Comparison of Human Rights Values Between the East and the West — Summary of the 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights
April 06,2020   By:CSHRS
Comparison of Human Rights Values Between the East and the West

— Summary of the 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights
LI Lei* & TENG Rui*
Abstract: The 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights hosted by the China Society for Human Rights Studies and Austria-China Friendship Association was successfully held in Austria on June 21, 2019. Through this conference, China, as an important representative of Eastern countries of human rights, demonstrated its fruitful theoretical and practical human rights achievements to European countries. The conference also witnessed lively communication and exchanges on human rights values and the human rights discourse system between China and the West, during which scholars of the East and the West discussed the universality and particularity of human rights, and the evolution of human rights under different historical and cultural values. The conference advocated that the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings proposed by China should be incorporated into human rights governance of sovereign states and the international community. The convergence and integration of the human rights concepts of the East and the West will inevitably lead human rights practices of the East and the West to embark on a new journey.
Keywords: the east and the west   China-Europe   human rights values
On June 21, 2019, the 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights was successfully held at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Austria. The seminar was sponsored by China Society for Human Rights Studies and Austria-China Friendship Association, and undertaken by the Law School and the Institute for Human Rights and Law of Huazhong University of Science and Technology. Lu Guangjin, secretary-general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, attended the seminar and delivered the opening and closing speeches. Heinz Fischer, former president of Austria and president of Austria-China Friendship Association; Professor Fu Zitang, vice-president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies and president of Southwest University of Political Science and Law; ambassador Li Xiaosi of the Chinese Embassy in Austria; and professor Xu Xiaodong, vice-president of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, attended the seminar and delivered opening remarks. Gerd Kaminski, executive vice-president of the Austria-China Friendship Association, presided over the opening ceremony, closing ceremony and delivered a keynote speech at the conference. Wang Xigen, professor and dean of the Law School and director of the Institute for Human Rights and Law of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, made an academic summary for the seminar at the closing ceremony.
Organized by China Society for Human Rights Studies, the annual China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights aims to gather academics and politicians in China and Europe to discuss and exchange views on human rights. The seminar held its first session in Strasbourg, France, in 2015, and subsequent sessions were held in Chongqing, China, in 2016, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 2017, and Brussels, Belgium, in 2018. The human rights themes of previous seminars have ranged from safeguarding children’s rights, safeguarding rights of the minority ethnic groups, employment of the disabled to the diversity of civilizations. With the deepening of exchanges between China and European countries in the field of human rights, this seminar was based on the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings. The seminar featured farsighted and insightful views and opinions, highlighted the uniqueness of China’s human rights theories and practices, which are different from those of the West, and seeking a common ground amid the collisions and differences in the human rights dialogue. It has positive theoretical and practical significance. Chinese and Western scholars have once again contributed new dynamics to the human rights cause of mankind.
I. Academic Characteristics of the Seminar
The 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights welcomed more than 100 hu-man rights experts and scholars from some 30 universities and research institutions in China and human rights research institutions from more than 20 countries and regions in Europe. This seminar brought together some 40 academic papers from China and the rest of the world, which focused on the following four themes of human rights in China and Europe, namely, “The universality and particularity of human rights”, “The significance of human rights in a community with a shared future for human beings”, “The history and evolution of human rights values” and “The practice of human rights in the PRC and its significance to the world”. All the experts present at the seminar offered historical analysis and theoretical comparative analysis on the values of human rights, and produced a series of high-quality, high-standard and high-grade research results. The seminar featured the following distinctive academic characteristics.1
First, Chinese and Western scholars had a rational, peaceful academic dialogue on an equal footing. Human rights research is based on the pursuit of scientific truths.
All researchers are equal in pursuing the essence and methodology of human rights theories. In a seminar without academic or political barriers, scholars from China and Europe carried out dialogue and exchanges on a rational, equal and peaceful platform. With academic papers as the media for communication, they expressed their opinions with arguments, evidence and survey data. This academic seminar is not only an academic discussion on human rights between China and Europe, but also an important global dialogue on human history and the status quo in the course of human rights evolution.
