world, promote dialogue and integration among civilizations, respect various values, expand human rights protection, make the world more beautiful and colorful, and make mankind more harmonious and happier. Pierre Bercis, President of the French New Human Rights Association, refuted the practice of imposing one’s human rights views on others by force, pointing out that cultural tradition is the great wealth that every nation contributes to the mankind, and that every nation should decide its own views on human rights according to its own traditions. Nevid Hanif, Director of the Strategic Planning Division, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, pointed out that culture plays a key role in human dignity and identity. Culture and rights are essential for development, poverty eradication, social cohesion, mutual respect and understanding between individuals and groups, and thus peace. Elizabeth Steiner, a judge of the European Court of Human Rights, pointed out after comparing the differences of human rights concepts between China and Europe, that each country’s human rights concepts are the reflection of their own traditions, cultures, ideologies and political systems. In the era of globalization, the exchange of different values can bring new prospects and hope for human intellectual development.

E.     Human rights and technology issues

Scientific progress has fundamentally changed the way of human life and development, deepened the connotations and extended the concept of human rights. However, science, like a “double-edged sword”, may have negative effects if it is not restricted and regulated in the development of human rights. In 2012, the fifth Beijing Forum on Human Rights focused on “Science &Technology, Environment and Human Rights” and included sub-themes such as “Technological development and human rights”, “information age and human rights”, “environment and human rights”. While continuing to focus on traditional human rights topics such as subsistence and development, the forum focused on hot and cutting-edge issues in the field of international human rights development, which was of great significance for the forum to maintain its vitality and enhance the well-directedness of the discussion themes.

Participants agreed that the concept of human rights should be introduced into the field of science and technology, the construction of ethics and morality of science and technology should be strengthened, and the system of laws and regulations should be improved to ensure that human rights, including the right to health, the right to a healthy environment and the right to privacy, are not infringed in the process of scientific activities, research and development and the application of technology. Delegates at the forum focused on the relationship between environmental protection and economic development, social stability and other issues. They believe that the environment is the basis for human survival. Protecting and optimizing the environment is the fundamental condition for achieving sustainable economic and social development, improving the quality of human life and guaranteeing human happiness and harmony. The Internet has changed the way information dissemination, as well as the means of production and the lifestyle of human beings, provided convenient channels for people to obtain information and express opinions, and created more favorable conditions for the realization of civil political, economic, social and cultural rights. However, the spread of rumors, network fraud, infringement of intellectual property rights, theft of personal privacy and other issues through the internet, seriously undermine the development of the online environment and the healthy development of human rights.

F.     Global human rights governance issues

Injustice, intolerance and insecurity still exist in today’s world, and the problems of unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development remain prominent. President Xi Jinping has put forward the great idea of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings. It embodies the new value pursuit of human society, establishes a new concept of human rights, and provides a new program for global human rights governance. The Beijing Forum on Human Rights is not confined to China’s domestic human rights practice or the broad concept of human rights. It has begun to deepen the essence of international human rights governance. It has not only continued to track and deepen discussions on major bottleneck issues in the field of human rights, but also paid more attention to the discussions on strengthening education, culture, medical care, health and environmental protection in international human rights cooperation. In the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, participants fully discuss issues such as global governance and human rights, building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings and human rights protection, international cooperation for poverty elimination and human rights protection, anti-terrorism and human rights protection. Participants believe that President Xi’s important statement on the building of a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings is the “key” to poverty eradication, providing ideas and directions for strengthening and improving global human rights governance and promoting the healthy development of international human rights undertakings. The international community should abandon the idea of “win or lose” and “rich or poor”. Countries should have the mind of “Find your beauty, and that of others; Share the beauty; and achieve unity”, and promote the establishment of a fair, just, reasonable and effective international human rights system.

At the same time, the Beijing Forum is also based in China to conclude China’s human rights development experience, path and practice. For instance, in 2014, the forum focused on the theme of the “Chinese Dream: New Progress in China’s Human Rights Cause”, explored the human rights significance of the Chinese Dream, and explained that the Chinese Dream is closely related to the world dream and the dreams of people of all countries, which benefits the peaceful development of mankind and the progress of human rights in the world. For example, sub-themes such as “Safeguarding Human Rights and World Peace: China’s Excellent Contribution”, and “The Human Rights Significance of China’s Poverty Elimination Concept, Achievement and Experience” have contributed more Chinese elements to the forum and shared China’s experience in human rights protection.

III. Seeking Common Ground while Reserving Differences and Seeking the Greatest Consensus on Human Rights

Over the past 10 years, people from various countries in the field of human rights have gathered in Beijing, adhering to the spirit of mutual understanding, seeking common ground while reserving differences and seeking truth, discussing the way to safeguard human rights and how to realize a bright future for humankind. They have conducted extensive, profound and sustained discussions on more than 30 issues in the field of human rights, and have achieved a series of consensuses and results.

