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Study on the Joint Meeting Mechanism for the National Human Rights Action Plan
October 18,2019   By:CSHRS

Study on the Joint Meeting Mechanism for
the National Human Rights Action Plan

CHANG Jian*

Abstract: The joint meeting mechanism for the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) is a multi-faceted mechanism which unifies political, legislative, administrative, judicial and social sectors. It undertakes the responsibility of formulating, implementing, supervising and evaluating the NHRAP, promotes mutual learning, exchange and competition among member units in the protection of human rights. Over the ten years since it was established, it has proved to be a successful innovative mechanism for protecting human rights that is in line with China’s national conditions. In order to improve the operation of the joint meeting mechanism the NHRAP, it is necessary to establish a more effective coordination mechanism within the joint meeting mechanism, and to subdivide the monitoring and evaluation functions into three levels.

Keywords: human rights ; the National Human Rights Action Plan ; the joint meeting mechanism practices

China began drafting and formulating its first National Human Rights Action Plan in 2008. The first two action plans have come to an end and their evaluations have been completed; a third action plan is now under way. The formulation and implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) marks that the development of China’s human rights cause has entered a new phase of “planned, sustained and steady, comprehensive promotion”.1 In order to enact and implement the third National Human Rights Plan, China has set up a Joint Meeting Mechanism for the National Human Rights Action Plan. It is a mechanism with Chinese characteristics and it plays an important role in successfully formulating and implementing the national human rights action plan. On the 10th anniversary of the launch of the first National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010), this paper makes a brief analysis of the composition, responsibilities and the fulfillment of these responsibilities of the Joint Meeting Mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan (hereinafter named as the joint meeting mechanism) and raises policies advice on how to effectively improve the role of the joint meeting mechanism in implementing the National Human Rights Action Plan.

I. The Composition and Responsibilities of Joint Meeting Mechanism

China established the joint meeting mechanism for the formulation of the first National Human Rights Action Plan. The first joint meeting mechanism included 53 departments.2 The joint meeting mechanism for the second National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015), added the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Office of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Ministry of Finance, and the Food Safety Commission of the State Council, while the National Coal Mine Safety Administration was removed. The member departments were increased to 563 in total. To the third joint meeting mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan, the State Internet Information Office and Chinese Human Rights Department Foundation were added. However, due to the integration and adjustment of the departments, the Ministry of Supervision, Railway Ministry, the National Audit Office, the Commission on Food Safety, and the Subcommittee of Social and Legal Affairs were removed. The national news publication bureau and The State Administration of Radio Film and Television were integrated as the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Therefore, the total number of departments included decreased to 51.

A. The composition of the joint meeting mechanism

The joint meeting mechanism is led by State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the process of implementation, these two departments have different responsibilities. The State Council Information Office is responsible for drafting and appraising the National Human Rights Action Plan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for drafting and implementing the action plans concerning international human rights treaties and international exchanges and cooperation.

Based on the composition of the joint meeting mechanism, the departments included can be classified into six categories. The first one is the organization institutions of the ruling party, including the Organisation Department, Publicity Department, The United Front Work Department, International Department and Policy Research Office and so on. The second is the national legislature and political consultative institutions, including the Office of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the legislative affairs commission of the NPC Standing Committee, the General office of the CPPCC, the Social and legislative Affairs Committee of the CPPCC, and so on. The third is national judicial organs, including the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and so on. The fourth is the state administrative agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, State Nationalities Affairs Commission, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Supervision, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Ministry of Natural Resources Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Ministry of Housing and Urban-rural Development, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, National Health Commission, National Population and Family Planning Committee, National Audit Office, State Administration for Market Regulation, State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, General Administration of Sports, State Administration of Production Safety Supervision and Regulation, National Coal Mine Safety Administration, National Bureau of Statistics, State of Forestry, National Intellectual Property Administration, National Religious Affairs Administration, Ministry of Justice, The State Council Information Office, Cyberspace Administration of China, National Public Complaints and Proposals Administration, China Food and Drug Administration, National Food Security Committee, The State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, and the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council, National Working Committee on Aging, and so on. The fifth is people’s groups, including the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, All-China Women’s Federation, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China, and the China Disabled Peoples’ Federation. The sixth is social organizations, including the China Society for Human Rights Studies and China Foundation for Human Rights Development.

