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Development of the Protection of the Rights of Specific Groups in China in the Recent Ten Years
August 18,2021   By:CSHRS
Development of the Protection of the Rights of Specific Groups in China in the Recent Ten Years
 
Based on an Analysis of the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights
 
ZHANG Wanhong* & LIU Yuan**
 
Abstract: Specific groups such as women, children, ethnic minorities, the elderly, and persons with disabilities are facing special difficulties in exercising their rights. The protection of their rights is an important part of the development of China’s human rights cause. The Annual Report on China’s Human Rights have outlined the tremendous achievements China has made in protecting the rights of specific groups over the past ten years. It also reflects that all human rights actors have born fruitful results of innovation in values, legal systems, paths for practice, and international cooperation of rights protection, which will continue to inspire and encourage people to participate in the common cause of human rights protection.
 
Keywords: specific groups · human rights protection · annual report on China’s human rights 
 
Introduction
 
The term “Specific Groups” refers to those groups that should be specially protected by national laws because of their difficulties and special needs in exercising their rights. In practice, it is a common expression for groups such as women,children, ethnic minorities, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. The concept of Specific Groups is widely accepted because of its objectivity, openness and neutrality.1 In terms of official expression, the term Specific Groups referring to certain groups such as women and children first appeared in the draft amendment to the Regulations on Legal Aid of Guangdong Province submitted for review in 2015. Subsequently, official documents in the human rights field, such as the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2016-2020) and China’s Progress in Poverty Reduction and Human Rights, have replaced the past enumeration with Specific Groups.2 As an important part of the human rights cause, the protection of the rights of specific groups has always been emphasized by the Chinese government. Especially since the launch of reform and opening up, the protection of the rights of women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities has been institutionalizing, systematizing and legalizing. A better system for rights protection has been established, and great achievements have been made while implementing it.
 
The Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (the Blue Book of China’s Human Rights) prepared by the China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS), in the spirit of “authoritative, cutting-edge and original”, gives analytical studies on various issues such as institutional construction, focuses in practice, theoretical frontiers and international cooperation. It not only summarizes the “road map” of overall development of human rights annually, but also offers a vivid demonstration of how human rights developed in many specific fields, reflecting the progress in China’s human rights philosophy, system, practice and international cooperation. This paper intends to draw on the reports on human rights protection for specific groups published in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights in the past years as the material to summarize the achievements and paths of the protection of the rights of China’s specific groups over the past 10 years.
 
I. Innovation of the Values of Rights Protection of Specific Groups
 
As mentioned earlier, the term “Specific Groups” did not appear in official documents until around 2015. The Annual Report on China’s Human Rights also shows that in contemporary Chinese human rights discourse, the designation of groups such as women, children, ethnic minorities, the elderly, and persons with disabilities has changed from “vulnerable groups” to “special groups” and then to “specific groups.”3
 
The term “vulnerable” emphasizes the status of “disadvantaged”, which connotes that the subject of rights is in a relatively disadvantaged position due to biological or social factors, and their equal rights are difficult to be exercised or easily violated.4 The “special group” emphasizes the special properties or special status of the subject, and is “a social group with certain special characteristics”5 or “a group with special needs.”6 There may be subtle differences between the connotations of vulnerable groups and special groups, but there is a large degree of overlap in the logic of thinking and the objects they refer to. By reference to certain abstract general standards and real individuals, vulnerable groups are evaluated as “the vulnerable of society” according to the subject’s abilities, resources and social status. The category of special groups may not particularly emphasize the “vulnerable” property of the subject, but it too presupposes a template of the so-called “general group” and classifies the relevant subjects based on differences in characteristics and properties. These differences are often expressed as the subject being “inferior” or “weaker” than the general group. From this perspective, both expressions are based on the perspective of the “other,” emphasizing that some parts of the referent object are different from the user’s “self”, reflecting or shaping the speaker’s stereotype of the referent object, and expressing the “alienation” in group identity.
 
