Home > PUBLICATIONS & RESOURCES > JOURNAL >

The Implications of Sports Rights in Building a Leading Sports Nation
July 27,2022   By:CSHRS
The Implications of Sports Rights in Building a Leading Sports Nation
 
ZHANG Peng*
 
Abstract: As a basic human right, sports rights are increasingly recognized by the international community. The national legislation and strategic plan for building China into a leading sports nation have contributed to forming a multi-field and all-round sports rights protection system. From the perspective of proactive rights and passive rights, sports rights include the freedom to choose free from illegal interference and reflect the social rights for which the state will guarantee the resources. From the perspective of basic rights and ordinary rights, the right to equal participation, the right to sports health, and the right to education constitute the main content of sports rights as a basic right, and the right to sports culture is the concentrated expression of ordinary rights. From the perspective of individual rights and collective rights, the right to sports achievement is a concentrated reflection of the former. Meanwhile, the latter covers the protection of sports rights of vulnerable groups and the balanced development of regional sports. The strategic plan for building a leading sports nation has further clarified China’s basic obligation in safeguarding sports rights in terms of legislative policy planning, financial support, life-cycle services, sustainable development, playing the role of stakeholders and strengthening sports cooperation with other countries and regions, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
 
Keywords: a leading sports nation · sports rights · basic human rights · national obligations
 
In recent years, sports rights have been extensively recognized in the international community as a basic human right. In China, General Secretary Xi Jinping has delivered a series of important speeches on the role of sports in promoting all-round human development. At a symposium of experts from the educational, cultural, health and sports sectors, he stressed sports are an important means to meet people’s aspirations for a good life and promote their comprehensive development, and called for accelerated efforts in building China into a leading sports nation in order to enhance people’s sense of gain, happiness and security. The fifth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee made the strategic plan to complete the building of a leading sports nation by 2035. For that purpose, a host of documents, including the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Vision 2035 of the People’s Republic of China, Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation, Outline of the Healthy China 2030 Plan, and Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period, have made strategic arrangements, which basically constitute a relatively systemic plan for developing sports rights in accordance with the law. From this perspective, this paper will elaborate on the multi-dimensions of sports rights in China and the legal guarantee for their realization, and show the Chinese wisdom and example we have contributed to the development of international human rights in sports.
 
I. International Consensus on Sports Rights
 
As a basic human right, sports rights have been confirmed by international documents, the Olympic Charter, and human rights conventions protecting specific groups, with their connotations comprehensively explained. The international expression of sports rights has gone through three phases — implication, declaration, and comprehensive interpretation.1 first phase, the term “sports rights” doesn’t directly appear in international legal documents, but is implied in the provisions on other human rights, such as those of culture and life. The right to take part in social and cultural life, as provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, is generally acknowledged as implying the right to take part in sports and representing the common spirit of modern international human rights and sports.2 In the second phase, sports rights are explicitly stated in dedicated international conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which lay out specific provisions on the sports rights for special groups. Typically, Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities specifies the right of people with disabilities to participate in sporting activities.3 In the third phase, sports rights are comprehensively interpreted. The International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport (hereinafter referred to as the International Charter on Sport) revised by UNESCO in 2015 states in Article 1 that “the practice of physical education, physical activity and sport is a fundamental right for all.” It is both a common declaration made by UNESCO members on the human right of sports,4 and the United Nation’s first international document specifically concerning sports rights.5 Moreover, the International Olympic Committee makes it clear in Article 4 under the“Fundamental Principles of Olympism” of the Olympic Charter that “the practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
 
II. China’s Unified, Multi-Dimensioned System of Sports Rights
 
As a basic human right, sports rights are a concise and systematic epitome of all human rights in the sports sector, and a unity and full-scale generalization of the sports rights directly related to all-round human development, covering economic, social, cultural and health aspects.6 Like all other basic human rights, sports rights are irreplaceable and indispensable.7 In their positioning, sports rights are fundamentally different from the rights to health, culture and education, but they are interrelated or even overlapping in scope. Accordingly, the legal protection of sports rights in China is a unified system of multiple dimensions. The Law on Physical Culture and Sports (Revised Draft) (hereinafter referred to as the Sports Law) submitted to the standing committee of the National People’s Congress in 2021 officially enshrined Chinese citizens’ sports rights on the legislative level,8 and set down regulations in such aspects as fitness for all, school sports and competitive sports. Legal provisions on sports rights are not limited to the sports sector, but extend to an array of sectors and levels such as medical health, cultural services, promotion of education, rural revitalization, and the protection of the disadvantaged. To start with, in terms of laws made by the National People’s Congress and its standing committee, the following law— Law on the Promotion of Basic Medical and Health Care; Public Cultural Service Guarantee Law; Education Law; Law on the Promotion of Revitalization of Rural Areas; Law on the Protection of Minors; Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly; and Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons — provide for how to realize and protect sports rights in different areas. Then in terms of administrative regulations, the Regulation on Public Cultural and Sports Facilities; Regulations on the Work Concerning Physical Education and Sport in Schools; Regulation on the Construction of Barrier-Free Environments; and Regulation on the Expropriation of Buildings on State-owned Land and Compensation set out detailed rules on how to put sports rights into practice. Third, in terms of departmental regulations, the General Administration of Sport of China, the Ministry of Education and other authorities have separately or jointly issued a series of regulations, including Measures for the Administration of Sports Events and Activities; Measures for the Administration of Physical Education Instructors; Measures for the Administration of Referees in Sports Competitions; Measures for the Administration of Children’s Sports Schools; and Measures for the Administration of Secondary Sports Schools. Fourth, the development plans issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council include strategic deployments for developing sports rights. For instance, the Medium-and Long-term Youth Development Plan (2016-2025) released in 2017 provided for improving youth’s physical health through sports. At last, relevant departments of the State Council have worked out specific development plans. For example, the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period issued by the General Administration of Sport of China makes overall arrangements for the institutional protection and high-quality development of sports rights in the 14th Five-Year Plan period with the aim of building a leading sports nation. The Work Plan for Clear Eyes Action for the Prevention and Control of Myopia among Children and Youths (2021-2025) issued by 15 authorities including the Ministry of Education lays down provisions for strengthening exercises among students and guiding them to consciously protect their eyes.
 