A.    Respecting the diversity of human rights development paths

Participants generally agree that the issues of human rights should be considered not only in terms of universality, but also in terms of the particularities of different countries in different historical and cultural backgrounds. There is no universal human rights development model and development path in the world. Lord Forbes Davidson, MP of the British Labor Party, argues that in the face of the diversity of the global community, it is difficult to assert that there are universal answers that are absolutely applicable to all societies. When discussing human rights in any given society, it is necessary to balance social harmony and stability with the needs of individuals. Akmal Saidov, Director of the National Human Rights Center in Uzbekistan, says that there was no universal development model applicable to all countries in the same historical period. Without considering specific historical, social and national and regional traditions, it would be counterproductive to impose a “universal standard” of democratic development. International cooperation in the protection of human rights should adhere to the principles of equality and mutual respect, and take full account of the level of socio-economic development and historical and cultural traditions of different countries. Tom Zwart, a Professor at the Law School of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Director of the Dutch Institute of Human Rights, points out that indigenous culture is an important basis for the protection of human rights. Western developed countries believe that their values are universal, which is a kind of “cultural arrogance”. Scholars from developing countries should actively seek and gain academic discourse power to express their opinions and ideas.

B.     Expanding international human rights exchange and cooperation

Participants agree that international exchanges and cooperation are good ways to promote the development of international human rights. All countries should carry out dialogues, exchanges and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect, actively promote international mutual learning, learn from each other’s strengths and complement each other’s weaknesses, and seek common progress and development. John Milligan-Whyte, Chairman of the US-China Foundation (USCF), says that countries should treat each other’s human rights situation objectively, adopt constructive ways to resolve human rights differences, and vigorously promote exchanges and cooperation. For example, in the field of intercultural exchanges, participants think that the differences in national conditions, cultural backgrounds and values between countries around the world have resulted in differences in how to protect human rights and the focus of human rights protection. Under such circumstances, intercultural exchanges of human rights are of great importance. A judge of the European Court for Human Rights, Ms. Elizabeth Steiner, who has participated in the Beijing Forum on Human Rights many times, believes that intercultural communication does not mean ignoring differences or denying differences, it should take into account the cultural traditions and development status of different countries while seeking to improve human rights. Zhang Liyan, Senior Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and a professor at the National University of Singapore, says that if we dig deeply into the connotations of human rights, we will find that the understanding and protection of human rights should not be based on a single political system or economic situation as a reference model, but should be pluralistic. Therefore, through such intercultural exchanges, doubts can be dispelled and mutual trust can be established, then real dialogue can be carried out, so that human rights protection can be adapted to the political, economic and social development of different countries. In the field of poverty reduction, participants believe that poverty eradication is the common responsibility of the international community and needs a comprehensive and integrated programme, as well as a fair, transparent and democratic new international economic and political order to provide solutions for the sustainable development of developing countries. All countries should strengthen exchanges and mutual learning in the field of poverty reduction, establish a new type of international cooperation and exchange for poverty reduction with win-win cooperation as the core, uphold the spirit of working together, helping each other, sharing power and responsibility, share experiences and draw wisdom, promote North-South and South-South cooperation, and accelerate the process of global poverty reduction. Gabriele Iacovino, Director of the Italian Centre for International Studies, says that alleviating global poverty requires a concerted commitment from the international community. The European Union and China can cooperate multilaterally to promote human rights protection in the field of poverty reduction. In the field of anti-terrorism, participants believe that in order to strengthen international cooperation and raise the legal awareness of the whole people, an international organization should be established to study the characteristics, dynamic and trends of terrorism. All countries share the information of this organization, cooperate with each other and jointly fight against terrorism.

C.    Highly affirming China’s development path and human rights practice

Professor Tom Zwart, at the Law School of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, believes that China is a successful story and a great society. China can share with the world its experience of rapid development and practice of protecting and developing human rights according to its own culture and national conditions, so that the world can understand the progress of China’s human rights cause. This is also China’s third contribution to enriching and developing the world’s human rights theory.

1.      The path of human rights development in China is exemplary.

French professor Pierre Picard points out that as a developing country with one fifth of the world’s population, China has “demonstrated a new model of human rights development" to its own people and other countries. China regards development as its primary task and sets economic and social development goals in line with its national conditions. In the past few decades, China has made remarkable achievements, which are the basis for guaranteeing the full enjoyment of human rights by its citizens. Collen Murphy, Dean of the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, says that security, development and human rights are the three pillars and core values of the United Nations, in which China is playing an active role. China’s help and leadership will always be indispensable to narrow the gap between rich and poor countries, between large and small countries, and between powerful and weak countries. Only in this way can the new international human rights system develop and grow. Mohamed Numan Jailer, the former Egyptian Ambassador to China and strategic research adviser of the Bahrain Academic Research Center, points out that China has embarked on a road of human rights development with its own characteristics, and the development of human rights is admired by the world. The Chinese government attaches great importance to safeguarding the people’s right to subsistence. China has always given priority to safeguarding the people’s right to economic development and always adhered to the freedom of religious belief and earnestly safeguarded people’s right to believe in religion.