B. The responsibilities of the joint meeting committee

According to the rules set by National Human Rights Plan, the main responsibilities of the joint meeting mechanism include formulating, enforcing and appraising Human Rights Plans. Wang Chen, director of the Information Office of the State Council pointed out at a news conference for the first National Human Rights Plan that the Joint Meeting Mechanism for the National Human Rights Action Plan is responsible for formulating the action plans and making coordinated efforts to implement, supervise and appraise the action plans.4

The first duty is to formulate the National Human Rights Action Plans. In order to formulate this Action Plan, the government has set up a joint meeting mechanism in accordance with the first National Human Rights Action Plan.5 According to the third National Human Rights Action Plan, the National Human Rights Action Plan is formulated by agencies led by the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and approved by the joint meeting mechanism.6

The second duty is to make overall plans and coordinate to implement the National Human Rights Action Plan. Wang Chen explained at the press conference: “At the beginning of formulating the first National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010), the Chinese government attached great importance to its implementation. The national authorities have the main responsibilities for respecting and protecting human rights. In order to urge the national authorities to shoulder the main responsibility, the joint meeting mechanism was set up to formulate plans through consultations between the concerned departments and organizations. The mechanism incorporated all national departments and organizations responsible for protecting human rights and unified the process of involving departments and units in developing the action plans and the responsibilities and obligations of the relevant departments and organizations. During the process, all departments and organizations improved their understanding and fulfilled their responsibilities, which effectively protected the implementation of the action plan. According to the joint meeting mechanism, its members, the national authorities, administrative agencies, and judiciary, under the principle of “each performs their own functions based on division of labor” should include the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) into the responsibilities of their departments and organizations and assign their tasks to the offices of all departments and organizations at all levels to implement the action plan.7

The third responsibility is to supervise and appraise the National Human Rights Action Plan. As is regulated in the First National Human Rights Action Plan, it is the joint meeting mechanism constituted by the legislative and judiciary organizations and departments in the state council led by the state council information office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is responsible for the implementation, supervision and appraisal of the action plan.8 The Second National Human Rights Action plan regulates clearly that the joint meeting mechanism for the National Human Rights Action Plan will conduct phased research, examinations and a final evaluation. In addition, it will release an appraisal report.9 The Third National Human Rights Action Plan further puts forward that to implement the joint meeting mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan and strengthen the supervision and appraisal of implementing the action plan, ensure its all-round and multi-level implementation and require the joint meeting mechanism of National Human Rights Action Plan to introduce a third-party evaluation system for phased researches, examination and appraisal, and release the appraisal reports in time.10

II. The Process for the Joint Mechanism to Formulate the National Human Rights Action Plan

The joint meeting mechanism has completed formulating the third National Human Rights Action Plan. In order to meet the professional standards of formulating and appraising the National Human Rights Action Plan, the joint meeting mechanism established a panel of experts from universities, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to draft and appraise the National Human Rights Action Plan. The members of the experts panel involved in drafting the first National Human Rights Action Plan included: Professor Chang Jian, Professor Zhao Zhengqun and Vice Professor Tang Yingxia from Nankai University, Professor Liu Jie from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Qi Yanping from Shandong University, Professor Ban Wenzhan from China University of Political Science and Law, Professor Liu Huawen from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Zhan Zhongle from Peking University, Professor Zhang Wanhong from Wuhan University, Vice Professor Yu Lvxue from Renmin University of China, and Professor Li Yunlong from the Party School.11 The experts panel members involved in drafting the second National Human Rights Action Plan included: Professor Chang Jian and Professor Zhao Zhengqun from Nankai University, Professor Zhou Wei from Sichuan University, Professor Liu Huawen from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Liu Jie from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Li Yunlong from the Party School.12 The experts panel members involved in drafting the third National Human Rights Action Plan included: Professor Zhang Yonghe, Vice Professor Meng Qingtao, Professor Wang Longwen and Doctor Li Chaoqun from Southwest University of Political Science and Law, Professor Chang Jian from Nankai University, and Professor Qi Yanping from Shandong University.

According to the released resources, the process for the joint meeting mechanism to formulate the National Human Rights Action Plan can be divided into four phases.

A. Preparation

In the preparation stage, the joint meeting mechanism requires member organizations and expert panels to research relevant references and resources. The research includes:

First, research the Party and country’s policies and overall plans for the development of human rights in China. The joint meeting mechanism requires member organizations to study and research the Party and country’s documents on human rights and regards the documents as the guiding ideology to formulate the National Human Rights Action Plan. The second National Human Rights Action Plan clearly pointed out that the guiding ideology for formulating and implementing the National Human Rights Action Plan is to hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, guided by Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thinking of the “Three Represents”, and deepen the implementation of the scientific development concept.13 The Third National Human Rights Action Plan further clarified that the guiding ideology is to hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, fully implement the spirit of the 18th National Congress and 3rd, 4th and 5th Plenary Sessions of the 18th Central Committee, and take Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thinking of the “Three Represents”, Scientific Development Concept as the guide, and the fully implement the spirit of the important speech of General Secretary Xi Jinping.14