III. Multiple Dimensions of Sports Rights
 
Consistent with the international consensus on sports rights, China’s strategic arrangements for building a leading sports nation focus on the systematic protection and realization of these rights in multiple dimensions: positive rights and negative rights, basic rights and ordinary rights, individual rights and collective rights. 
 
A. Positive rights and negative rights
 
Depending on whether government support is needed for the realization of rights, basic rights include positive rights and negative rights.9 While negative rights mean that every individual is entitled to a minimal space of activities free from interference from others or the government, positive rights mean the subjects of rights can demand economic resources of the nation to ensure the realization of their rights. The legal system in China concerning sports rights accommodates both. On the one hand, negative sports rights include the following: citizens can choose sports, exercises and entertainments suitable for themselves, physical education classes for primary and middle school students are not otherwise occupied, athletes are protected from doping, and fitness activities are not subject to illegal approval. For instance, Article 19 of the Regulation on National Fitness reads, “No organization or individual shall illegally impose approving procedures and fees upon fitness activities, including mass sports games, which are held in accordance with the law.” On the other hand, sports rights include social rights in their positive rights,10 namely the opportunity to equally take part in physical activities, enjoy public fitness services, gain scientific knowledge and guidance on fitness, and maintain the highest level of health. Sports rights on this level cannot be realized without government support, which refers to the government’s duty and authority of developing sports and providing public sports services as stipulated in laws, regulations, policies and plans. The scope of such duty and authority covers building a leading sports nation, implementing the fitness-for-all strategy, perfecting the public service system for sports and fitness covering rural and urban areas, incorporating sports in the national plan for economic and social development, and establishing the mechanism for making sports investment. For example, as part of the efforts to implement the National Fitness Program (2021-2025), the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period proposes creating a public service system for sports and fitness featuring more flexible mechanisms, stronger support in resources, more balanced distribution of resources, more convenient fitness facilities, greater diversity of sports events, better-developed sports organizations, more scientific sports guidance, and more extensive participation.
 
B. Basic rights and ordinary rights
 
Depending on the importance of the social matters reflected via rights and obligations, legal rights can be divided into basic rights and ordinary rights. While basic rights are self-evident, directly related to human subsistence and development, and granted to everyone at birth, ordinary rights refer to rights that exist in ordinary economic, cultural and social life.11 In China’s legal system for sports rights, basic rights refer to the right to equal participation, to sports health, and to education, while ordinary rights mean the right to inherit and develop sports culture in diverse ways.
 
1. Right to equal participation
 
The right to equal participation ensures equal opportunities for everyone to take part in sports. Equal opportunity means that social individuals and collectives are equal in the starting point of subsistence and development and in the process of realizing their opportunities.12 It is stated in Article 1 of the International Charter on Sport that “every human being has a fundamental right to physical education, physical activity and sport without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property or any other basis.” Article 5 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) states that citizens have the right to equally take part in sports in accordance with the law. This is a manifestation of Xi Jinping’s thought on rule of law in the sports sector, not only showcasing the core value of “people centrism,” but also expanding and detailing China’s constitutional principles on citizens’ sports rights.13 The long-range objectives for economic and social development also include provisions for protecting the right of equal participation. The Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035 of the People’s Republic of China makes it clear that by 2035, the rights of the people to participate and to develop as equals will be adequately protected, and that China will become a powerful country in terms of culture, education, human capital, sports, and health. As a special document for building a leading sports nation, the Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation focuses on creating a sound public sports service system and promoting equal access to basic public sports services, so as to continuously meet people’s diverse and multi-layered sports needs and enhance their sense of happiness and gain.14 The Outline of the Healthy China 2030 Plan substantiates this equal right in the form of the right for everyone to access basic sports services.
 