2.      China’s achievements in poverty reduction are of great significance.

Participants believe that President Xi Jinping’s series of important discussions on poverty reduction and development, such as “on the road to poverty reduction, we should not leave behind one poor family or one poor person”, have had a strong guiding significance for promoting the cause of poverty reduction. Reform and opening-up have provided a powerful driving force for China to eliminate poverty. China’s achievements in poverty reduction are a major contribution to the cause of human rights in the world. Nina Karpajova, the supreme representative of human rights in Ukraine’s parliament, points out that China has solved poverty, a major problem plaguing the world, in a very short period of time, and has shown the world a new way of thinking to solve human rights problems. Diaby, Chairman of Guinea’s National Independent Human Rights Institution, believes that China’s experience in poverty reduction has pointed out a significant way out of poverty for many developing countries in extreme poverty. Magzani, Director of the Division for Human Rights Review of OHCHR Countries, points out that China’s poverty reduction practice not only provides geographic help to other countries, but is also a global model of mutual learning and cooperation. Silka Kolpera, a Professor at Columbia University in the United States, points out that China is the first country in the world to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction and plays a leading role in poverty eradication and global economic recovery. China’s assistance to African countries focuses on establishing a new type of strategic cooperative relationship. It has carried out cooperation and assistance on the basis of mutual equality, mutual trust and win-win situation to help African countries eliminate poverty and achieved positive results. Anders Kombas, Director-General of the OHCHR, says that in the past 30 years, China’s most remarkable achievement in the field of human rights in the world was to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and to solve the problem of food and clothing. China has set an example for the world in this respect.

3.      China has made significant contributions to world peace

Participants generally agree that China spares no effort in safeguarding the right to peace, and that China has made tremendous contributions to safeguarding human rights and world peace both in wartime and after the war. Stephanie Grimaldi, curator of the Mémorial de Caen in France, says that World War II was essentially a battle between human rights and anti-human rights. It is precisely because of the tremendous efforts made by Chinese in the War of Resistance against Japan that the Japanese aggressive forces stopped outside Europe. Tom Zwart, Director of the Dutch Institute of Human Rights, points out that during World War II, China made great contributions to the World Anti-Fascist War and now plays a decisive role in the development of international human rights policies. These efforts are not only to safeguard the fundamental interests of the Chinese people, but also to safeguard the common interests of the international community. Gu Minkang, a Professor at the Law School of City University of Hong Kong, believes that China’s peaceful settlement of international disputes under the principle of “one country, two systems” and the successful and peaceful return of Hong Kong and Macao to the motherland are significant contributions to the right to peace in the world. Stefano Vernole, Editor-in-Chief of the Italian Journal of Asia and Europe, says that China has no overseas military base, undertakes a large share of the United Nations budget, and actively expands space for the protection and development of national and international human rights on the principle of mutual respect.

4.      China’s efforts to promote common development

Experts and scholars participating in the forum believe that, on the basis of respecting the social systems and development paths chosen independently by various countries, China has continuously broadened its development ideas and concepts and sought common and shared development with other countries. Stacy Links, a Researcher at the Dutch Institute of Human Rights, points out that China’s aid activities to Africa, as well as its support to the BRICs, are in fact an important case of safeguarding the right to development. A Professor at Kathmandu School of Law, University of Bubanchar in Nepal, Yubaraki Sangrila, points out that the Asian infrastructure investment bank and the implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative have created the prospect of “Asian Economic Integration” and will further promote the rapid economic development of South Asia and other countries. Egyptian Ambassador for Human Rights Mahmoud Karim says that China has helped poor countries create better economic, social and cultural development opportunities, and has contributed to improving the welfare of the people of the world and the pattern of distribution of interests.