Second, undertake research on the rules and laws of human rights. Joint meeting mechanism requires member organizations to study relevant provisions in Chinese Constitution, laws and regulations, and regards it as a legal basis for formulating a national human rights action plan. Meanwhile, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the basic spirit of International Bills of Human Rights, are important references to formulate the National Human Rights Action Plan. The First National Human Rights Action Plan clearly pointed out that formulating the plan implements the constitutional principle that China respects and protects human rights.15 The principle of formulating the plan is to follow the basic principle of the Chinese Constitution, basic spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Bills of Human Rights, improve the rule of law to protect human rights, and promote the development of human rights in China according to the law.16 The Second National Human Rights Action Plan further clarified the principle about promoting the development of human rights in China according to the law, required that the formulation and implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan should follow the constitutional principle that the nation respects and protects human rights, the basic spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, improve the rule of law and the implementation mechanism for respecting and protecting human rights from the perspective of legislation, administration and judiciary, and promote the development of the Chinese Human Rights Initiative according to the law.17 The Third National Human Rights Action Plan pointed out again that formulating National Human Rights Action Plan is based on the constitutional principle that China respects and protects human rights, and the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Bills of Human Rights.18

Third, study the Handbook on National Human Rights Plans of Action formulated by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Formulating a national human rights action plan was put forward in Vienna Declaration and Program of Action agreed at the World Human Rights Conference held in 1993.19 In 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released the Hand-book on National Human Rights Plans of Action to encourage all nations to formulate National Human Rights Action Plans. The Chinese Human Rights Action Plans are a response to United Nations’ initiative about formulating National Human Rights Plans of Action.20 The joint meeting mechanism requires the member organizations and expert panels to study the Handbook on National Human Rights Plans of Action, especially its specific requirements about preparations, agencies involved and responsibilities for formulating, negotiation institutions, content structure, releasing methods, implementation and appraisal in order to meet the standards set by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Fourth, study and read the existing national human rights action plans of other countries. In the fourth part of the Handbook on National Human Rights Plans of Action, the National Human Rights Action Plans of 11 countries including Australia, Bolivia, Latvia, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, the Republic of Malawi, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, and Venezuela are listed as references. The joint meeting mechanism requires member organizations and experts’ panel to not only study the National Human Rights Action Plans of the countries mentioned above, but also investigate those from other countries that aren’t listed in the Handbook. In 2008, when the Chinese government formulated China’s First National Human Rights Action Plan, 23 countries in the world had formulated their action plans.21 Until March 2019, at least 57 countries had formulated and implemented 78 National Human Rights Action Plans. The action plans of these countries vary in structure and content without a unified model. Therefore, despite learning from the action plans of different counties, the structure and content of China’s National Human Rights Action Plans must be drafted based on the reality in China.

Fifth, study items about human rights in the Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (2016-2020). In order to make the National Human Rights Action Plan meet the demands of the reality in China, the joint meeting mechanism requires member organizations and the experts panel to study the five-year plan for national economy and social development and analyze the items concerning human rights protections in the plan so as to closely combine the contents of the National Human Rights Action Plan and national economic and social development plan so the National Human Rights Action Plan can be implemented in the process of national economic and social development. The Second National Human Rights Action Plan pointed out, the action plan should be formulated and implemented on the basis of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic China and human rights cause, and it should be developed together with economy, politics, culture, society and ecology.22 The third National Human Rights Action Plan pointed out clearly that the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic China should be taken into consideration to determine the goal and tasks of protecting and promoting human rights.23

B. Drafting

Drafting the national human rights action plan involves two steps.

First, member organizations of the joint meeting mechanism should combine their department’s own works with specific plans, objectives and indexes for human rights protection. In order to formulate the national human rights action plan, the State Council Information Office organizes several joint meetings to study and assign work for the national human rights action plan.24

The decision to let the member organizations of the joint meeting mechanism provide the initial plans produced three important effects: First, it enabled the member organizations to have a more profound understanding of the connections between their own work and human rights protection in the process of preparing the resources their departments are responsible for; Second, it enabled the goals put forward in the final plan to better meet the demands of the reality of the situation in China; Third, it enabled the implementation objectives of the final plan to have a defined implementation body.

Second, based on the first National Human Rights Action Plan, the goals and indicators set by all member organizations of the joint meeting mechanism, the experts panel writes the first draft of the action plan. Wang Chen, then director of State Council Information Office pointed out that, when he introduced the process for formulating the Second National Human Rights Action Plan, in order to formulate the Action Plan, the State Council Information Office invited experts from universities and research centers such as Nankai University, Sichuan University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, and the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC to establish a panel of experts responsible for writing the action plan based on resources provided by 56 joint meeting member organizations.25

In order to make the National Human Rights Action Plan practical, operational, testable and understandable, the joint meeting mechanism requires “four combinations” during the drafting process.