2. Right to sports health
 
The natural goal of sports is the physical health of individuals.15 Chapter 6 of the Law on the Promotion of Basic Medical and Health Care specifies the important role of sports in promoting health. This inherent value of the right to sports health is highlighted in both the overall 14th Five-Year Plan and specific plans in that period. First of all, in terms of the overall Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035 of the People’s Republic of China, the section titled “Building a Leading Sports Nation” is a part of the campaign for “advancing the building of a healthy China in all respects.” Second, in terms of the special plan for sports development, the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period states in “Basic Principles” that the starting point and final purpose of sports work is to meet people’s health demands and promote their all-round development. It pledges to advance the building of a healthy China in six aspects: installing a higher-level public service system for sports and fitness, carrying our fitness activities extensively, promoting the construction of fitness venues and facilities, boosting the in-depth integration between fitness for all and health for all, improving scientific guidance on exercises, and promoting smart fitness. At last, in terms of special plans for the health sector, the Outline of the Healthy China 2030 Plan makes increasing the number of people doing frequent exercise one of the key targets of building a healthy China. Chapter 6 (Improving the Health of All People) and Chapter 19 (Actively Developing the Fitness, Recreation and Sports Industry) specify measures for guaranteeing the right to sports health.
 
3. Right to physical education
 
The right to education is a basic civic right stipulated in Article 46 of the Chinese Constitution. In building a leading sports nation, legal protection of the right to physical education is reflected in the following three aspects. 
 
The first aspect is ensuring physical education at school. Item 7 of Article 1 of the International Charter on Sport states, “Each education system must… ensure that quality and inclusive physical education classes are included, preferentially on a daily basis, as a mandatory part of primary and secondary education and that sport and physical activities at school and in all other educational institutions play an integral role in the daily routine of children and youth.” In view of that, China’s “leading sports nation” campaign sets higher standards throughout the educational process. (1) Priority is given to sports for youths. China attaches great importance to the role of sports in promoting the all-round development of youths,16 and has therefore given priority to sports for youths.17 The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period makes specific provisions in five aspects: making more efforts to cultivate young sports talents, strengthening the reform of sports schools, fostering social sports organizations for youths, perfecting the system of sports competitions and events for youths, and fostering a backbone team for developing youth sports. (2) Sports classes are embedded in the whole process of education. In addition to primary and secondary education stipulated in the International Charter on Sport, Article 24 of China’s Sports Law (Revised Draft) makes sports a critical part of full-process school education, while the Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation demands that improving the physical health of youths and helping them adopt a healthy lifestyle should be an important part of physical education at school. (3) Sports classes are mandated. In comparison to the recommendation of daily physical education classes made by the International Charter on Sport, Article 25 of China’s Sports Law (Revised Draft) and Item 1 of Article 26 mandate physical education classes in all schools, including special classes suitable for students of specific physical conditions, and that these classes not be otherwise occupied. It also demands that off-class physical activities on campus be made an integral part of the teaching program and aligned with physical education classes, and students should exercise for no less than an hour every day during school. (4) Off-class sports training is encouraged. Item 2 of Article 26 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) provides that schools are encouraged to carry out various forms of off-class sports training; those with the right conditions can form high-level athletic teams and foster reserve sports talents. The “Double Reduction” policy further propels the students to participate in off-class sports training.18
 
The second aspect is providing professional guidance on sports. Article 7 of the International Charter on Sport clarifies that “all personnel who assume professional responsibility for physical education, physical activity and sport must have appropriate qualifications.” In China’s physical education system, provisions on professional sports guidance focus on three areas. (1) Qualified sports teachers. Item 1 of Article 30 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) provides that schools should hire qualified sports teachers pursuant to relevant national regulations, and make sure sports teachers are entitled to the same treatment as teachers of other subjects. (2) Qualified sports coaches. Item 2 of Article 30 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) and Article 24 of the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period both stipulate schools can establish the post of the sports coach. (3) Skill training for sports teachers and coach es. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation lists the following key tasks: implementing a coach cultivation program and putting them through rotation training to improve the quality of sports coaches for youths; creating coach academies based on existing institutions and perfecting the continued education and vocational training system for coaches of various types; including elite coaches in the talent program and formulating and implementing the “1,000 talent” program for sports coaches. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period further urges efforts to enhance the auxiliary systems and assign excellent sports teachers and coaches to participate in relevant skill training. It also urges the sports sector to work with the educational sector to step up the training of sports teachers and coaches, and incorporate qualified ones into the program for fostering talents in competitive sports.
 
The third aspect is securing the venues for physical education. Item 7 of Article 1 of the International Charter on Sport stipulates that each education system must assign the requisite place to physical education, physical activity and sport. Accordingly, China has provided for the provision of sports venues both on and off campus. On the one hand, sports venues must be guaranteed in schools. Article 31 of Sports Law (Revised Draft) says, “Schools must provide sports venues, facilities and devices according to national standards. Sports venues at school must meet the needs for sports activities and should not be occupied for non-sports purposes.” The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period also vows to “push eligible primary and middle schools as well as colleges to build courts for group ball games.” On the other hand, sports venues must be available outside schools as well. The above mentioned plan proposes to build sports centers for youths at stadiums, sports venues and sports schools, where sports training and events can be held for them.
 