Second, the human rights seminar adopted a global perspective. Human rights are a common academic language in the world, which can break national boundaries and language barriers. Most of the scholars participating in this seminar come from China and European countries but the research subjects of the scholars also extend to Latin America, North America, Asia and Africa. Human rights research should have humanistic care and embrace the thought of universal harmony in the world. The Confucian and Taoist traditions of China have strong concerns for all things in the universe. Human rights research is not only based on the perspective of domestic legislation, but also characterized by farsighted openness.
Third, this year’s seminar was inclusive and open towards the diverse human rights cultures across the globe. Due to the historical and cultural differences among different countries, human rights of different countries have independent and distinct characteristics. With rapidly advancing human rights research, China is more confident and more eager to have dialogues with the West. Chinese researchers not only modestly accept the successful cases of human rights practice in European countries, but also confidently show their own research capabilities to European countries and provide mature theories and practices of human rights for reference and study to Western society.
II. Exploring the Conflicts and Coordination Between Chinese and Western Human Rights Values
Safeguarding human rights is one of the value objectives of the law. Human rights, in turn, need a series of value systems as their support. These values systems have been formed in the process of continuous evolution and change in the long history of mankind and are contained in the rich heritage of human civilization. The human civilizations scattered around the world are in a variety of different forms. They are differentiated from each other by location, ancestry, religion, language, history, custom and so on. These elements have gradually contributed to the unique political and ideological trends in different countries. Such political value preferences as humanitarianism, humanism, liberalism, collectivism and others have penetrated into the human rights theories of various countries. In particular, the civilizations in the Axial Age have become the driving forces for the birth of human rights. The Chinese human rights values with oriental characteristics feature a pluralistic combination of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism and other thought. These traditions contain rich humanity and concern for human nature. The human rights values in the West originated from many regions and were driven by many turning points in history. The Greek civilization promoted civil and political consciousness; the Renaissance promoted humanism; the Enlightenment promoted people’s understanding of scientific rationality, and the bourgeois revolution promoted the view of natural human rights. History does not stop at a single concept of civilization. The conflicts and competition among civilizations replaced the competition among superpowers in the post-Cold War era.2 In this way, civilizations of all countries have constructed their own brand-new value system of human rights in the divides and conflicts. Human rights values of different civilizations in the world gather together, showing a diversified and differentiated pattern, with a multifaceted display of human rights.
A. Differences and conflicts between Chinese and Western human rights values
The differences and conflicts between Chinese and Western human rights values in the field of human rights are as follows: First, the contradiction between universality and relativity of human rights. Second, the contradiction between absolute liberalism and relative liberalism. Third, the differences between individualism and collectivism amid a new international political and economic order.3 Fourth, the contradiction between multi-culture and mono-culture. Professor Chang Jian, director of the Human Rights Research Center of Nankai University, described the specific causes of cultural differences between China and Europe: In contrast to European culture, Chinese political and legal culture is deeply influenced by holism and people’s livelihoods, while European modern culture is almost centered on individualism and liberalism. China, which pays attention to the overall situation relating to people’s livelihood, takes the overall right to subsistence of the people as the core right, especially emphasizing the protection of economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of vulnerable groups. Instead of being overstated, individual rights are limited by social obligations. Citizens always believe that the state is the subject that can actively protect human rights. Influenced by liberalism and the concept of individual freedom, Western countries pay more attention to protecting citizens’ civil and political rights. They publicize individual rights, without too much emphasis on individual obligations, and regard human rights as the restriction of state power. As German independent political commentator Jan Campbell pointed out, at present, countries in the world are greatly influenced by geopolitical and geo-economic patterns. They lack mutual trust and have few dialogues, which leads to the lack of a scientific consensus on the concept of human rights. Scholars’ comparative research on human rights is generally limited to the field of theoretical values, with qualitative and quantitative research on human rights being far from enough. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a landmark document advocating the universality of human rights, has also been questioned. Professor Zhang Wanhong, executive director of the Institute for Human Rights of Wuhan University, pointed out through historical research that the Statement on Human Rights written by American anthropologist Melville J. Her-skovits had strong doubts and sharp criticism of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. China is striving to provide plans for the theory and practice of building a better life and a community with a shared future for human beings.
