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Writing a New Chapter of International Human Rights Exchanges and Cooperation

2017/12/10

Li Baodong

I

Facing profound transformation in the international environment, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has made insightful observations of the trends of the times and drawn up and implemented comprehensive, strategic and forward-looking plans, and as a result, great progress and development have been achieved in China's diplomacy. As an important part of China's diplomatic endeavors, international exchanges and cooperation on human rights have also registered remarkable achievements, opening up a new vista for human rights diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

First, we have made new breakthroughs in international human rights governance. Over the past five years, China has taken an active part in international human rights governance and worked for the establishment of a fair, just, reasonable and effective international human rights system. China has hosted a series of human rights related events, including the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, the International Seminar on the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, the South-South Human Rights Forum and the 16th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights. In his congratulatory letter to the opening of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, President Xi Jinping noted that "there is always room for improvement when it comes to human rights protection", "China has embarked on a path for human rights development suited to its reality through combining the universality of human rights with China's specific conditions", and "China will unswervingly stay on the path of peaceful development and steadfastly advance human rights development both in China and in the wider world". These remarks chart the course for China's human rights development and provide guidance for China to fully participate in international human rights governance.

Through the Human Rights Council and other UN platforms, China has incorporated important concepts such as "a community of shared future for mankind" into Human Rights Council resolutions, and raised the visibility of the Belt and Road Initiative. China has worked for the adoption of resolutions entitled "Promoting the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health through Enhancing Capacity-Building in Public Health", and "The Contribution of Development to the Enjoyment of All Human Rights", delivered joint statements on behalf of over 140 countries on "Enhancing Dialogue and Cooperation to Protect and Promote Universally Recognized Human Rights", "Realizing Development for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights" and "Promote and Protect Human Rights, Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind", among others, and held side-events and exhibitions, including those themed "Promotion of Human Rights: Role of Poverty Reduction" and "Progress of China's Human Rights". These proactive efforts have helped to enhance China's soft power and influence in international human rights arena by translating domestic governance philosophies into international consensus, and highlighting China's human rights practices as fine examples of international cooperation.

China was re-elected to the Human Rights Council by an overwhelming majority for the years of 2014-2016 and 2017-2019, making China one of the few countries that have won the elections for four times. China was also re-elected as a member of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. Several Chinese experts currently serve on multilateral human rights committees, including the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. China's human rights achievements have gained more international recognition, and strengthened its influence in mutilateral human rights agencies and its ability to shape the development and the rules-making process of the relevant agencies.

Second, we have taken new actions to uphold national interests and image. China has thwarted some countries' attempts to deliver joint statements against China and interfere in China's internal affairs in the Human Rights Council, and facilitated the adoption of its Universal Periodic Review report. China has played a constructive role in the meetings of the Third Committee, Human Rights Council and its affiliated mechanisms, resolutely refuted the unfounded accusations made by some countries and anti-China forces, and garnered greater understanding and support for China's human rights endeavors. We have upheld the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and adeptly used UN rules and procedures to make sure that we hold the high ground of morality and rules compliance in fighting anti-China forces, thus safeguarding China's national interests, sovereignty, security and dignity.

Third, we have registered new progress in fulfilling international human rights obligations. China participated in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council, during which China elaborated on its achievements in promoting human rights, held candid and constructive dialogue with other countries, listened to their suggestions with an open mind, and accepted 204 (81%) of the 254 recommendations they had raised. This demonstrated China's open, inclusive and earnest attitude, and highlighted the policies, actions and measures carried out by the country to promote and protect human rights.

China completed the second periodic review of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was hailed as "an exemplary review" by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In a positive, confident, inclusive and open spirit, China also received reviews on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, among others. In the process, China has established its reputation as a major country committed to improving people's well-being, honoring acceded agreements, and enhancing international cooperation.

Fourth, we have adopted new measures for international human rights exchanges. Over the past five years, China has conducted more than 50 human rights dialogues with Western and developing countries and actively and appropriately carried out cooperation with UN human rights agencies.