4. Right to sports culture
 
Sports rights are manifested in the form of the right to sports culture in economic, cultural and social life. International legal documents hold that the inheritance and development of sports diversity constitute the core of the right to sports culture. Item 5 of the Preamble of International Charter on Sport underlines cultural diversity in physical education, physical activity and sport as part of humanity’s intangible heritage, and Item 5 of Article 1 further highlights that “diversity of physical education, physical activity and sport is a basic feature of their value and appeal. Traditional and indigenous… sports, also in their modern and emerging forms, express the world’s rich cultural heritage.” China’s regulations on the right to sports culture focus on the following four areas. The first is the inheritance and development of traditional sports. Article 7 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) carries on what is stated in Article 15 of the original law and expressly encourages and supports the discovery and development of ethnic and folk sports. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period goes into more details: “We should step up the protection, utilization and inheritance of excellent traditional sports, study the cultural features of such traditional sports as martial arts, weiqi (Chinese Go), Chinese chess and dragon boat races, and promote their creative transformation and development.” The second is the inheritance and innovation of traditional sports culture. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation emphasizes inheriting traditional sports culture, tapping traditional sports, and working harder to protect, promote and innovate excellent folk sports. The third is the study and demonstration of intangible cultural heritage. From the perspective of systematic study, the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period says, “Taking the opportunity of tai chi being listed as a world intangible cultural heritage, we should make greater efforts to collect, straighten up and study the archives and oral materials concerning sports-related intangible cultural heritage, and publish books about them.” From the perspective of demonstration, the Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation calls for holding exhibitions and performances of traditional sports-related intangible cultural heritage, and promoting it in schools. The fourth is the celebration of sports festivals. Article 8 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) designates August 8 as the National Sports Day, and the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period stresses tapping traditional sports festivals in different places and strongly promoting sports events with ethnic characteristics. 
 
C. Individual rights and collective rights
 
Depending on the subjects benefiting from sports development, sports rights can be divided into individual rights and collective rights. Individual rights mainly refer to the right to make sports achievements corresponding to personal interests and capacities, while collective rights, which are mainly reflected in sports development for special groups and specific regions, are highlighted in the building of a leading sports nation.
 
1. Right to sports achievements
 
Item 6 of Article 1 of the International Charter on Sport states that “every human being must have the opportunity to attain a level of achievement through physical education, physical activity and sport which corresponds to their capabilities and interest.” In China’s laws, policies and plans for building a leading sports nation, this right is first and foremost embodied in the requirement for “strengthening people’s physical health” and “promoting people’s all-round development,” with the latter being added in Article 2 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) too. Second, the sports rating and evaluation system has become a supplementary means for individuals to achieve personalized development. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation explicitly calls for “promoting the National Standards for Physical Exercise and National Standards for Physical Health of Students, and establishing the sports rating standards and evaluation system applicable to all.” The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period proposes to develop the “fitness and sports code” on a trial basis and create a personal “sports achievements” system based on people’s sports ratings and performances in sports events. Third, personal sports achievements are most often represented in national fitness sports events. The aforementioned plan encourages popular and omnifarious sports events, both online and offline, traditional and modern; it also proposes to host national games for ordinary people as well as national community sports meet to diversify the supply of such activities. Lastly, athletes can make great achievements in competitive sports. Article 36 of Sports Law (Revised Draft) says the state promotes the development of competitive sports and encourages athletes to hone their skills, excel in competitions, and do credit to the country; Article 37 further stipulates that the state standardizes the development of professional sports and supports professional athletes in boosting their competitiveness. 
 
2. Protection of sports rights for special groups
 
The sports rights of women, minors, the elderly, and other special groups, as well as disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities must receive special protection. Item 3 of Article 1 of the International Charter on Sport stresses that “inclusive, adapted and safe opportunities to participate in physical education, physical activity and sport must be available to all human beings, notably children of preschool age, women and girls, the aged, persons with disabilities and indigenous people.” Item 4 specifically provides for women’s right to equal participation: “Equal opportunity to participate and be involved at all supervision and decision-making levels in physical education, physical activity and sport… is the right of every girl and every woman.” In building a leading sports nation, China has made great efforts to protect the rights of special groups. Article 5 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) stipulates that “the state gives special protection to the right of minors, the elderly and people with disabilities to take part in sports”; Article 22 makes special provisions on national fitness activities of special groups: “The whole society should care for and support the elderly and people with disabilities in taking part in fitness activities. People’s governments at all levels should take steps to facilitate the achievement of that goal.” The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation sets down separate provisions for developing sports among youths, working populations, and people with disabilities. It demands the comprehensive implementation of the youth sports promotion program, and makes improving youths’ physical health and leading them to adopt a healthy lifestyle an important part of in-school physical education. It promotes exercise at workplaces and encourages and supports the construction of suitable exercise areas at newly built workplaces. It advocates extensive exercises for people with disabilities either for rehabilitation or physical health. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period emphasizes further improving the public fitness services for these groups.19
 
The outlines of medium- and long-term development of different sectors issued by the State Council make specific arrangements for the realization of sports rights for special groups. For instance, the Outline of Women’s Development in China (2021-2030) pledges to raise the ratio of frequent women exercisers and of women passing the physical health standards, and it encourages and supports labor unions and communities to organize women’s exercises to continuously raise their sports awareness and guide them to form the habit of exercising. The Outline on the Development of Chinese Children (2021-2030) lays down detailed provisions for the realization of children’s sports rights: strengthening children’s physical health, promoting sports activities, and opening sports and health classes in full; ensuring at least one-hour sports of medium or higher intensity for children every day and helping them form good exercise habits; encouraging the use of public sports venues and facilities by nearby schools and children for free or at a discount, encouraging schools to open up their sports venues and facilities to students after school and during holidays, supporting schools to purchase after-class sports services from sports social organizations; and stepping up the construction of public infrastructure for outdoor sports, fitness and recreation. 
 