From time to time, the theory of universal human rights has evolved into a tool of political power. Professor Fabio Massimo Parenti, research director of the International Law Research Institute of Italian National Research Council, Italy, has provided empirical evidence that the West has abused human rights theories in pursuit of geopolitical goals, that is, to utilize the universal theory of human rights to achieve specific national geopolitical goals. For example, the West has carried out interventions in Libya, Syria and China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. He also analyzed the important measures taken by Chinese scholars to develop a systematic human rights theory based on historical changes and social characteristics. In this Marxist concept of human rights, there seems to be a space that can integrate the values of “common/ collective” and “specific/individual” in human historical needs. Jing Chao, a doctoral student at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, believes that China and Europe adopt different strategies in dealing with national security issues. European countries believe that despite being a public interest, national security conflicts with individual freedom; China has taken a different approach, regarding it as a public interest and individual right. However, in recent decades, these two methods have encountered challenges and problems. China and the West can learn from each other in dealing with this problem.
Even within the same cultural scope, there are problems of compatibility and exclusion in the internal system of human rights values. There are still large gaps in the theoretical abstraction, legal values and public understanding of human rights values. Professor Zhang Yonghe, Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, found through his investigation and research on the concept of equality that in China, there are many conflicts and contradictions in different types of equality views. There are great differences in the public’s understanding of abstract equality views and realistic ones, legal equality views and moral ones, citizen equality views and identity ones; the concept of equality in the sense of human rights theories does not reflect the specific social life, nor does it necessarily directly correspond to the moral value judgment among the general population.
B. How to reduce conflicts in human rights values.
In view of the divergences and challenges between Chinese and Western human rights values, scholars wish to reach a consensus in the field of shared values between Chinese and Western parties. Among many human rights values systems, the values involving the most basic human rights should fully present the commonality of cultures of all countries. Professor Wang Xigen, dean of the School of Law and director of the Human Rights Law Institute of Huazhong University of Science and Technology proposed a plan to eliminate divergences by seeking common ground while reserving differences between the East and the West in terms of the right to development. There are six possible paths for the East and the West to form a consensus on the values of the right to development: The first is “people-oriented”;4 The second is “fraternity”;5 The third is “fairness and justice”;6 The fourth is “social solidarism”;7 The fifth is “a community with a shared future for human beings”;8 The sixth is “the view of sustainable development”.9 These six paths are the basic common divisor to realize a scientific human rights theoretical system. The values of basic human rights can have their universal significance gradually realized through cross-cultural exchanges. Francesco Granja de Almeida, a postgraduate of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, pointed out that the origin of universal human rights values is an unrestricted cross-cultural dialogue, which can retain universal human rights values in a certain sense. Professor Zhang Xiaoling, from the Political and Legal Teaching and Research Department of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (National Academy of Governance), believes that the basic principles and contents of human rights should be universally applicable to all countries and all people, but we must also recognize that human rights also have their particularity. Human rights are specific, historical and developmental, and the ways of realizing hu-man rights can be diverse; thus the concept of basic human rights cannot be separated from the dissemination and exchange of cultures of all countries and the common promotion thereby. To realize its principle of universality, human rights must be closely combined with the actual national conditions of all countries. To reveal the objective law of human rights development is to recognize that human rights are the unity of universality and particularity.
III. The Human Rights Expression Through the Concept of “a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings”
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China has actively advocated the concept of “a community with a shared future for human beings”. This concept is rooted in the classical political philosophy of Chinese culture, which contains the concern of “the world harmony” in a wide sense. It is a concern including diverse human civilizations. To explore the human rights expression of “a community with a shared future for human beings”, we should not stick to the human rights methodology of liberalism. Under the trend of liberalism, the “atomization” of the society and the material supremacy will inevitably place people in a torrent without belonging or sustenance.10 Human rights are no longer an issue regarding the fate of individual citizens or the fate of the relationship between citizens and the country. It will rise to become a common issue of mankind, and gradually become one of the universal goals of global governance. Human rights governance is an important part of global governance. Tom Zwart, a professor of cross-cultural law at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, highly praises China’s visionary plans in the field of human rights and believes that these issues are values supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Professor Luo Yanhua of the School of International Studies of Peking University believes that the awareness of “a community with a shared future for human beings” will enhance the importance of human rights and create new opportunities for the development of the concept of human rights. Yang Bochao, a teacher of the Institute of Human Rights of China University of Political Science and Law, said that a community with a shared future for human beings can cope with the populism, extremism, exclusivism and the anti-globalization tide in the current international order and provide diverse solutions. It will be a new contribution of China’s far-reaching international political vision to the contemporary international law and principle system.
