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China’s participation and contribution to global human rights governance
China’s participation and contribution to global human rights governance 
 

LUO Yanhua1, Member of China Society for Human Rights Studies; Professor of the School of International Studies, Peking University
 
The global governance refer to solving transnational problems through binding international rules, aimed at maintaining normal international political and economic orders. These problems include global conflicts, ecological problems, human rights, immigrants, transnational crimes, infectious diseases, and so on.
 
Human rights issue is an important field of global governance. Because of the time limit, today I’ll focus on China’s participation and contribution to global human rights governance in the UN arena. 
 
1. China’s active participation in setting the principle, standards for human rights and developing human rights connotation.
 
China is not only the founding member of the United Nations, but also the first country to sign the Charter of the United Nations. China participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most fundamental documents that establish international human rights standards. Mr. P.C. Chang, a representative from China is one of the special committee of three for the Declaration and involved in all the drafting process. In addition, Chang also made contributions to establishing the form of the Declaration. Furthermore, among the 30 Articles of the Declaration, the discussion and formation of 11 Articles are directly related to Chang.2These articles included article 1, article 2 and 7, article 21 to 27, article 29.3
 
After the establishment of PRC, influenced by the international environment and domestic politics, China seldom took part in international human rights activities in a period. Until the end of 1970s last century, with the reform and open-door policy, China changed its attitude towards international human rights activities. In the 1980s, China started to take a relatively active part in international human rights activities. Many times it sent delegates to participate in drafting legal documents of international human rights, including the working groups of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention for the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and their families, the Convention on the Prohibition of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Indignity Treatments or Punishments, the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Declaration on the protection of national, racial, linguistic and religious minorities. 
 
Since 1981, China had been participating in all previous sessions of the governmental expert groups for drafting the Declaration on the Right to Development, and made suggestions actively until the Declaration was adopted in the 41th Assembly of the United Nations. Meanwhile, China also actively supported UNCHR to conduct global negotiation on realizing the right to development, and to deliberate the right to development as a single topic for discussion in the Commission. China had been the co-sponsor of the resolutions related to the issue of the right to development in the Commission all the time.
 
In the early 1990s, China made significant adjustments in policies concerned with human rights issues. It began to actively participate in international human rights activities and made important contributions to setting the international human rights standards. In March 1993, China sent delegates to the Asian Regional Governments’ Preparatory Meeting of the World Conference on Human Rights in Bangkok. It also took the vice-chair of the first preparatory meeting, the Preparatory Meeting of Asian Regional Governments and the World Conference on Human Rights, having played an important role in preparing for and success of the Conference. At the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in June 1993, China has made its own contribution to the formulation and adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. 
 
2. China active participation in the mechanism of international human rights treaties 
 
China has altogether joined 27 international human rights treaties since its foundation in 1949.4 Throughout the process, China mainly joined the treaties in the 1950s, 1980s, 1990s and after the 21st century. In the 1980s, China joined 11 international human rights treaties, which is the largest amount ever. 5
 
The reason why China actively joined international human rights treaties in the 1980s is closely related to the changes in China’s understanding of human rights and its domestic policies. With the opening-up policy, there is a marked change in China’s attitude towards international human rights. China came to realize that the international human rights laws play a positive role in upholding world peace and fostering universal advancement and therefore decided to engage in international human rights activities. Then the 1980s becomes the period when China joined most of the treaties. 
 
Apart from the 1980s, China ratified four international human rights treaties6 in the 1950s, joined four7 in the 1990s, and ratified eight8 in the 21st century, another period when China joined those treaties intensively.
As for those international human rights treaties China has already joined, it attaches great importance to honoring its obligations, including writing implementation reports conscientiously, accepting the review of treaty-based bodies on schedule, accepting the constructive suggestions of the international community in a responsible and earnest attitude and constantly improving the work in human rights protection.
 
In addition, China also actively recommended Chinese experts to work in those international treaty-based bodies. Chinese experts have acted as members in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, committee on the elimination of discrimination against women, the Committee against torture, committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.
 
 3. China’s active participation in the work of specialized UN agencies on human rights and its constructive role in the process of their reform 
 
China started to take an active part in the work of UN human rights agencies by the end of 1970s, and maintained a good relationship with those agencies. Since the beginning of the 21st century, China actively participated in the reform of UN specialized agencies on human rights, and played a positive role in the negotiations and final voting of the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). 
 
 China has played an important role in the Human Rights Council since it was established. In the first election of members, which was held by the UN General Assembly during its 60th session on May 9, 2006, China was elected with 146 votes for a term of three years. When the 63rd session of the General Assembly reelected 18 members on May 12, 2009, China was reelected with 167 votes to a consecutive three-year term from 2009 to 2012. During the reelection held by the 68th session on November 12, 2013, China was elected again with an overwhelming majority of 176 votes for a three-year term from 2014 to 2016. On October 28 of 2016, China won 180 votes and reelected for the fourth time in UNHRC membership election. As a member state of the Human Rights Council, China conscientiously fulfills its obligations by taking an active part in all the previous meetings and various tasks of the Human Rights Council and taking the universal periodic review seriously. It was reviewed in February 2009 for the first time and in October 2013 for the second time. During the two reviews, most countries spoke highly of China’s human rights achievements and China also accepted other countries’ constructive suggestions earnestly. 
 
To sum up, in the 70 years after UN was established, China has taken an active part in and made contributions to the UN construction of the mechanism for human rights protection. It has contributed to the establishment of the principles and standards for the human rights and the development of the connotation of human rights. Besides, it has actively joined international human rights treaties and conscientiously fulfilled its obligations. At the same time, it also has played an important role in the reform and development of specialized UN agencies on human rights. Now, China has put forward the idea of building a community of shared future for mankind, and human rights protection is an important part of building the community. This means that China will participate in the global human rights governance more actively than before and play more important role in it, while trying to contribute more to building a just and reasonable international human rights governance system.

1. The author is a professor in the School of International Studies, Peking University.
2. Those articles mainly involve basic human rights (Article 1), non-discrimination and equal protection (Articles 2 and 7), social rights (Articles 22 to 27), the right of equal access to public service (Article 21(2)) and limitations on power (Article 29).
3. Ju Chengwei, “The Confucianism’s Contribution to New Human Rights Theory---From Mr. P.C. Chang’s Participation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, Global Law Review, Vol.1, 2011. 
4. Luo Yanhua, “China and International Human Rights Cooperation”, Li Junru, ed., Annual Report on China’s Human Rights, No.1, (2011), Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2011, pp.445-446.
5. The conventions include: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime Apartheid, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, International Convention against Apartheid in Sports, Convention on Occupational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities.  
6. They are: Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed forces in the Field, Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.  
7. They are: Equal Remuneration Convention, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Employment Policy Convention, Minimum Age Convention. In addition, on October 28,1997, when Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited the United States, China signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. On October 5, 1998, China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  
8. These conventions ratified in the new century are: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, Prohibition and Immediate Action to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, Convention concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  

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