3. Balanced sports development among regions
 
At the moment, the unbalanced and inadequate development of sports remains a prominent issue, and public fitness services cannot effectively meet people’s aspirations for a good life.20 In view of this, the Sports Law (Revised Draft) stipulates that “the state supports sports development in old revolutionary base areas, ethnic regions, border areas and economically less developed areas” in order to coordinate the inter-regional development of sports rights. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation further stresses promoting equal access to basic public sports services between regions, urban and rural areas, and industrial sectors, and calls for allocating more of these services and resources to rural areas, with priority given to old revolutionary base areas, ethnic minority areas, border areas, and impoverished areas. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period elaborates on those provisions in greater depth. (1) We must coordinate sports development among regions. A series of strategies for coordinated regional development has been carried out, including development in the western region, the full revitalization of the northeast, the rise of the central region, and the trailblazing development of the eastern region, so as to arrive at a relative balance in regional sports development. (2) We must establish a standard mechanism for regional cooperation, namely the “inter-regional sports coordination and interaction mechanism.” This will push different regions to communicate and interact on forming sports and exercise circles, holding sports events, developing the sports industry, and cultivating sports talents. Such cooperation and mutual support will gradually narrow the gaps and lead to sound interaction among the eastern, central and western regions in sports development. (3) We must support sports development in areas of special importance. In light of public sports demands, more efforts will be made to develop sports in the western region, with a focus on the construction of sports infrastructure and public sports service system. Sports development must be accelerated in old revolutionary base areas, ethnic minority areas, border areas, and less developed areas by establishing the paired assistance mechanism, so as to diversify and enrich sports life for the locals. (4) We must combine sports development with national strategies such as rural revitalization. Steps will be taken to popularize sports in the countryside, shore up short links in rural exercise facilities, cultivate farmers’ fitness awareness, and improve their health. For that purpose, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Strategic Plan for Rural Revitalization (2018-2022), which requires efforts to improve the public sports service system in rural areas, build fitness facilities in all villages, and carry out sports activities for farmers in various forms. 
 
IV. National Obligation of Protecting Sports Rights
 
The best human rights protection comes from the state. A state has the right to stipulate the contents of human rights and a code of conduct based on domestic laws in light of the actual political, economic and cultural conditions as well as historical and moral traditions.21 Given the profound and complex changes in its current environment for sports development, China, when making strategic deployments for building a leading sports nation, lays down the state’s obligations in the following six areas. 
 
A. Making laws, policies and plans
 
Making national laws, policies and plans for the protection of sports rights is the precondition for balancing and optimizing the interests of all stakeholders. Item 3 of Article 3 of the International Charter on Sport states, “Public authorities at all levels and those bodies acting on their behalf must take action to develop and implement legislation and regulations, define national sport development plans with clear objectives, and adopt other measures to encourage physical education, physical activity and sport, including the provision of material, financial and technical assistance.” China makes a point of providing legal protection for people’s sports rights and working for their realization by making laws, policies and plans. (1)Clarifying targets. The primary purpose of revising the Sports Law is to clarify citizens’ sports rights in the form of law and promote the realization of these rights through national legislation.22 The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period sets the goals for the period and the long-term objectives till 2035 in the endeavor to build a leading sports nation. It also underlines the importance of developing mass sports as a way to consolidate the public sports foundation in the next five years, with the ultimate goal of meeting people’s ever-growing needs for a good life. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation envisions being a modern socialist sports power by 2050, when the physical health of Chinese people will be in a leading position in the world, and sports will be a hallmark of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. (2) Improving legal and regulatory systems. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period (Part 11) stipulates that “we should improve the socialist sports laws and regulations with Chinese characteristics and enhance the rule of law in the sports sector.” It also underscores the necessity of perfecting the central and local regulations in such areas as fitness for all and sports for youths. (3) Enhancing policy coordination within the sports sector. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period (Part 15) requires strengthening the leadership over the implementation of relevant plans and making timetables, roadmap and project plans for key tasks and projects of sports reform and development. It also requires making special development plans for each specific sports segment and sports item. (4) Enhancing policy coordination between sports and other sectors. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th FiveYear Plan Period calls for improving the interactive mechanism between the sports sector and other sectors, enhancing the planning and policy coordination, and aligning the annual sports work plan with the Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation both in content and implementation. It also requires careful organization in terms of personnel, funding and resource allocation in order to ensure smooth implementation. (5) Including major sports events in the long-term plan. Item 6 of Article 3 of the International Charter on Sport states that, “States and cities considering hosting major sports events should integrate this option in their long-term strategy for physical education, physical activity and sport.” In view of this, the Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation listed three key areas: going all out to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics; promoting winter sports in schools and communities and communicating knowledge about winter Olympics and winter sports; promoting Chinese martial arts overseas, perfecting relevant rules and standards benchmarking for Olympic requirements, and try to include martial arts as an Olympic event at an early date. 
 