More importantly, the expressions above are often intertwined with the attitudes and the philosophy behind the treatment of the group and the protection of their rights. When people emphasize the vulnerable side of the subject, the corresponding initiatives are often based on sympathy for the weak. The Chinese people have always had a fine tradition and moral pursuit of sympathy for the weak and helping the needy. As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “When the grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the heaven; ... Thus, men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows7,orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease, so that they were all sufficiently maintained.” It reflects the humanitarian concern for the “vulnerable” in traditional Chinese culture. Nowadays, such traditional values are still influential. A survey on the general public’s opinion about human rights in China shows that the respondents highly recognize the protection of the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly, and that “this recognition largely transcends the influence of gender, ethnicity, income, education level and other factors.”8 It can be said that this has become the ideological foundation for the general public support of relevant laws and policies. But on the other hand, this concept, although it can lead to understanding, openness and support for these groups, is not a human rights concept,but is based on the simple compassion for the weak and the need for moral selfactualization. Similarly, the survey results show a low level of public recognition for the rights of subjects with ethical flaws. People support persons with disabilities and the elderly based more on their own moral evaluation than their recognition of ideas such as rights and equality.
 
However, the concept of specific groups does not define the attributes and characteristics of the object itself, nor does it contain evaluative elements. Instead, it focuses on the fact that the rights of the relevant individuals are given special attention and protection by the law, avoiding the disadvantages by predetermined characteristics and evaluation criteria of the object, and thus being more open, objective and neutral. The change from “vulnerable groups” and “special groups” to “specific groups” reflects the standardization and precision of research terms and the progress of the concept of the protection of their rights. The concept of specific groups reveals a conceptual shift from the “path for welfare” to the “path for rights”: initiatives to improve the situation of the subjects concerned do not derive from compassion or charity, but from the rights to which they are entitled as a matter of course, with the goal of subjects being able to exercise their rights. At the same time, the rights are recognized and protected by national law. China’s Constitution specifies the rights of specific groups such as women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities,9 and has enacted dozens of laws and regulations to promote the exercising of their rights.
 
From another perspective, the popularization of the concept of “specific groups” also implies the concept of their rights protection, “inclusion”. From the perspective of the international community, “inclusion” has increasingly become a common principle in the protection of the rights of various specific groups, and is widely recognized and supported by countries around the world.10 This concept argues that the difficulties faced by specific groups in protecting their rights do not stem from their physical or psychological characteristics, but result from the interaction with physical environment, unreasonable systems, and psychological stereotypes. Whether they are women, the elderly, children, or persons with disabilities, they should not be treated as the “other” because of their “individuality. They have the desire, ability or potential to participate in and integrate into society. They should enjoy equal opportunities and conditions for progress, contribute to social development on their own and become cocreators of social wealth. This concept has been transformed into improved practice of rights. For example, in the field of rights for persons with disabilities, we have not only witnessed the change of discourse from “handicap” to “impediment” and then gradually to “disability,” but also witnessed the improvement of the legal system and the practice of inclusive education and employment. In terms of women’s rights, the laws related to women’s participation in politics have been increasingly improved, and the number and proportion of women participating in politics have achieved historical breakthroughs.11 In practice, fine examples such as the Women’s Council and the mechanism for advising and assessing gender equality have also been established.
 
In the past 10 years, the protection of the rights of specific groups has achieved a revolution in concept and discourse, carrying the modern concept of “equality, participation and sharing,” which will help the public to have a correct understanding of the concept of human rights and promote the development of the exercise of rights in reality. It will also help us to tell the Chinese story of human rights in the international community, share China’s experience and wisdom to the world, and promote the reform of human rights governance in the global arena.
 
II. Improvement of the Legal System for the Rights Protection of Specific Groups
 
Increasingly improved legal regulations have laid a solid institutional foundation to protect the rights of specific groups in practice.
 
The Annual Report on China’s Human Rights in 2011 and 2012 provided a comprehensive picture of China’s achievements in building an institutional system for protecting the rights of specific groups since the founding of New China. Relevant reports pointed out that by 2012, China had more than 10 specific laws on protecting and promoting the legitimate rights and interests of specific groups including women, minors, the elderly, persons with disabilities, criminals, returned overseas Chinese and their family members, ethnic minorities, etc., which had12 established a preliminary legal and regulatory system for rights protection with corresponding enforcement organs. The Annual Report on China’s Human Rights conducted a tracking study of relevant human rights legislation, introducing and assessing the impact and legislating plan of laws and administrative regulations enacted and amended each year on protecting the rights of specific groups. From these reports, we can have a clear idea about the historical track of the development and progress of China’s relevant legal system in the past 10 years. According to the relevant reports and legislative practice,the rights system of specific groups in China has two characteristics.
 