Dai Ruijun, deputy researcher of the Institute of International Law of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that global human rights governance instills little optimism as it still faces many structural obstacles, including traditional and non-traditional security threats, and the impact of unilateralism. China’s concept of a community with a shared future for human beings is gradually becoming an international consensus. Its principles of dialogue and consultation, joint construction and sharing, win-win cooperation, exchanges and mutual learning, green and low-carbon principle are highly consistent with the basic principles and value pursuits of the global human rights governance. Professor Hao Yaming of the Human Rights Research Center of Nankai University believes that in the process of global human rights governance, we should respect the diversity of world civilizations and be good at utilizing the realistic basis of the diversity of world civilizations. When promoting the global human rights governance with the concept of “a community with a shared future for human beings”, if the relationship between a community with a shared future of mankind and the diversity of world civilizations cannot be properly dealt with, it may be counterproductive to pursue integration while ignoring diversity.
According to Wu Wenyang, a teacher of the Institute for Human Rights of China University of Political Science and Law, the construction of a “community with a shared future for human beings” is also an expression of the international solidarity spirit. They complement each other. These two concepts are commonly featured by that instead of being limited to the interiors of countries, they respect both individuals and collectives. Both of them are based on equality and sovereignty and encouraging mutual respect, tolerance and abandonment of confrontation; Both of them strive to gradually narrow the differences between the South and the North, so as to eliminate the differences between countries, enable developing countries to participate in international governance equally, so as to better respect, protect and implement human rights; Both concepts rely on the United Nations as a common platform. When challenges arrive, the world can deal with them together.
The human rights expression of “a community with a shared future for human be-ings” needs to break away from the framework of “individual-oriented” human rights. Qi Yanping, director of Human Rights Research Center of Shandong University and Professor of the School of Law of Beijing University of Technology, put forward “intersubjectivity”, a human rights view that is totally different from the “individual-oriented” human rights view. The concept of “intersubjectivity” is put forward to cope with the atomization crisis of modern people. This concept is different from the concept of knowing and defining people in terms of the relationship between “people and the objective world”. It is also different from the common notion that “people are the products of social relations”. It starts from the relationship among subjects, paying attention to the relationship of interaction, understanding and communication among subjects.
“Ethnic group orientation”, “individual orientation” and “mankind orientation” are three major stages in the process of human history. People will finally move towards the development stage of the union of free individuals.
IV. The Origin of Chinese Human Rights Theory
As a systematic theory and concept, human rights obviously do not exist all the time. The theoretical system of human rights is shaped by specific history and civi-lization. As a national system, human rights have only existed in human history for nearly 200 years. Human rights came into being with the modern industrial revolution, the capitalist economic form and the constitutional democracy. Professor He Zhipeng, executive director of the Human Rights Research Center of Jilin University, regards human rights as a term invented by human society for people to pursue a happy life in a certain historical period and it satisfies people’s desire and pursuit for a happy life.
The theory of human rights is a comparison, reflection and summary of the noumenon of “human rights” from being metaphysical to being physical. To study human rights theories requires not only the spirit of scientific positivism but also the ability of legal philosophy. It is different from human rights values. The former has a systematic and scientific theoretical context, methodology and system, while the latter is more inclusive, which is produced in the evolution of civilization and history. However, the latter often affects the judgment of the former. Different human rights values deter-mine different research paths of human rights theories.
The process of studying the Chinese theory of human rights is inseparable from the reflection on traditional Chinese philosophy. Confucianism’s philosophy and ethics are influencing the contemporary Chinese human rights theory in depth. The application of Chinese Confucian culture to reinterpret modern human rights provides more theoretical tools for scholars to study human rights. Confucianism not only pays attention to “humans”, but also has a unique understanding of “people-oriented” thought. The people-oriented principle is actually a major feature of Chinese political philosophy.11 The people-oriented principle does not have the concept of “government of the people”, but the implication of “government by the people” and “government for the people”12. After the reform in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the meaning of “people” was influenced by Western human rights ideology, and the “people-oriented principle” of Confucianism evolved into a new form, that is, “civil rights”; the in-tegration of Chinese “people” and Western “human rights” was also a conscious com-promise of Chinese culture by scholars in the late Qing Dynasty. This human rights theory with Chinese philosophical characteristics has become an important material in contemporary human rights discourse theory.