China has held 29 such dialogues with the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and other Western countries. China-US Legal Exchange and China-Australia Human Rights Technical Cooperation were also carried out. These efforts have deepened exchanges among government departments, judiciaries and academic groups, enhanced mutual understanding, effectively managed disagreements and offset the disturbances inflicted by the US, other Western Countries and anti-China elements under the pretext of human rights.

China has held human rights consultations with over 10 developing countries or regional organizations such as Russia, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Malaysia, the African Union, Pakistan, Belarus, Cuba, Laos, Sri Lanka and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China worked to put in place a regular meeting mechanism among BRICS countries' permanent representatives in Geneva. Through mutual learning and closer cooperation, the unity and coordination among developing countries has been strengthened, the united front for human rights endeavors expanded and our friend circle enlarged.

China has maintained constructive contacts with the UN Office at Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and others, and encouraged them to perform their duties in an objective and just manner and attach importance to the concerns of developing countries. China contributed funds to the Special Rapporteur on the right to development, invited the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and three Special Rapporteurs including the one on extreme poverty and human rights to visit China, and received members of the Committee Against Torture, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and others. During these exchanges, China focused on its own agenda, demonstrated goodwill, enhanced trust, reduced misgivings, and helped international human rights agencies to view China's progress in human rights endeavors impartially and objectively.

Fifth, we have made fresh headway in increasing our say on human rights issues. China has released the National Human Rights Action Plan and the White Paper on Human Rights, and employed multiple channels such as photo exhibitions, interviews, news articles and briefings to fully and faithfully present China's understanding of and progress in human rights from different angles; China uses the Human Rights Council, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly and other important international platforms to express its unequivocal opposition to politicizing human rights issues and interfering in other countries' internal affairs under the pretext of human rights, and to speak up for developing countries; China takes the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an opportunity to actively engage in international assistance. By 2016, China has provided a total of over RMB 400 billion foreign assistance and supported more than 120 developing countries in their efforts to follow through on the MDGs. Parties involved highly commend China's relevant measures and regard them as support for international peace and development and contribution to the global human rights cause.

II

International "human rights deficit" is still prominent. There is a rising tendency toward politicizing human rights, double standards remain rampant, and certain countries still seek to interfere in other countries' internal affairs under the pretext of human rights. There is still injustice, intolerance and instability in our world today, and global development remains unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable. To pursue the noble goal of "Human rights for all", "promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom" and build a community of shared future for mankind, we should make efforts in the following four areas.

First, advancing human rights with peace. Peace and security are the most important human rights. All parties should respect each other, conduct consultations as equals, resolutely reject Cold War mentality and power politics, and embark on a new path of state-to-state relations where dialogue and partnership prevail over confrontation and alliance. We should settle disputes and disagreements through dialogue and negotiation, take coordinated efforts to address traditional and non-traditional security threats and oppose terrorism in all its manifestations. The UN and other international organizations should leverage their influence and play their roles as the main channels for political mediation, conflict prevention, restoring peace, fighting terrorism, among others. The Third Committee and the Human Rights Council should give priority to large-scale human rights violations caused by armed conflicts and urge relevant parties to reflect on the root causes and avoid the tragedies from happening again.

Second, advancing human rights with development. Development is of paramount importance. For developing countries, poverty elimination and development pose pressing challenges and represent their fundamental needs when it comes to the issue of human rights. All parties should follow the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, take a development-based approach in implementing the 2030 Agenda, and advance sustainable development in environmental protection, health, education, employment, gender equality, disaster prevention and mitigation and other fields. Through joint efforts, we can blaze a trail for fair, open, comprehensive and innovative development. The international community should provide more financial and technical support for developing countries, prioritize the rights to survival and development, create conditions for the people in developing countries to share the fruits of development, and make sure that no one is left behind.