First, the legal regulatory system covers more and more rights, including not only civil and political rights but economic, social and cultural rights. The cause of protecting rights of specific groups, guided by the concept of “inclusiveness,” treats each individual within a specific group as an independent subject of development, respecting and safeguarding their rights in all aspects. China continues to foster the achievements of human rights legislation since the reform and opening up, and continues to broaden the coverage of rights protection. Taking rights protection of persons with disabilities as an example, the white paper entitled Equality, Participation and Sharing: 70 Years of Protecting the Rights and Interests of Persons with Disabilities in the PRC pointed out that as of April 2018, there were more than 80 laws directly related to protecting the rights and interests of persons with disabilities, an increase of nearly 20 compared with 2010.13 The newly enacted laws and regulations focus on topics including protection against infringement of personal safety, equal legal personality and autonomy, barrier-free access, education, employment, and judicial protection, and make amendments and additions to existing regulations in line with the latest developments, enriching the connotations of rights and clarifying the means of protection, providing a sounder institutional basis for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in all aspects. In terms of coverage,on one hand, rights protection can fully cover people’s needs of participating in political, economic, cultural and other aspects of social life, echoing with the idea of interdependent and coordinated development of various human rights. On the other hand, it can also reflect the life experience and needs of persons with disabilities in different stages of life including youth, adulthood and old age, underscoring human rights protection in the whole life cycle.
 
Second, the building of legal regulation system is closely related to the process of economic and social development and the rule of law, which fully reflects the most urgent and realistic practical needs. Rights protection is a realistic issue, and the development of human rights must go hand in hand with social development. In the past 10 years, the development process of legal regulations related to the rights of specific groups in China has been closely related to historical process of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and the reform pace of a socialist society ruled by law, responding to the development needs of the times and the voice of the people. The rights protection of the elderly has been a best manifestation of the relationship between system building and social development. The rights protection of the elderly has been profoundly affected by the changes in social and demographic structure, and must be constantly adjusted accordingly. As early as 1996, in response to the rights protection concerns brought about by the aging population and the call of the international community, China formulated the law on protecting the rights and interests of the elderly, which stipulated and protected the due rights of the elderly in legal form. However, with the great changes in China’s population structure, family size and life style since the 21st century, the relevant legal regulations on protecting the rights of the elderly could no longer meet the needs of the new era, and both “legal provisions” and “moral values” were under challenges.14 In response to the new needs, in 2012, China revised the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, increasing the number of items from six chapters and 50 articles to nine chapters and 85 articles, greatly expanding the coverage of rights protection. The revision also responded to the most prominent problems. In order to narrow the huge gap between the supply and demand of old-age services, the revised law brought into play the role of government and society to address the shortage of family oldage services, and proposed a long-term plan to establish and improve a social oldage service system based on households, backed by communities and supported by institutions. Regulations on building a barrier-free living environment were also stipulated in specific chapters, to support relevant legislative practice. Newly added articles on spiritual support to “empty nest” elderly aroused heated discussion over the relationship between rights protection and judicial law.15 The Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly is only one example. The legislative process of laws and regulations including the Anti-Domestic Violence Law, the Mental Health Law and the Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities all reflect that the rights protection system of specific groups in China has made timely responses to the social development process and the real-time concerns in society.
 