B. Providing financial support
 
Making sustained investments in sports is a state’s basic obligation for supporting sports development. Item 5 of Article 3 of the International Charter on Sport makes it clear that that “allocation of budgets for public provision of quality physical education programmes should be protected and strengthened.” China’s leading sports nation campaign protects and supports sports rights in four aspects: fiscal input, financial support, tax and fee preferences, and land supply. (1) Improving the mechanism of allocating public finance for sports. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period specifically demands an overall fiscal support system to give more support to key areas, weak links, and key regions, along with the system to evaluate how efficiently the fiscal funds are used. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation demands specifying the fiscal authority and funding responsibility of local governments at all levels in the sports sector, reinforcing local governments’ principal responsibility, and bettering the overall arrangements for government funds and general public budget. (2) Strengthening financial support. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period requires perfecting financial support policies, broadening financing channels, and guiding social forces to support sports development. It also urges efforts to improve the mechanism of government purchase of services, so that governments will buy more public sports services from social providers. (3) Offering tax and fee preferences. Both the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period and the Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation stipulate that we should put into practice the existing tax and fee policies on sports and strengthen the evaluation and supervision of how they are implemented. (4) Ensuring public land for sports. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation provides that the demand for exercise venues and facilities and sports space should be considered as part of the big picture and incorporated into the economic and social development plan as well as land and space plan of governments at all levels, along with construction standards and evaluation system. It also stipulates that as long as the national land policy allows, governments at all levels must guarantee the land supply for important non-profit sports facilities as well as for-profit facilities and projects, with land use formalities conducted in accordance with laws and regulations. 
 
C. Providing life-cycle services
 
Providing life-cycle services is an inherent element of the national obligation of ensuring fitness for all. Item 1 of Article 4 of the International Charter on Sport says, “Physical education, physical activity and sports programmes must be designed to meet the needs and personal characteristics of those practicing them over their whole lifespan.”Accordingly, the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period emphasizes “developing sports services spanning the whole life cycle.” The Work Plan for Clear Eyes Action for the Prevention and Control of Myopia among Children and Youths (2021-2025) issued by 15 authorities including the Ministry of Education and the Healthy China Action Plan (2019-2030) issued by the Healthy China Promotion Committee provide that we should encourage children to take part in all sorts of off-campus sports activities, urge them to be good at one or two sports, and guide them to form the habit of lifelong exercising. The Medium and Long-term Youth Development Plan (2016-2025) lays down more detailed provisions on this. It asks youths to foster sports hobbies, and to frequently participate in all kinds of sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, track and field events, swimming, table tennis, badminton and tennis, as well as fitness activities including aerobic exercises (dance), brisk walking, traditional martial arts, tai chi, cycling, mountain climbing, rope-skipping, and shuttlecock kicking. Every youth is urged to be good at more than one sport and form the habit of lifelong exercising. 
 
Demand monitoring and evaluation is a crucial means of supporting the provision of life-cycle services. Item 4 of Article 4 of the International Charter on Sport stresses, “Physical education, physical activity and sport policy and programmes must be systematically monitored and evaluated by appropriate national agencies, to assess whether they satisfy the needs of their intended beneficiaries.” Therefore, the Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period puts in place nine monitoring and evaluation systems. (1) Monitor people’s physical health, survey national sports and exercise standards, and survey the state of public fitness activities. (2) Strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of plan implementation, and use the results to supervise and examine the work of sports authorities, public institutions and relevant associations at all levels. Establish a mechanism to dynamically adjust the implementation of the plan, monitor it more closely, identify and solve problems in a timely manner, refine the implementing strategy, and conduct the interim and summative evaluation in due time. (3) Create a system of managing and operating public fitness services based on performance evaluation, supervision and feedback. (4) Create a Chinese-style evaluation system where sports competitions are star-rated or graded. (5) Establish a cost-effectiveness evaluation system of the national technological input into sports.(6) Evaluate the feasibility and rationality of forming national associations for single sports items. (7) Carry out regular sorting-out and evaluation of archives. (8) Intensify the evaluation of how well the fiscal funds are being used. (9) Put into practice the existing tax and fee policies on sports, and strengthen the evaluation and supervision of policy implementation. 
 