First, combine the human rights requirements with the national economic and social development plan. In order to implement the action plan, China will keep the plan and implementation period of the human rights action plan consistent with the national economic and social development five-year plan. During the process of formulating the action plan, China will make efforts to combine the goal and requirements of the five-year plan with the requirements of human rights plan to find commonalities. On the one hand, understand the tasks in the national five-year plan from the perspective of human rights and discover the content concerning human rights; on the other hand, integrate the human rights action plan with the requirements of national five-year plan so that the implementation of the five-year plan and human rights action plan can be highly integrated.

Second, combine the policy-oriented principle with specific goals and indicators. The national human rights action plan is a political document which needs to clarify the nation’s attitudes and stance on human rights. Meanwhile, it is a specific action plan which needs to use practical task indicators to show the country’s action plan. The policy principles indicate the goal and direction of action plan while specific task indicators are used to implement the policy principles to increase the credibility of principles. During the drafting process, the group in charge should pay special attention to combine the policy principles with actual indicators. The expression of the policy principles should be concise and correspond to the specific goals and task indicators.

Third, combine the overall description with highlights. The national human rights action plan concerns work in next two to five years, which should cover a wide range of aspects and be comprehensive. Meanwhile, as an action plan, it’s impossible to cover everything but it should highlight key points. The joint meeting mechanism requires the drafting should cover more fields and highlight the key points as much as possible. None of the major aspects in structure should be omitted. In every aspect, the key requirements of Chinese human rights protection during that period should be emphasized.

Forth, combine Chinese characteristics with international discourse. The national human rights action plan should be appropriate for the actual conditions in China so it can show Chinese characteristics for human rights protection. Meanwhile, the national human rights action plan should show international society Chinese attitudes and determination to protect human rights so that it can be understood by international society. Therefore, it needs to be in line with international human rights discourse system. The joint meeting mechanism requires the drafting to integrate expressions with Chinese characteristics with international human rights discourse. The content which can be expressed by international discourse system should directly adopt the international discourse system. But when necessary, expressions with Chinese characteristics can be adopted, and explained using the international discourse system. For example, concerning political rights, the Chinese National Human Rights Action Plan adopts expressions with Chinese characteristics such as the rights to know, participate, expression, supervision but explains their definitions within the international discourse system.

C. Solicitation of opinions and repeated revisions

Solicit advice and make revisions during the process of formulating the plans. During the process of formulating the action plans, the leading organizations organize several joint meetings, panel discussions and forums in numerous forms, and organize relevant organizations and scholars to do research and solicit opinions and advice from all sectors of the society to make it reflect the collective wisdom and requirements of all departments of the government and all sectors of society.

During the drafting and formulation of the first National Human Rights Action Plan, the joint meeting mechanism together with the relevant government departments conducts repeated research and holds several symposiums with the participation of more than 20 organizations, such as the China Law Society, the All China Lawyers Association, the China Legal Aid Foundation, the China Environmental Protection Fund, the China Education Association, the China Women’s Development Foundation, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, the China Disabled Persons Welfare Foundation, and the China Human Rights Development Foundation. Opinions from various social organizations, non-governmental organizations, universities, and research institutions are widely consulted and repeatedly discussed.26 Wang Chen pointed out at a press conference that respecting and protecting human rights is also the common responsibility of the whole society and requires the joint efforts of the society at large. In the process of formulating the action plan, some non-governmental organizations were recruited to become members of the joint meeting, and some experts and scholars in the field of human rights were invited to participate. Through multiple measures, diverse opinions from higher education institutions, research institutes, social organizations, and non-governmental organizations, were solicited. With wide publicity via media, it was ensured that the process of formulating the action plan was with social participation and knowledge of human rights was popularized. This not only broadly absorbed the opinions of all sectors of society but also improved the whole society’s awareness of the action plan. After announcing such a plan, we may conduct a series of publicity activities and ensure that such plan is known to the whole of society. It is hoped that all enterprises and public institutions, social organizations, non-governmental organizations, media, and the public actively take part in promoting, carrying out as well as implementing the action plan.27 During the formulation of the second National Human Rights Action Plan, Wang Chen pointed out in response to a reporter’s question that on the basis of the first draft formed by the end of last year since this year, several joint meetings had been held, along with symposiums, and colloquia, since the beginning of this year. And we organized comrades who are in charge and experts and scholars of the relevant organizations to conduct further investigations and extensively solicit viewpoints and suggestions from various member units and social groups, non-governmental organizations, universities, research institutes and other sectors of society through face-to-face and correspondence exchanges. After more than a dozen repeated studies and discussions, revisions, and improvements the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) was finally completed.28

In soliciting opinions and repeatedly modifying, the joint meeting mechanism paid special attention to the circular interaction between the expressions of government departments, the suggestions of social organizations and the opinions of experts, and combined the medium-sized meetings for consultation and feedback with the thematic seminars of one issue one discussion, ensuring a final consensus is reached by all parties.

D. Examination and approval

In the final examination and approval, the joint meeting mechanism requires that the final document shall be concise and comprehensive. If one word can be deleted, it shall be deleted. However, while maintaining conciseness, ambiguity shall be strictly avoided to prevent misunderstanding.