Through a comparative study of the human rights thoughts of Liang Qichao (1873-1929) and Yan Fu (1854-1921, Bu Fanqiang, a doctoral student in the Human Rights Institute of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, found that Liang Qichao and Yan Fu both endowed the subject of rights to “people” rather than “humans”. The difference between “people” and “humans” is that the former do not realize the significance of being an independent person and being able to self-dominate. Humans are active and are individuals, while people are not completely active and are groups. This is also a typical example of the contrast between the human rights theory in the late Qing Dynasty and of the West. Besides, Confucianism emphasizes morality and order. Professor Li Yunlong discussed the role of this unique factor in constructing China’s human rights theory. Human rights not only emphasize individual rights, but also pay more attention to social harmony and balance as well as general progress. Confucianism can enrich and supplement the deficiency of the modern Western human rights theory.
Sun Shiyan, a researcher at the Institute of International Law of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, spoke highly of the article titled “Human Rights in Chinese Tradition” written by Luo Zhongshu, a Chinese human rights scholar. Luo Zhongshu expressed the echo of traditional Chinese human rights in the world’s human rights values, with a vision and insight worthy of admiration. Li Denglei, a Ph.D. candidate of the Human Rights Institute of Southwest University of Political science and Law, introduced the humanistic care of the ancient Chinese charitable institute named “Hehui” (literally meaning Unity Union). He believes that the thought of supporting the weak and helping the poor glitters with the brilliance of humanity, and that the benevolent and loving care advocated by Confucianism is still worth absorbing and inheriting by Chinese human rights theory.
V. Practical Carriers and Modes of the Human Rights Concept
The concept of human rights values is just a concept and a pure ideology, which must benefit the countries and citizens through practice carriers and modes. Scholars have discussed the practical implementation of the human rights concept from various perspectives.
A. The literature carrier for realizing the human rights concept
The carriers for realizing human rights are domestic human rights policies and laws, and international human rights conventions. It is the common mission of modern countries under the rule of law to recognize and safeguard human rights according to the law. From the national legal system to the international human rights law, the international community has established a relatively comprehensive system of human rights norms. The universal value of human rights is concentrated in the international human rights legal system with the Charter of the United Nations as the core and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as the main body. The international human rights legislation system is based on the values and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a foothold on global human rights issues and focusing on regional differences. It can also expand the legislation system to regional conventions, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, European Social Charter, American Convention on Human Rights, and African Charter on Human and National Rights, among others.
In September 2019, the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic China issued a white paper titled “Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China”, which shows the great achievements of China’s human rights legislation and practice. China has ratified or signed 26 international human rights instruments under the framework of the United Nations. China’s concept of human rights focuses on the “people” and safeguarding people’s rights in social life, while paying attention to protecting the rights of special groups.13 Professor Zhang Wei, co-director of the Institute for Human Rights of China University of Political Science and Law, believes that China has comprehensively strengthened the development of the rule of law in human rights, striven to promote the cause of human rights in the fields of legislation, justice, law enforcement and education, and successfully blazed a path of human rights development conforming to China’s national conditions. Zhang Aining, professor of the Department of International Law at China Foreign Affairs University, pointed out that it is a process of mutual influence, interaction and mutual recognition between the human rights legislation system of China and of the international community. While accepting, learning and internalizing the existing international human rights norms and adjusting its behavior therewith, China is also influencing the evolution of the international human rights system with its own human rights position, concept and growing capacity.
There are still huge gaps in China’s human rights legislation. Human rights scholars should work together with the state’s legislators to fill in the gaps and compile detailed human rights plans, such as the national action plan on “industry, commerce and human rights”, so as to continuously strengthen policy protection for basic human rights. Professor Man Hongjie, vice-president of the Law School and vice director of the Human Rights Research Center of Shandong University, takes the right to health as an example and points out the particularity of health resources, and emphasizes that the right to health gradually shows the trend from “the negative rights theory” to “the positive rights theory”, which also shows the change from “state withdrawal” to “state re-intervention” in the relationship between the state and the right to health. For example, we should rely on the planning of the ecological development, so as to establish the constitutional rules with environmental rights as the legislative orientation and improve the law system in the environmental sector. Professor Tang Yingxia, deputy director of Human Rights Research Center of Nankai University, believes that with the ecological development becoming a major national strategic challenge, China’s environmental rights protection has strong support, and with the ecological development incorporated into the Constitution, it has indirect constitutional guidance. The realization of China’s environmental human rights has practical advantages. The incorporation of the substantive environmental human rights into the Constitution is a trend of international human rights development and a necessity for China’s sustainable development. In another example, Lu Haina, secretary-general of the Human Rights Research Center of the Renmin University of China, analyzed the driving force behind the Domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China, the first of its kind in China, and differentiated the overall characteristics of China’s gender system and China’s women’s movement, which has provided China’s experience and understandings for the development of women’s human rights in the world.