Last but not least, equal attention is paid to both the development of substantive regulations that specify and clarify various rights, and the development of procedural regulations that ensure the implementation of rights in building the legal regulatory system. “The law cannot act on its own.” The rights of specific groups can only be realized with both the continuous improvement of increasingly comprehensive and specific substantive regulations, and the benign interaction and coordination among law enforcement, judicial and social forces. Over the past 10 years, China has not only further consolidated the institutional foundation, strengthened the supervision of law enforcement, urged administrative functional organs to actively perform their duties,and implemented the rights in the regulations, but also stressed the role of legal tools to mobilize social forces to participate in the cause of human rights, and the role of judicial forces to provide relief. For example, China promulgated the Regulations on Legal Aid in 2003, and the second Amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law in 2012 expanded the scope of legal aid services, defined the relevant accountable subjects, and made special provisions on the legal aid of persons with disabilities and minors. In the same year, the Ministry of Justice issued the Regulations on Procedures for Handling Legal Aid Cases, which made detailed provisions on the procedures for accepting, examining, undertaking and file management of legal aid. Opinions on Improving the Legal Aid System in 2015 incorporated legal aid services into the core of the government’s public legal services, expanded the service content and coverage, and further clarified the accountable subject, fund guarantee and supervision mechanism. In 2018, the duty lawyer system was written into the amendment to Criminal Procedure Law as a major part. In the same year, the Legal Aid Law was also on the legislative agenda of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress.16 As the saying goes, there is no right without relief, and the legal aid system is of great significance to the right of specific groups to obtain judicial protection. Over the past 10 years, China’s legal aid cause has made gratifying achievements in terms of coverage, number of cases accepted, quality in handling cases and social influence.17 With the advancement of the relevant legislative process and the improvement of the system, the cause of legal aid will also usher in a new chapter, building a stronger judicial defense line for the rights of specific groups.
 
III. Innovation on Paths of Practice to Protect the Rights of Specific Groups — Taking Education as an Example
 
Over the past 10 years, the idea of rights protection of specific groups has been updated in China, and the relevant systems have also been improved, continuing to advance in the field of practice. There are diverse and complex indicators and evaluation criteria for the realization of specific rights. Since space is limited, this report will not go into comprehensive details, and it will only take education right as an illustrative example.
 
Education is an important way for the subject of rights to build capacity and realize self-development, and also an important premise for equal participation in social life. Over the past 10 years, China’s education has continued to develop rapidly,and the right to education of specific groups has also been realized. By 2018, the coverage ratio of children in inclusive kindergartens in China reached 73.1%, the net enrollment rate of school-age children in primary schools reached 99.95%, the gross enrollment rate in junior high schools reached 100.9%, and 94.2% of the population had received nine-year compulsory education. Nine-year compulsory education from primary school to junior high school had been fully popularized in ethnic areas, and 15 years of free education from preschool to senior high school has been introduced in the Tibet autonomous region and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.18 Gender disparities in enrollment rates for boys and girls have been eliminated throughout the country and in most provinces.19 Special education and inclusive education in the compulsory education stage have seen rapid development. In 2016, the attendance rate of compulsory education for children and adolescents with disabilities reached 90%, and the proportion of inclusive education in junior high school reached 60.74%. “At present, more than half of the children and adolescents with disabilities are receiving inclusive education,”20 and such headway was also made in elderly education. By 2015, 2% of the elderly population in China have received continuing education through elderly universities, and with the completion of the Development Plan for Elderly Education (2016-2020), the right to education of the elderly is expected to be fully protected.
 
On the other hand, as the largest developing country in the world, insufficient,uncoordinated and unbalanced development is still a problem in China for a long time. It is necessary to reflect on the construction of rights protection mechanism from a broader perspective, and to mobilize and utilize the resources and forces of the whole society more widely. Extensive social mobilization has become a distinctive feature in the development of rights protection of specific groups in China in the past ten years. The two National Human Rights Action Plans both regard “the government, enterprises and institutions, and social organizations to jointly promote the development of human rights cause” as the being the basic principle for the development of the human rights cause, and in practice, a rights protection road has been preliminarily explored to stimulate the vitality of the private sector and coordinate multiple subjects in the cause. Its experience, on the one hand, lies in the stimulating the vitality of the group itself, and on the other hand, lies in giving full play to various social organizations.
 
Efforts should be made to support capacity-building for specific groups and their associates to stimulate their internal vitality. The will and ability of the rights subject should be fostered to promote and defend their own rights, which is the essence of the rights protection of specific groups guided by the idea of inclusiveness,and is also an important practical experience of the rights protection in China. The Women’s Council of Jiangsu Province is a realistic example of this effort. In 2005, Women’s Federation of Jiangsu issued a notice on fully implementing the spokesmen system of Women’s Council and Women’s Federation, focusing on enhancing grassroots women’s deliberation ability and building a grass-roots women’s democratic counselor platform. After more than 10 years of development, the Women’s Council, based on the grass-roots level, has adopted various forms to promote equal consultation among multi-level representatives of the two community committees (party committee and residents’ committee), cadres of Women’s Federation, community leaders, women mass and affiliated enterprises, so as to make public decisions on typical issues in the community.21 The results show a positive prospect for the development of the Women’s Council. Most of the problems discussed by the Council have been addressed smoothly, delivering real benefits, and the participants have also improved their awareness to participate and ability during the process of consultation and solving problems.22 There are similar practices in other fields, such as special committee members with disabilities, self-employed model for persons with disabilities, mutual aid pension association, which show China’s efforts and experience in addressing related issues.
 