The final text is submitted to the Central Committee for approval. The statements of the first two issues of the National Human Rights Action Plan were “approved by the State Council” and authorized the State Council Information Office to issue the action plan. The expression of the third National Human Rights Action Plan adopted “Agreed by the Joint Meeting of the National Human Rights Action Plan” and was published by the State Council Information Office with authorization.29

III. Assessment of the Implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan by the Joint Conference Mechanism

In accordance with the requirements of the first National Human Rights Action Plan, the joint meeting mechanism conducted an assessment on the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, which includes two phases: the mid-term assessment and the final assessment.

A. Mid-term assessment of the implementation of the first National Human Rights Action Plan

At the end of 2009, the joint meeting mechanism Human Rights Action Plan conducted a mid-term assessment on the implementation of the first National Human Rights Action Plan. The joint meeting mechanism instructed all relevant departments and units to report on the implementation of the action plan since its release, and organized related units and experts and scholars to carry out targeted research. On this basis, the joint meeting mechanism convened a three-day meeting for the mid-term assessment of the implementation of the first National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010), more than 200 responsible persons from relevant departments and units of more than 50 central state organs participated in and 47 responsible comrades of relevant departments and units made speeches on the implementation of the action plan by their own departments and units. The meeting made a comprehensive summary of the implementation of the action plan, made a serious analysis of the problems in the implementation, and put forward opinions and suggestions on how to further implement the action plan in the next phrase, and the corresponding deployment. Based on the assessment, the tasks and specific indicators projected in the first action plan have been implemented on schedule. Most of the quantitative indicators that needed to be completed in the two years reached about 50 percent, and some hit 65 percent.30

At the assessment meeting, Wang Chen, then director of the State Council Information Office, analyzed the problems and challenges encountered in the implementation. He pointed out that “from this assessment, there are still problems in the implementation, mainly in some localities and units where the implementation was not given enough attention, the awareness of respecting and protecting human rights is not strong enough, the self-awareness and initiative of imbibing safeguarding human rights into the work of the departments and units are not enough as well as some specified goals were not achieved as scheduled in some respects. These problems deserve our high attention. Meanwhile, we should also be clear that due to the continuous spread of the international financial crisis, China’s economic and social development faces greater difficulties, coupled with China’s large population, low level of and uneven development, and inadequate social development. There are still many difficulties and challenges in achieving the goals set out by the first National Human Rights Action Plan within the stipulated time.31 He called on all relevant departments, relevant units and governments at all levels to fully recognize the importance of implementing the national human rights action plan with a high sense of responsibility and urgency, and give this work importance on their agendas with a high sense of responsibility and urgency. To attach great importance to ideas, resolutely implement actions, take effective measures, and effectively integrate the implementation of action plan with the work of the department and the unit, and deliver good work on fulfillment of the organization, work, and responsibility, we can ensure that all tasks and goals of the action plan are completed as scheduled in 2010.32

B. Final assessment on the implementation of the first National Human Rights Action Plan

In November 2010, the joint meeting mechanism launched the final assessment of the first national action plan, which comprised three stages: investigation, assessment, and summary.

From November to December 2010, the State Council Information Office organized media units and human rights experts to conduct research in Shanghai, Sichuan, and other places, and listened to the opinions and suggestions of people from all walks of life to finish an investigation report. The China Society for Human Rights Studies organized human rights experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations five times successively to conduct on-the-spot investigations on implementing the action plan and provide opinions and suggestions in Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, and other places.

On such basis, the joint meeting mechanism instructed all relevant departments and units to conduct self-assessments on how they had carried out, implemented and completed their respective action plan tasks and submit written assessments.

The joint meeting mechanism organized human rights experts to set up assessment panels composed of representatives from the relevant departments and units of the central state organs, people’s groups, non-governmental organizations, and from universities and research institutions such as Nankai University, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC of the CPC Central Committee for collecting information from all aspects and assessing the implementation of the action plan.

In the course of the assessment, the joint meeting mechanism together with the assessment panels held a number of work conferences to verify and study the self-assessment of various departments and units, with the guidance of indicators in the action plan and on a case-by-case basis. In addition, through correspondence and communication, opinions and suggestions of the members of the joint meeting mechanism and all sectors of society were extensively solicited, and the Assessment Report on the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) was finally completed33.

The assessment report concluded that the first action plan was fully implemented. By the end of 2010, the measures stipulated in the Action Plan were effectively implemented, the targets were met on schedule, and all indicators were achieved. Among them, about 35% of the binding indicators and over 50% of the people’s livelihood indicators were completed in advance or over-fulfilled. In addition to the tasks stipulated in the action plan, the Chinese government finished plenty of work in various fields and aspects. After the full implementation of the first action plan, the human rights awareness of Chinese citizens was improved remarkably, the overall living conditions of the people were upgraded significantly, the protection for economic, social and cultural rights was comprehensively strengthened, and the public’s civil and political rights were more effectively protected. What’s more, the rights of the ethnic minorities, women, children, the elderly and the disabled were effectively guaranteed, and exchanges and cooperation in the international human rights field were further deepened. Human rights protection in all fields was fully advanced through institutionalization and the rule of law34.