D. Achieving sustainable development
 
The 2015 UN General Assembly adopted Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Article 37 of the 2030 Agenda highlights sport as an important enabler in achieving those goals.23 Article 5 of the International Charter on Sport provides that “all stakeholders must ensure that their activities are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.” When making laws, policies and plans for building a leading sports nation, China upholds the new development philosophy and pays close attention to the inherent requirements and objective laws of sustainable development. Its commitment to pursuing sustainable sports development and protecting and promoting citizens’ sports rights is demonstrated in the following five aspects. (1) Upholding the sustainable development concept. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period carries out the concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development in the whole process and in all areas of sports development, and calls for transforming the development mode at a faster pace, so as to promote sports in a fairer, safer, more efficient and sustainable manner with higher quality. (2) Building sustainable sports venues. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period proposes to build smart sports venues with a wide range of features, including energy conservation and environmental protection, digital platforms as the core, universal perception and interconnection, comprehensive analysis, assistance in decision-making, and smart control. To promote the construction of public winter sports venues and facilities, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), General Administration of Sports of China, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued the National Construction Plan for Winter Sports Venues and Facilities (2016-2022). The document, aiming at intensive use of resources, environmental and ecological friendliness, and emissions reductions, demands perfecting the system for the construction, management and service of winter sports venues and facilities with well-conceived standards, and designing the venues and facilities in a rational layout. (3) Promoting sustainable use of fitness facilities. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation emphasizes that when building sports venues and facilities, we should make secondary use of urban and rural space rationally and promote multi-function, seasonal, and environment-friendly fitness facilities that are mobile and dismountable. (4) Holding green and environment-friendly sports events. Article 4 of the Measures for the Administration of Sports Events and Activities states that “sports events and activities shall be held according to the following principles: legal, safe, open, fair, equitable, honest, civilized, and green.” The General Administration of Sports of China, National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) issued the Development Plan for the Marathon Industry (2017), which called for establishing a system for developing the marathon industry in an environment-friendly and sustainable way. This means coordinating the economic, social and ecological benefits, fostering an ecological industry chain and network, saving resources to the largest extent and reducing pollution, protecting the environment, and striving for sustainability. Moreover, marathon routes should be designed to avoid eco-environmentally fragile areas, and must be cleaned up in a timely and standard way with all waste recycled.(5) Processing waste at sports venues. Article 53 of the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environment Pollution Caused by Solid Wastes stipulates that entities responsible for the operation and management of public facilities and venues, including sports venues, should build domestic waste collecting facilities in accordance with national sanitary regulations. 
 
E. Mobilizing stakeholders 
 
The state needs to bring into full play the positive role of stakeholders such as research institutes, technology providers, and the media to help realize sports rights. Article 6 of the International Charter on Sport says, “Good quality policy-making depends on sound factual information gathered from a range of sources, including scientific research, expert knowledge, and the media.” As China is building a leading sports nation, it attaches great importance to the role of scientific research, technology, and media in protecting sports rights. (1) Supporting sports rights with technological innovation. Article 11 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft) stipulates that the state supports scientific research and technological innovation in sports science and promotes the use of technological achievements in this field to raise it to a higher level; Article 53 underlines the scientific and technological research on anti-doping, and promotes advanced anti-doping technologies, equipment and methods. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation calls for intensifying basic theoretical research on sports to provide theoretical support and inform decision making for building a leading sports nation. (2) Exerting the media’s role in promoting sports culture and rule of law. To begin with, we need to form omni-media communication. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation proposes to bring out the positive effect of short video platforms, microblogs, WeChat, and the client side in communicating sports culture, and foster the convergence of media products in sports. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period also emphasizes the promotional effect of various media and communication approaches. Second, we need to step up sports-related cultural and platform creation. The aforementioned plan encourages the creation of sports-themed literature, music, sculpture, photography, film and TV programs, animation, and logos. It also calls for fostering sports-focused convergence media, and creating an omni-media communication system focused on content, backed by cutting-edge technologies, and guaranteed by innovative management. Third, we need to reinforce the publicity and education in law-based sports development. The same plan requires using new media technologies for publicity and education in law-based sports development. A “Sports Law publicity program” has been launched, in which articles have been released by mainstream media and official websites, academic forums held and short videos made to interpret the Sports Law, and newspapers, digital devices, websites, client sites and WeChat/microblogs were all utilized to popularize the law in government organs, sports teams, communities, enterprises, and schools. 
 
F. Intensifying sports cooperation with other countries and regions, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan
 
Item 1 of Article 12 of the International Sport Charter makes clear the important role of sports cooperation in advancing friendship, collaboration, peace and development among individuals and nations. In building a leading sports nation, China sets great store by promoting the development of sports rights through cooperation with other countries and regions, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, which is reflected in two aspects. On the one hand, sports exchanges are promoted with foreign countries and regions as well as with Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation urges closer sports exchanges and cooperation with key countries and regions, active participation in intergovernmental people-to-people activities, and solid efforts to boost sports exchanges under such multilateral cooperation frameworks as the Belt and Road Initiative, BRICS, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It requires formulating and implementing the action plan for sports development under the Belt and Road Initiative, setting up sports exchange platforms of various forms, and encouraging colorful public sports activities. It also promotes sports exchanges and cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macao to support the latter’s sports development. On the other hand, inheritance and development of traditional sports culture is promoted via cooperation with foreign countries and regions as well as with Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period pledges to push traditional Chinese sports to “go global” and gain more recognition around the world. 
 