In China, social organizations mainly include social associations, private nonenterprise units and foundations. Social organizations play an irreplaceable role in the historical development process of China’s human rights cause, and appear many times in the government official documents related to human rights. Over the past 10 years, China has launched a series of policies and measures, including the first Charity Law which has created a sound policy environment for the healthy development and standardized operation of social organizations. The number of various social organizations has increased rapidly, and they have also exerted more and more influence in the field of human rights protection, especially for specific groups. Thanks to their flexibility, “grass-roots” nature and relatively independent status, social organizations can expand the content and form of rights promotion and rights protection, and help close the loopholes in the existing rights protection mechanism. They can listen to the grassroots opinions, respond to their urgent needs of rights subjects, reflect the most authentic voice, timely promote the adjustment of rights protection measures, and publicize and promote human rights awareness.23 In fact, the “hub” social organizations such as the Federation of Persons with Disabilities and the Women’s Federation have won the trust of corresponding social groups, as an important link between the groups and the government, and an important force to integrate resources from all sides and promote the practice of rights, playing a crucial role in the historical process of the human rights protection of specific groups.
 
IV. Expansion of International Cooperation on Rights Protection of Specific Groups
 
In the first white paper on human rights in 1991, China stated that it would,together with the international community, “continue to make unremitting efforts to realize the purpose of the United Nations in safeguarding and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.”24 The Annual Report on China’s Human Rights tracks and studies China’s human rights exchanges and cooperation, describes and evaluates important events in detail every year, predicts the prospect of cooperation based on the international situation, and makes policy recommendations. As shown in the reports, China has consistently fulfilled its promises with practical actions, actively participated in the human rights mechanisms related to the rights of specific groups in the United Nations, earnestly fulfilled its human rights obligations, and continuously integrated itself into the global human rights governance system, contributing its knowledge and strength to the development of the international human rights cause. It is embodied in the following three aspects.
 
First of all, China has actively participated in human rights cooperation under the United Nations system, continued to earnestly fulfill its human rights obligations, and seized the opportunity to tell the world about China’s achievements, experiences and ideas in protecting the rights of specific groups, so as to gain a voice in the international human rights governance system. On the one hand, China has actively participated in consultations and discussions under the United Nations treaty bodies, special human rights organs and other systems, or in special procedures, making its own voice heard in the process of formulating and adjusting international rules in the field of the rights protection of specific groups. On the other hand, China has earnestly fulfilled its human rights obligations and accepted reviews of its implementation of relevant human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as well as periodic reviews by the United Nations Human Rights Council, responding to queries on the rights protection of specific groups, demonstrating it is shoulder its responsibility as a major power.
 
When being reviewed, China faces some criticism, but it is an opportunity and window for China’s human rights cause. Accepting the reviews and responding to criticism has become an important channel for China to publicize its achievements in human rights to the world and correct some false statements and prejudices about China’s human rights situation. Meanwhile, writing the implementation report itself is also an opportunity to sum up the county’s achievements and experiences, and refine the concept of human rights with Chinese characteristics and promote it to the world. It can be said that it is the exchange practice that has contributed to the innovation of the concept of human rights and the development and improvement of the theoretical system in China.
 