C. Mid-term assessment on the implementation of the second National Human Rights Action Plan

In 2013, the joint meeting mechanism organized media teams to visit Qinghai, Anhui and other places to conduct on-the-spot investigations on the implementation of the second National Human Rights Action Plan. The interview teams inspected the progress of medical reform in Huangnan Tibetan autonomous prefecture, compulsory education in Gonghe County, the reconstruction of Yushu after the disaster, the environmental pollution control and treatment in Xi’ning, and the preservation and dissemination of Tibetan culture. And they also visited and interviewed the community correction in Ma’anshan Mountain of Anhui province, the elders in community near the north gate of Chuzhou, the poverty alleviation through developing industries in Changfeng county, the legal aid center in Hefei, as well as rights protection for the disabled people.35

In August 2014, the joint meeting mechanism organized media interview teams to Gansu, Xinjiang, Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian and other places to conduct on-the-spot investigations on the implementation of the Second National Human Rights Action Plan. In Xinjiang, the teams in Urumqi County inspected the implementation of the comfortable housing project, the urban and rural residents’ old-age security and the Kazakh modern life. They also visited 15 villages in Khan township and traditional Uyghur doctors in Turpan and investigated the employment and labor security of the TBEA Group in Changji and Kazakh herdsmen’s new courtyard economy in Fukang. In Beijing, the interview teams visited the Beijing First Detention Center. In Gansu, the interview teams visited the Kangle prairie where the Yugu minorities live and administer the Yugu autonomous county located in the south Gansu province. They visited the Buddhism Temple to inspect the religious and cultural protection and the senior’s homes established by Ganzhou District Government, the day-care center for the elderly in Xijie Street and the Mutual Aid Happiness Home for the elderly in Xiaoman county of Dianzizha Village. Besides, they visited the demonstration sites of new rural construction in Daping village and Chankou township, An’ding district, Dingxi, as well as demonstration park of TCM science and technology in Shouyang township, Longxi County, Dingxi. In Shanghai, the teams visited Shanghai Court,Shanghai Procuratorate, the Third Detention Center, Nanhui Prison, Security Housing Project and public primary school for free care. In Fujian, they interviewed Nanzhao Town, SOS Children’s Village in Putian, migrant workers in Xiamen, the construction of affordable housing in Ningde, and the implementation of the college entrance examination policy for students from other provinces in Fujian.36

On December 23, 2014, the joint meeting of the National Human Rights Action Plan held the mid-term assessment meeting on the second National Human Rights Action Plan. At the assessment and summary meeting, members of the joint meeting mechanism including representatives of the Sub-Committee of Legislative Affairs of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the CPPCC, Supreme People’s Court, The Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Education, State Ethnic Affairs Commission, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reported their work to carry out and implement the second National Human Rights Action Plan by their respective departments37. Cai Mingzhao, then director of the State Council Information Office, pointed out in the concluding speech at the mid-term assessment meeting that generally, after more than two years of work, the objectives and tasks of this action plan were well implemented, and one half or more than one half of the most of the quantitative indicators were completed38. Meanwhile, he also pointed out that reforms were entering a critical stage and the deep-water zone, accidents and other emergencies related to public health and social security were frequently to be seen, and violations of the socialist rule of law and harming the interests of the people still exist. More efforts are needed to fully achieve the goals specified in the action plan within the allotted time. He requested to give priority to the key work to complete all the tasks of the National Human Rights Action Plan. 39

D. Final assessment of the implementation of the second National Human Rights Action Plan

In July 2015, the joint meeting mechanism launched the final assessment of the third National Human Rights Action Plan, which included three parts: investigation, assessment and summary.

From July to December 2015, the State Council Information Office organized press units and human rights experts to conduct interviews and research in Beijing, Liaoning, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi, Qinghai, Xinjiang, etc., and listened to the opinions and suggestions of people from all walks of life and the public. Entrusted by the joint meeting mechanism, the China Society for Human Rights Studies organized human rights experts and representatives of social organizations to Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Dalian, Ji’nan, Wuhan, and other places to conduct research on the implementation of the third National Human Rights Action Plan.