B. The institutional model of the human rights practice
First, the human rights governance program as the state’s top-level design depends on a series of specific measures for modernizing national governance. The modernization of national governance is known as the “fifth modernization”. Human rights governance models are not isolated but highly connected with other forms of state governance models. Qiao Congrui, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cross-Cultural Human Rights Center of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, summed up the basic elements of good governance, analyzed the extent of the adoption of good governance norms by Chinese laws and national rules and regulations, and commented on the complex relationship between good governance and human rights protection.
Professor Qian Jinyu, executive director of Human Rights Research Institute of Northwest University of Political Science and Law, put forward the value orientation and basic paths of China’s modernization of national governance, and suggested that China’s concept and experience can provide enlightenment for the development of global human rights industry and global governance.
Zhao Wendan, a Ph.D student at the Human Rights Institute of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, noted that at present the most important theme in the national narrative in China from the perspective of human rights is the elimination of poverty. Xu Yao, a researcher at the Institute of Human Rights at Nankai University, believes that China has always taken safeguarding the livelihoods of the poor as a major political task and placed it in an important position in the government’s work. He summed up six stages in China’s poverty alleviation system: Temporary emergency assistance to the poor in economic recovery; equalitarianism and special assistance relying on the collective economy; “cultural Revolution” and the stagnation of the relief system; the transformation and exploration of social assistance system in the market-oriented reform; the primary establishment of a new social assistance system; and targeted poverty alleviation and further improvement of the social assistance system. In terms of its strategic layout, China should not only focus on enabling people to escape poverty through development, but also improve various relief systems.
Second, the building of a solid human rights protection and relief system through human rights judicial and law enforcement systems. China’s judicial protection of human rights began in the early stage of the policy of reform and opening up. Judicial human rights protection benefits from the establishment of a legislative system con-sisting of the Constitution, the Criminal Law and the Administrative Procedure Law. Li Xiao, deputy inspector and senior judge of the Research Office of the Supreme People’s Court, summed up the historical evolution of China’s judicial protection for human rights. The principle of equality before the law and open trials were the begin-ning of human rights justice in China; The incorporation of the concept of “human rights” into the Constitution and the two revisions of The Criminal Procedure Law are important events for the improvement of the human rights justice; Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China has actively promoted reform of the trial-centered criminal procedure system, and tried out three procedures, including pre-court meetings, removing illegal evidence and court investigation, so as to improve the criminal procedure system. The comprehensive implementation of the rules of evidence judgment makes China’s human rights justice gradually becoming more scientific and rigorous.
Third, the establishment of a unified international human rights protection system. After the Second World War, human rights protection has officially stepped onto the international stage. At present, specialized agencies dealing with human rights in the United Nations system include the Human Rights Council, Commission on the Status of Women, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Labour Organization, and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, among others. Many countries have signed other international human rights conventions besides UN conventions. Regional human rights protection systems have been gradually formed on all continents. Europe, America, Africa and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have established relatively independent human rights protection systems, while Asia is still striving to construct such a system.14 In this seminar, the construction of an African human rights mechanism was the focus of some scholars. In particular, they discussed the trial relief system for human rights - the International Criminal Court (ICC). From the perspective of universal international human rights, the ICC focuses on such issues as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, aggression and others. There are many such issues in the Middle East and African countries. Wars and political turmoil abound in these regions. The ICC under The Rome Statute, with its permanent nature, has imposed effective sanctions on crimes in violation of the statute. Since 2002, almost all the objects charged by ICC have been in African countries. Professor Christian Mester of the University of Strasbourg and the College of Europe described the process from close cooperation to exclusion and challenges between African countries and the ICC. African countries once believed that European powers abused the principle of universal jurisdiction of the ICC, and they had great doubts about the independence of the ICC. After several African countries withdrew from The Rome Statute one after another, the trust between ICC and African countries was weakened, which led to the internal reform of ICC. However, more importantly, there should be a human rights court system within the African Union among African countries. In 2008, countries within the African Union made such an attempt. Despite its immature operation, at least the construction of the regional international human rights protection system has taken a step forward.