Third, advancing human rights with the rule of law. The rule of law is the fundamental guarantee for human rights. All parties should observe the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, respect other countries' sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and the social systems and development paths they have chosen, uphold the authority of the international rule of law and ensure equal and uniform application of international law. Governments should continue to strengthen judicial protection of human rights, promote law-based governance on all fronts, ensure everyone is equal before the law and do justice to the role of the judiciary as the last line of defense to safeguard social fairness and justice. At the same time, measures taken by a country to maintain social stability and fight crime in accordance with law must be respected.

Fourth, advancing human rights with cooperation. There is no one-size-fits-all standard in the world. As an integral part of a country's economic and social development, human rights must be advanced in light of specific national conditions and people's needs. No human rights development path should be regarded as the only right choice. The international community should encourage countries to choose their own paths of human rights development and respect their choices. Countries with different paths of human rights development need to respect and learn from each other and make progress together. Multilateral platforms such as the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council should serve as bridges for dialogues and exchanges between countries rather than arenas where countries put pressure on others or engage in confrontation. UN human rights officials and the Human Rights Council's Special Procedures should perform their duties in accordance with their mandates and do more to promote cooperation and bridge differences instead of making futile efforts in naming and shaming and aggravating tensions. History has proven once and again that politicizing human rights and fueling confrontation will lead nowhere while only dialogue and cooperation offers the right solution.

III

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China marked the beginning of a new journey for China, a journey in which the Communist Party of China will lead the Chinese people in fully building a modern socialist country. Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, China will continue to hold high the banner of human rights, make consistent efforts to promote and advance protection of human rights, and break new ground for major country human rights diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in a new era.

We will stay committed to the "Chinese path" suited to our national conditions. We uphold both the universality and particularity of human rights, work to ensure that progress in democracy and betterment of people's lives reinforce each other, and strive for coordinated progress in peace and development, and have thus found a distinctive Chinese path of human rights development suited to China's reality. This demonstrates our confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics. China's successful practice has also provided more options for human rights protection in the world and offers a whole new alternative for countries and peoples who want to accelerate their development while maintaining their independence. China will continue to bear in mind its own national conditions, adopt a people-centered approach, give top priority to development, promote rule of law and derive impetus from opening-up. China will unwaveringly stay committed to the path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics in a new era, foster the Chinese concept of human rights featuring core socialist values, connect China's development with that of the world, and work to realize the Chinese Dream and build a community of shared future for mankind.

We will continue to play a "Chinese role" in global human rights governance. China will stay committed to the path of peaceful development, continue to pursue a win-win strategy of opening-up, forge a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation, advance the building of a community of shared future for mankind and solidify the foundation of human rights protection. Following the principles of equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning and win-win cooperation, China will fully and deeply participate in global human rights governance, push for all parties to observe the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, uphold the principle of state sovereignty, respect each country's human rights development path, and help diversify the paths of global human rights development. China will promote unity, collaboration, communication and coordination among developing countries to safeguard the common interests of the developing world, build a human rights united front and advance democracy in global human rights governance. China will encourage countries to place equal emphasis on both the economic, social and cultural rights and the civil and political rights to realize balanced development of all types of human rights.

We will continue to make "Chinese contribution" to the international human rights cause. China firmly supports globalization, multilateralism and the international system with the UN at its core. China's efforts to carry out the Belt and Road Initiative with other countries, launch the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and set up the Silk Road Fund are all aimed to provide more public goods for the world and share the dividends of China's development with others. China will build the Belt and Road into a road of peace, prosperity, openness and innovation and a road connecting different civilizations. China will continue to provide other developing countries with assistance within its capabilities and earnestly implement the China-UN Peace and Development Fund, the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund and other important funds and projects, serving the interests of the Chinese people and the common interests of people across the world.

We will build on our achievements and strive for new progress. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China opened a new chapter for realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. China will forge ahead on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, continue to promote well-rounded human development and all-round social progress, further advance and protect human rights and better demonstrate the vitality of the path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics.

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