IV. Practical and Open-minded, Creating a Model for International Human Rights Exchanges

Over the past 10 years, the major and positive achievements of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights have been increasingly recognized and appreciated by developing countries and even the international community, and have become models for international human rights exchanges and cooperation. The meaning and impacts are as follows:

A.    Establishing a communication platform for the realization of full human rights

To realize the great dream of everyone’s enjoyment of human rights, we need to gather the wisdom and strength of all parties, and we need to gather ideas, sum up experience, deepen understanding and gain momentum from multiple levels and multiple angles. The Beijing Forum on Human Rights has established an important platform for government departments, international organizations and think tank scholars all over the world to exchange ideas, enhance mutual trust, seek common ground while reserving differences and build consensus. Participants believe that the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, as an authoritative and representative annual event devoted to the discussion of human rights issues, has become a “think tank” to help other international organizations make important decisions, which plays a unique role. Akmal Saidov, Director of the National Centre for Human Rights Studies of Uzbekistan, points out that holding a global human rights forum in Beijing is a new mode for China to explore multilateral human rights dialogues and exchanges, and also provides an important reference for other countries to explore human rights issues in new forms. Compared with the human rights forums held by some western countries, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights is the only true multilateral and equal mechanism for exchanges and dialogues. Discussions are always frank, open and sincere and conducted in a friendly atmosphere. The forum respects the reality of the diversity of human rights issues in various countries, and does not attach any political significance or embrace double standards.

B.       Providing an open window for the international community to gain an in-depth understanding of the human rights situation in China

Seville Katura, Executive Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the Philippine Republic, points out that the Beijing Forum on Human Rights is a special way to let people know about the situation of human rights promotion and protection in China. Martin Ehoygian Umobi, former President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, points out that the deliberate organization and arrangement of the forum had proved convincingly the consistent and firm commitment of the Chinese Government to support and spread, promote and safeguard human rights and to respect all cultures and civilizations in today’s world. Tom Zwart, Director of the Dutch Institute of Human Rights, says that China’s human rights cause has proved that developing countries can protect and promote human rights in their own way. Therefore, China should be more confident to make its voice heard by the world through such a platform as the Beijing Forum on Human Rights.

C.    Making positive contributions to promoting global human rights governance

“Looking at the world, we are facing unprecedented changes this century.” At present, the power contrast in the world is accelerating, unilateral protectionism is spreading, the existing international system is severely impacted, competition and the games among major powers are becoming increasingly fierce, traditional hot issues are lingering, and non-traditional security problems such as climate change and refugees are coming one after another. Over the years, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights has issued a strong voice against unilateralism and protectionism. It advocates adhering to the principles of Consultation, Contribution and Shared Benefits, gathering insights into promoting the development and progress of the world’s human rights cause and injecting positive energy for creating a new world of lasting peace and universal prosperity, establishing a fair, just, reasonable and effective international human rights system, and building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings.

V. Conclusion

Over the past 10 years, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights has demonstrated the new prospects of China’s reform and opening-up, interpreted the new era of China’s development, put forward new ideas for the future and forged new achievements in partnerships. It has witnessed the development and progress of China’s human rights cause and the development and evolution of the world’s human rights cause, as well as the “Chinese wisdom” and “Chinese plan” of China’s commitment to promoting global human rights governance. The vitality of the forum lies in innovation. How to position a new role in the new era, seek a clearer driving force and direction for development, and promote the vitality, cohesion and international influence of the forum in a deep and all-round way are urgent issues for the future development of the forum.

First we should further enhance the leadership of themes. We can consider setting up such long-term themes as “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings”, “Common Development” or “Seeking Win-Win Solutions”. Within the framework of these themes, every year, according to the current situation and hot-spots, new formulations and content can be extended, and the latest human rights research achievements of think tanks can be published, so that the Beijing Forum on Human Rights can become an authoritative platform for the latest global human rights concerns, leading the views and ideas of the times.

Second, we should further promote the cohesion of pragmatic cooperation. While being institutionalized, the forum’s functions should be extended to practical cooperation or business areas. Through visits, exchanges, seminars and project studies, we should establish various forms and levels of exchanges and cooperation networks with all parties in the fields of poverty reduction, anti-terrorism, education and women, make efforts to promote South-South human rights exchanges and cooperation, solve various difficulties and bottlenecks encountered in practical exchanges and cooperation, release the potential of cooperation with the spirit of reform and innovation, and add new hope and new momentum for the new era of global human rights governance.

Third, we should further demonstrate the vitality of sustainable development. Based on a new era and a new starting point, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights should strive to become the source of important discussions on human rights, the leading place of important topics on human rights, and constantly enhance its international influence. In terms of personnel invitation, we should continuously improve the representation of geographical distribution, hierarchical structure and professional fields, especially invite more representatives of international organizations and non-governmental organizations to participate. In the form of the forum, flexible and diverse forms such as holding forums in different places and overseas can be adopted to hold regional and thematic conferences with distinctive features.

The full enjoyment of human rights for all is a great dream of human society. As an international and high-level platform for human rights exchanges elaborated by China Society for Human Rights Studies, the Beijing Forum on Human Rights will continue to provide new ideas and measures for promoting a more just, rational and inclusive global human rights governance, and contribute to the construction of a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings and the creation of a better future.

(Translated by LI Man)


* REN Danhong ( 任丹红 ), a researcher at the Secretariat of China Society for Human Rights Studies.

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