Second, China has vigorously promoted cooperation on the rights protection of specific groups at the global and regional levels and advanced the rights protection of specific groups. For example, in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered an important remark entitled Promoting Women’s All-round Development and Building a Better World for All at the global leaders’ meeting on gender equality and women’s empowerment, putting forward four proposals on promoting gender equality and women’s all-round development, striking a strong chord. In 2017, China issued a joint statement entitled Promote and Protect Human Rights and Build a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings on behalf of 140 countries at the 34th meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, explaining the concept of building a community of human destiny and its important significance for the protection and promotion of human rights in the international human rights arena. Subsequently, this concept was included in a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, which became an important part of the international human rights discourse system, with profound influence on the international practice of the rights protection of specific groups. In addition, China has also hosted relevant international conferences such as the ASEM High-level Meeting on Disability Joint Initiative, the APEC Group of Friends Meeting on Disability, the Celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Since 2015, China’s non-governmental human rights organizations and human rights institutions have actively and frequently hosted or participated in international human rights cooperation and exchanges, and carried out human rights advocacy activities for specific groups, including the China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights, the Women-20 Meeting, the 2017 Empowering Women and Sustainable Development Summit, and the EU-China Symposium on Gender Equality. These exchanges are not only an important stage for China to express its views on promoting international cooperation on human rights and improving global human rights governance, but also an important opportunity to embrace, absorb and learn advanced concepts and excellent experiences in relevant fields in order to improve China’s rights protection mechanism. In light of the reality, several new ideas, new words and new practices in the field of rights protection of specific groups in China in recent years are the fruit of these exchanges and interactions.25
 
Conclusion
 
The Blue Book of China’s Human Rights has witnessed China’s great achievements in the rights protection of specific groups in the past decade, and has recorded the excellent performance of various actors to protect and uphold the rights of specific groups. At the same time, China is also constantly facing the following new problems: How to integrate the new concept of rights protection into the specific rights practice? How to continuously improve the system to respond to practical needs? How to improve the current practice of rights protection in a more targeted way? How to further promote changes in the global human rights governance system? These questions call for serious consideration, and time will tell whether we can find the right answers. We believe that the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights, as a historical record of the magnificent human rights cause in China, will continue to witness the achievements of the next decade, encourage and inspire people to participate in the common cause of human rights protection.
 
(Translated by LU Mimi)
 
* ZHANG Wanhong ( 张万洪 ), Professor and Doctoral Supervisor of School of Law, Executive Director of Institute of Human Rights, Wuhan University.
 
** LIU Yuan ( 刘远 ), Ph.D Student of School of Law, Wuhan University.
 
1. Xu Yao, “Suggestions on the Use of the Term “Specific Groups”, Human Rights 2 (2015).
 
2. The white paper China’s Progress in Poverty Reduction and Human Rights clearly points out: “the poor in specific groups such as women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities are key targets in poverty alleviation. Since 2012, the Chinese government has stepped up its supportive policies to effectively protect the rights of these groups to social security, health, education and others.” This expression has been continued in the subsequent Progress in Human Rights over the 40 Years of Reform and Opening Up in China and Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China. See the Information Office of State Council, China’s Progress in Poverty Reduction and Human Rights, October 17, 2016.
 
3. In the first Blue Book of China’s Human Rights issued in 2011, there are scholars who use “specific groups” as the general name of groups such as women, persons with disabilities, children and the elderly, but there are also expressions such as “the rights of vulnerable groups” and “the rights of special groups”, which shows that the academic circles at that time had not reached agreement on this issue (see Ban Wenzhan, “Analysis Report on China’s Human Rights Related Legislation”, in Annual Report on China’s Human Rights No.1 (2011) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2011); Chang Jian, Wang Linxia and Li Junru, “The Historic Achievements and Progressive Development of Human Rights in China”, in Annual Report on China’s Human Rights No.1 (2011), (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2011); Chang Jian and Li Junru, “Human Rights in China during the 11th Five-Year Period and the Outlook of the 12th Five-Year Plan Period”, in Annual Report on China’s Human Rights No.2 (2012) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2012).
 
4. Working through the concept of “vulnerable groups” in China, we can identify three different approaches. The first approach defines vulnerable groups from the perspective of the gap in exercising rights. For example, Zhang Xiaoling believes that vulnerable groups in a narrow sense refers to “people who own fewer social resources and have weak ability to exercise their rights in social life” (Zhang Xiaoling, “Research on Social Stability and the Protection of Rights of Vulnerable Groups”, Cass Journal of Political Science 5 (2014). The second approach defines vulnerable groups from the perspective of their social state, which is comprehensively identified by their lack of social resources, lack of political voice, cultural marginalization and psychological discrimination. The third approach directly defines vulnerable groups from the perspective of comparison. For example, Li Lin points out that vulnerable groups are people who, in the premise that there is a comparison, “are relatively disadvantaged in aspects such as economic conditions, cultural literacy, physical fitness, intelligence and life situations” compared with the majority of society. (See Li Lin, “The Law-Based Society and the Protection of Human Rights of Vulnerable Groups”, Front Line 5 (2001).
 