At the same time, the joint meeting mechanism instructed all relevant departments and units to conduct self-assessments of how they carried out, implemented and completed their respective action plan tasks and submit written assessment materials. On such basis, the joint meeting mechanism organized relevant departments and units of the central and state organs, people’s groups, social organizations, as well as human rights experts from universities and research institutions such as the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC Central Committee, Nankai University, Shandong University, Southwest University of Political Science and Law, and Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, to verify and study the self-assessments of the various departments and units, and extensively solicit opinions and suggestions of the members of the joint meeting mechanism and all sectors of society, with the guidance of indicators in the third action plan and on a case-by-case basis. Finally, the Assessment Report on the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) was completed.40 Based on the assessment, by the end of 2015, the main projected objectives and tasks in the first phase of the action plan were implemented on schedule. Among them about 48% of the binding indicators and more than 50% of the people’s livelihood indicators were achieved in advance or over fulfilled.41

On June 14, 2016, the joint meeting mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan held a review meeting on the implementation of the second National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The responsible persons from the related departments, people’s groups as well as the grassroots units, such as the Supreme People’s Court, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Poverty Alleviation Office of the State Council, the All-China Women’s Federation, the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, the Executive Committee of the 10th China (Wuhan) International Garden Exposition and other relevant departments in Weining County, Guizhou Province made speeches at the meeting42. Jiang Jianguo, then Vice Minister of Publicity Department and Director of the State Council Information Office, made a concluding speech on behalf of the joint meeting mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan.

IV. Analysis of the Role and Effectiveness of the Joint Meeting Mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan

How to ensure the effectiveness of their National Human Rights Action Plans is a common problem faced by all countries that formulate and implement such plans. In the Guidance Manual for National Human Rights Action Plans issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), it is stated that “National Human Rights Action Plans should include a monitoring mechanism for progress and an assessment mechanism for the achievements of the National Human Rights Action Plans.” It also calls for “Every effort should be made to avoid situations where human rights objectives are published passionately but are put on the shelf due to the lack of follow-up action.” “There are many possible monitoring mechanisms. However, no matter which kind of such mechanisms is chosen, it shall be given high-level support and attention within the government, ensuring that the enable government agencies may respond to program initiatives and suggestions. It is best to have a government department to lead the oversight process. Oversight should cover all levels of government in order to ensure the full undertaking of the responsibility to implement the plan.” 43

Based on the different circumstances of countries, varied organizations were established for the formulation, implementation, and supervision of National Human Rights Action Plan. For example, in the National Human Rights Action Plan of Lithuania, it is stipulated that all relevant committees in the parliament and relevant departments of the government bear the responsibility for supervising related human rights affairs. Moldova established a National Human Rights Action Plan Improvement and Implementation Coordination Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan and has the authority to recommend the Parliament to modify or supplement the content of the Action Plan. Sweden established an Inter-Departmental Working Group on Human Rights to monitor the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan. Finland set up three agencies to supervise human rights. The first one was the Government Working Group composed of an authorized contacts network, and the second one was the Panel of Human Rights Actors composed of representatives of social organizations, labor organizations, local governments, and human rights centers. The last one was the Human Rights Center responsible for writing research reports on the implementation of the Human Rights Action Plan.44

The joint meeting mechanism for the National Human Rights Action Plan established by China is in line with China’s specific national conditions and it is effectively playing its role in practice. First, such a mechanism is multi-dimensional in the organizational structure. It integrates politics, legislation, administration, judicature, and other social aspects, and synergizes the forces of all parties to ensure full support for the National Human Rights Action Plan. Second, the joint meeting mechanism is functionally uniting discussion, implementation, supervision, and assessment. The members of the joint meeting mechanism were the creators of the National Human Rights Action Plan as well as the executors, supervisors, and evaluators of the plans’ implementation. This ensures that the National Human Rights Action Plan is more feasible and that the goals set out in the National Human Rights Action Plan are effectively implemented. Third, the joint meeting mechanism has the function of promoting mutual learning, communication, and competition. Although many government departments have dealt with a lot of affairs related to human rights in peacetime, they have not linked their work to human rights since the lack of understanding about human rights. In participating in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and assessment of the National Human Rights Action Plan, as the member of the Joint Conference Mechanism, they may continuously improve their understanding of human rights and all the more aware of to protect human rights, through various mobilization meetings, experience exchange meetings and evaluation summary meetings organized by the joint meeting mechanism. In addition, the pattern of competition formed during their finishing the works of human rights protection will promote the effective implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan.

While summarizing the successful experiences of the joint human rights action plan mechanism over the past ten years, it should also be noted that the operation of the mechanism needs improving. First, the coordination mechanism within the joint meeting mechanism needs to be strengthened. At present, the main structure is that the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs play a leading role as the leading units, while other departments only perform their own duties. However, achieving some of the goals of the National Human Rights Action Plan requires the collaboration of some departments. If there are more specific coordination mechanisms within the joint meeting mechanism, the efforts of the member units can be better integrated and coordinated. Second, the supervision and assessment function of the joint meeting mechanism can be further divided into three levels: first, the self-monitoring and assessment of each member unit; second, the overall supervision and assessment of the joint meeting mechanism; third, the third-party supervision and assessment undertaken by the media and social organizations. The combination of the three can promote more comprehensive supervision, make the assessments more objective, and the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan more effective.