(Translated by PAN Yingzhao)

*LI Ying ( 李蕾 ), Associate Professor, School of Law, Institute of Human Rights Law, Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
**TENG Rui ( 滕锐 ), Associate Professor, School of Law, Institute of Human Rights Law, Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
1.The academic characteristics presented in this seminar are based on the summary by Professor Wang Xigen, Dean of the Law School of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in his closing speech at the 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights.
2.Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, trans. Zhou Qi and others (Beijing: Xinhua Publishing House, 1998), 7.
3.Wang Xigen, “Value Differences and Possible Consensus between the East and the West on the Right to Development”, a speech of 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights, Austria, June 21, 2019.
4.“People-oriented” was first put forward by Guan Zhong (719-645 BC, a renowned thinker) of China more than 2,000 years ago. It is a notion from the book Guanzi. The original text is as follows: “The beginning of being an overlord is to be people-oriented”. Humanism was put forward during the Renaissance in the West. The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development put forward that human beings are the subjects of development. The essence of human rights is “people-oriented”.
5.Confucius proposed the benevolent love others. During the French Revolution, proposed were freedom, equality and fraternity. The Declaration on the Right to Development emphasizes the protection of “every human person and all peoples”. “Human rights” is one of the derivatives of “humanity” and “fraternity”.
6.“Chapter of the Operation of Rites” in The Book of Rites written by Dai Sheng (a renowned thinker in ancient China) in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) once recorded: “When the Great Way prevails, the world is like a Commonwealth State shared by all.” In the West, Aristotle of ancient Greece and Rawls of American Neo-liberalism discussed the issues of fairness and justice in depth respectively through The Nicomachean Ethics and A Theory of Justice. The Declaration on the Right to Development puts forward that the core of the right to development is “equality of opportunity for development”.
7.More than 2,000 years ago, the Mohist School put forward the idea of “loving and benefiting each other” (see the lower section of “Jian Ai”, Mozi). Léon Duguit, a French, founded the social solidarism jurisprudence (see [French] Léon Duguit: Manuel De Droit Constitutionnel, trans. Wang Wenli, etc (Shenyang: Liaohai Publishing House, Chunfeng Literature and Art Publishing House, 1999), 11. The Declaration on the Right to Development proposes to adhere to the principles of international law of friendly relations and cooperation. Human beings exist in the society of interaction. Friendship and mutual benefit are the ties of human interaction.
8.The ancient Chinese thought of the world of Datong (“the world harmony”), Western cosmopolitanism, and The Declaration of the Right to Development’s emphasis that “all human persons” are the subjects of human rights, are overlapping with the concept of “a community with a shared future for human beings”.
9.Both Confucianism and Taoism in China have put forward the theory of “the unity of heaven and humans”. After the rise of Neo Confucianism in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it was extended to the theory of Tianli (“the principle of heaven”). Taoist thinkers built a mature theoretical system of “the unity of heaven and humans”. The West put forward the development concept of the trinity of economy, society and environment, and the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These theories all emphasize the love for the sustainable existence of life, the sustainable and harmonious coexistence of life and nature, and the coexistence and combination among all things in the universe. These are the concrete expressions of the concept of sustainable development.
10.Stephen Holmes, The Anatomy of Anti-liberalism, trans. Xi Zhong et al (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2002), 7.
11.Zhang Fentian, People-oriented Thought and Ancient Chinese Ruling Thought (Tianjin: Nankai University Press, 2009), 27.
12.In 1863, Lincoln gave a speech in Gettysburg, in which he expressed the characteristics of democracy with concise words, that is: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
13.The State Council Information Office of PRC, Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China, published on September 22, 2019.
14.Thomas Buergenthal and others, International Human Rights, trans. Li Zuoheng (Beijing: Law Press, 2010), 256.
Chinese Dictionary:


For the latest news and analysis from our

reporters and editors:Staff Twitter List>>