5. Fang Lixin, Introduction to Human Rights Law (Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press, 2007), 23-24. It must be pointed out that although professor Fang Lixin regards the subject of human rights as groups, he clearly emphasizes: “The rights enjoyed by social groups are not collective ones. It is still individuals in the group who enjoy the legal rights.”
 
6. Li Buyun, ed., Law of Human Rights (Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2005), 12.
 
7. The Li Ki (Book of Rites) translated by James Legge, Book VII - L? Yun, Section one.
 
8. Zhao Shukun, et al., “Survey Report of the Chinese Public’s Ideas on Human Rights”, in Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2013) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2013), 410-412.
 
9. Such as Article 4,44,45,46,48,49,50 of the Constitution.
 
10. For example, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopts “full and effective participation and inclusion in society” as its general principle, United Nations Principles for Old Persons makes it clear that “older persons should remain integrated in society”, and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women makes it clear that women have the equal rights in taking part in public affairs, sports and cultural life and economic and social life.
 
11. Li Mingshun, “Legal Protection of Women’s Human Rights in China”, in Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2011) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2011); Zhang Xiaoling, “New Progress on Guaranteeing of Women’s Political Participation in China”, in Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2019) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2019).
 
12. These laws include, but are not limited to, the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women,the Law on Maternal and Infant Health Care, the Law on Protection of Minors, the Law on Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, the Law on Adoption, the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly,the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Persons with Disabilities, the Prison Law, the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Returned Overseas Chinese and The Family Members of Overseas Chinese, and the Law on Regional National Autonomy.
 
13. According to the Blue Book Report in 2011, “more than 60 laws have made specific provisions for the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of persons with disabilities” in 2010, covering “the rights to rehabilitation, education, employment, social security, participation in the management of public affairs and social life.” See Zhang Wanhong and Ding Peng, “Rights Protection of Persons with Disabilities in China”, in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2011) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2011).
 
14. Zhang Xiaoling and Wang Manqian, “Rights Protection of the Elderly in 2011”, in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2011) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2011).
 
15. The Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly was revised twice in 2015 and 2018 respectively, relaxing or even canceling the license for the establishment of old-age institutions, clarifying the supervision means and measures of civil affairs departments, strengthening the leadership responsibility of local people’s governments at all levels, and broadening the road for further development of the old-age service industry.
 
16. See the Overall Law Plan of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress, accessed October 25, 2020, http://www.npc.gov.cn/npc/c30834/201809/f9hff485a57f498e8d5e22e0h56740f6.shtml.
 
17. Zhang Wanhong and Ding Peng, “Legal Aid and Human Rights Protection”, in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2012) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2012); Zhang Wanhong, “New Progress of China’s Legal Aid in 2015”, in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2016) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2016).
 
18. See the above data from the Information Office of the State Council: the white paper “Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China”, accessed October 25, 2020. http://politics.people. com.cn/nl/2019/0923/c1001-31366598.html.
 
19. Ministry of Education, “National Education Development in 2018,” official website of Ministry of Education,accessed October 25,2020. http://www.moe.gov.cn/jyb_sjzl/a5990/201909/t2019029_401639.html.
 
20. Liu Pu, “Progress on Education Rights Protection of Persons with Disabilities at the Compulsory Education Stage”, in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2018) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2018).
 
21. Jiangsu Women’s Federation, “Research Report on Women’s Deliberation Work in Jiangsu Province,” June 2017.
 
22. Lu Haina and Hao Wanai, “Practice and Analysis of Women’s Deliberation Mechanism in Jiangsu Province,”in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2019) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2019).
 
23. Ding Peng and Zhang Wanhong, “New Development of Social Organizations and Their Role in Human Rights Protection: Taking Wuhan City as An Example,” in the Annual Report on China’s Human Rights (2015) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2015).
 
24. Information office of the State Council, the white paper Human Rights in China, accessed 25 October, 2020.http://www.gov.cn/ziliao/flfg/2005-05/24/content_488.htm.
 
25. As mentioned above, the social model of “disability” discourse expression and its connotation, the crossexamination of individual rights from the whole life cycle, and the practical scheme of “time bank” in the rights protection of the elderly are all closely related to the international exchanges in the field of human rights.

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