(Translated by LI Man)

 

* CHANG Jian ( 常健 ), Director of Nankai University Human Rights Research Center (a national human rights education and training center). Professor in Zhou Enlai School of Government. The paper is a phased outcome of the project researching Developments in the Theory and Practices of Socialist Human Rights with Chinese Characteristics since the Eighteenth National Congress, which is the subproject of Marxist Theory Research and Development Project “researches on major basic theories on human rights”.

1. Wang Chen, “the director of State Council Information Office, answered reporters’ questions on publicizing National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, June 12, 2012, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //politics, people, com. cn/GB/18147406. html.
 
2. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010), People’s Publishing House, 2009, 3.

3. Wang Chen, “the director of State Council Information Office, answered reporters’ questions on publicizing National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, June 12, 2012, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //politics, people, com. cn/GB/18147406. html.
 
4. “Wang Chen answered reporters’ questions on National Human Rights Action Plan in China (2009-2010)”, April 14, 2009, accessed March 1, 2019, www.xinhuanet.com: http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2009-04/14/content_11183160_2.htm.

5. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2009), 3.
 
6. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 4.

7. Wang Chen, “the director of State Council Information Office, answered reporters’ questions on publicizing National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, June 12, 2012, accessed March 1st, 2019, http: //politics, people, com. cn/GB/18147406. html.

8. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2009), 4-5.

9. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2012), 50.
 
10. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 45.

11. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010), People’s Publishing House, 2009, 3-4.

12. Wang Chen, “the director of State Council Information Office, answered reporters’ questions on publicizing National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, June 12, 2012, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //politics, people, com. cn/GB/18147406. html.
 
13. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2012), 3.

14. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 2.

15. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2009), 2.

16. Ibid., 3.

17. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2012), 50.
 
18. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 1-2.

19. The World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 1993, Part II, Para. 71.

20. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2009), 2.

21. Xu Yao, “Human Rights Action Plan from a Global Perspective: A Macro Vision”, (paper in forum, 2019).
 
22. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2012), 3.

23. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 2.

24. Xinhua, “56 Departments convene joint meetings to assign and formulate a new National Human Rights Action Plan”, Septemper 28, 2011, accessed March 1, 2019, https : //www. mfa. gov. cn/ce/cgny/chn/zt/y17091/ t863381. htm.
 
25. Wang Chen, “the director of State Council Information Office, answered reporters’ questions on publicizing National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, June 12, 2012, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //politics, people, com. cn/GB/18147406. html.
 
26. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2009), 4.
 
27. Xinhua, “Wang Chen answered reporters’ questions on National Human Rights Action Plan in China (2009-2010)”, April 14, 2009, accessed March 1, 2019, http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2009-04/14/content_11183160_2.htm.

28. Wang Chen, “the director of State Council Information Office, answered reporters’ questions on publicizing National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, June 12, 2012, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //politics, people, com. cn/GB/18147406. html.

29. The State Council Information Office, National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 4.
 
30. Wang Chen, “Speech at the mid-term assessment on the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (December 3, 2009)”, accessed March 1, 2019, http: z/www. gov. cn/jrzg/2009-12/03/ content_1479405. htm.

31. Ibid.
 
32. Ibid.

33. The State Council Information Office, Assessment Report of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2011), 2-3.
 
34. The State Council Information Office, Assessment Report of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2011), 8-9.

35. An Interview Team to Qinghai and Anhui, “Investigations on the Implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //www. Human rights. cn/cn/zt/tbbd/44/index. htm.
 
36. Human Rights. CN, “Human Rights Action in China-A Mid-term Assessment of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //www. humanrights. cn/cn/zt/tbbd/49/index. htm.

37. Human Rights. CN, “Extract from the Mid-term Assessment of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //www. humanrights. cn/html/2014/1 _ 1225/4013. html.

38. Cai Mingzhao, “Promoting the Development of Human Rights in China Led by the Chinese Dream”, accessed March 1, 2019, http: //www. humanrights. cn/ html/2014/1_ 1224/3995. html.

39. Ibid.
 
40. The State Council Information Office, The Assessment Report on the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 2-3.

41. Ibid., 8.

42. Xinhua, “Summary Meeting in Beijing on the Implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015)”, June 14, 2016, accessed March 1, 2019, http: z/www. gov. cn/xinwen/2016-06/14/content_5082040. htm.
 
43. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Handbook on National Human Rights Plans of Action, (New York and Geneva: United Nations, 2002), 19-20.

44. Xu Yao, “Inspection and Promotion Mechanism and Enlightenment of European National Human Rights Action Plan”, Human Rights 2 (2017):108-113.
 
 

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