V. Conclusion
 
To sum up, the laws, regulations, policies and plans for building a leading sports nation protect and promote the realization of sports rights in two ways. One is directly explaining what sports rights citizens are entitled to; the other is specifying the state’s obligations for promoting and protecting the realization of sports rights, putting in place various mechanisms and measures, and expounding the multiple dimensions of sports rights. There are plenty of stories of how China protects and promotes sports rights through the rule of law. Telling them well will inject impetus into the theoretical demonstration and sustainable development of international human rights in the sports sector, and effectively enhance China’s international influence both in sports and the rule of law.
 
(Translated by XIANG Na)
 
* ZHANG Peng ( 张鹏 ), Associate Professor, Master’s Supervisor and Doctor of Law at the Institute for Chinese Legal Modernization Studies (ICLMS), Nanjing Normal University. This paper is a phased result of the program titled “Enhancing China’s International Discourse Power on Law-based Sports Development”(21BTY057) sponsored by the National Social Science Fund of China.
 
1. Jiang Shibo, “Sports Right as a New Human Right,” Journal of Wuhan Institute of Physical Education 4 (2018): 45.
 
2. Wang Xigen and An Xiaoxuan, “Improvement of Sports Right Concept under 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Journal of Beijing Sport University 3 (2018): 5.
 
3. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, accessed October 28, 2021, https://www.un.org/Chinese/disabilities/convention/con-vention.htm. 
 
4. Li Pingping and Wang Lei, “Interpretation of and Thoughts on International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport,” Journal of Beijing Sport University 7 (2016): 95.
 
5. Jiang Shibo, “Sports Right as a New Human Right,” 45.
 
6. Wang Xigen and Lan Wei, “On the Right of Sports Development,” Journal of Southwest Minzu University (Humanities and Social Science) 5 (2012): 95.
 
7. Zhang Peng and Qi Jundi, “Reflection on ‘Sports Rights’ Studies and Legislative Choice,” Journal of Tianjin University of Sport 3 (2013): 236.
 
8. Wang Ping and Zhang Yuchai, “How Will the Revision of Sports Law Change Our Lives?” The People’s Congress of China 22 (2021): 33.
 
9. Wang Chenguang, “Theories and Practices of the Right to Health Expanded,” Human Rights 4 (2021): 28.
 
10. Positive rights refer to social rights, including right to payment and right to share. Right to payment, a primitive social right, means the nation is obligated to provide the conditions for the realization of basic rights. Right to share, a derivative social right, means citizens have the right to receive their due share from the state’s payment. Wang Kai, “Conflict of Basic Rights and Solution,” Chinese Journal of Law 6 (2021): 40-41.
 
11. Zhang Wenxian, Jurisprudence (Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2003), 113-114.
 
12. Wang Xigen and Lan Wei, “On the Right of Sports Development,” 96.
 
13. Wang Ping and Zhang Yuchai, “How Will the Revision of Sports Law Change Our Lives?”, 33.
 
14. “Officials from General Administration of Sports of China interpret ‘Outline for Building a Leading Sports Nation’ in three aspects,” accessed September 5, 2019, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2019-09/05/content_5427521.htm. 
 
15. Jiang Xiaojie and Zhang Zhuolin, “Just Distribution of the Right to Sports Health — Philosophical Reflection on Sports Health Development in the Post-COVID Era,” Journal of Beijing Sport University 3 (2020): 40.
 
16. Tian Siyuan, “People-centered Xi Jinping Thought on Rule of Law: Fundamental Cornerstone for the Revision of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Physical Culture and Sports,” China Sports Science 10 (2021): 5.
 
17. Article 23 of the Sports Law (Revised Draft): The state gives priority to developing sports for youths. Sports should be made an integral part of education and classroom study coordinated with exercise to promote the all-round development of youths. 
 
18. On July 24, 2021, the General Office of CPC Central Committee and General Office of State Council issued the “Opinions on Further Alleviating Homework Burden and Off-campus Tutoring for Students Undergoing Compulsory Education,” which is generally referred to as the “Double Reduction” policy and has exerted profound impacts on in-school sports and juvenile health. Expert team, “Double Reduction Policy and Sports Development in Schools,” Journal of Shanghai University of Sport 11(2021).
 
19. Some scholars put forth the sub-concept of the right of youths to all-round development, along with targeted legal measures to protect such right. Yu Shanxu, “Legal Protection for Sports’ Integration in Education and Youths’ Right to All-round Development — A Study Centered on Youths’ Right to Education,” Journal of Sports Research 1 (2022).
 
20. General Administration of Sports of China, “Plan for Sports Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period,”accessed October 25, 2021, https://www.sport.gov.cn/n315/n330/c23655706/part/23656158.pdf.
 
21. Yuan Gang, “State Protection of Human Rights: The Best Mechanism of Human Rights Protection,” Human Rights 2 (2014): 57.
 
22. Wang Jin, et al., “Study of Several Issues Concerning the Revision of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Physical Culture and Sports,” China Sport Science 10 (2021): 10-11.
 
23. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, accessed April 13, 2021, http://
genevese.mofcom.gov.cn/article/wjysj/201604/20160401295679.shtml.
 
Chinese Dictionary:

@cn_humanrights

For the latest news and analysis from our

reporters and editors:Staff Twitter List>>

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