The annual Europe-China Seminar on Human Rights was held in Bruges this year, on June 28. This year’s theme is Diversity of Civilization and Human Rights Protection. The seminar was organised by experts and scholars from the field of human rights in China and Europe and focused on the human rights theory and practice in the pluralistic world, differences in the concept of human rights in East and West, human rights exchanges and dialogues under the diversity of civilization, human rights consensus in search of diversified civilizations, diversity of civilizations, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The CCHRC participated with a large delegation, as always led by Tom Zwart, who, another classic, delivered a speech during the opening session.
A lead theme of this year’s meeting was the dialogue between China and the EU. Human Rights as the concept of basic rights of human beings is so closely connected with people’s world outlook, that there must me numerous concepts of Human Rights. A number of European delegates gave a detailed exposé of the differences, even showing that the differences are increasing rather than decreasing. Harmonizing the points of view within the complex bureaucracy of the EU is not an easy endeavour.
Some Chinese delegates contended that China offers a strong alternative from its rich philosophical tradition and more than before actively seeks engagement with the rest of the world. The Chinese government has recently incorporated it in its foreign policy including the language in which that policy is promoted. They expressed hope that the EU would to be more open for the possibly that it can learn from China.
This confidence was balanced by other Chinese delegates who pointed out that this strong culture also struggles with new developments. For example, the introduction of a new concept like Personality Rights is posing quite a challenge for the Chinese legal system. It seems that the thinking on Human Rights in both regions is in an equal state of flux.
To bridge the cultural differences, a group of delegates proposes a number of methodologies.A strong one is not looking for common elements, but for differences and make those differences more explicit. Such difference can be revealed using questionnaires asking respondents how they would (re)act in various situations.
As has become a tradition in the China-EU dialogues, the participants were not seeking outcomes, but enjoyed the continuous open dialogue and the richness of the challenging statements and proposals made during the various presentations. In that respect this recurrent activity perfectly suits the principles of the CCHRC.