Debate between CCHRC and Amnesty International on China’s influence on global human rights discourse

Rectify Human Rights Violations in China: Revisiting the Naming and Shaming Approach

A public debate on effective approaches to rectifying human rights violations in China took place on 6 June 2019 at Vrije University Amsterdam. The event was organised by the Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre.

Two leading figures in the field, Mr. Eduard Nazarsky, Director of the Amnesty International Dutch Office, and Mr. Tom Zwart, Professor of Human Rights and Director of the Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre, offered their differing views on a number of important topics including how to identify the nature of China’s counter-terrorism measures and how to prevent and rectify human rights violations therein. 

In the context of the highly disputed situation in Xinjiang, home to the majority of the Chinese ethnic group Uyghur that embraces Islam as their predominant religion, Mr. Nazarsky maintained that the mistreatment of the Uyghur people is a brutal human rights violation. Provided that the fate of estimated up to one million people is unknown and most of the detainees’ families have been living in fear, “they need the help from outside the country,” says Mr. Nazarsky.

Mr. Zwart argued that the situation in Xinjiang should be made sense of as a common challenge faced by many governments: balancing the State’s measures for fighting terrorism and respecting human rights. He added that “government surveillance over the Muslim communities [for monitoring terrorist suspects] exists in our society as well. To cope with that challenge, we should see religion as a solution, not a problem.”  

In answering the audience question about his overlooking local remedies such as China’s appeal and reconsideration procedure, administrative litigation and petition, Mr. Nazarsky posited that Amnesty International does not see these mechanisms as meaningful and effective, as they are unable to address the violation of Uyghur’s rights including that to their own language, to privacy and to due process. 

Mr. Zwart questioned whether the approach adopted by Mr. Nazarsky’s organisation is working in China. He gave an example that his Centre, after meeting public security officials in China in 2018, is seeking to propose to the Chinese government a community-led mechanism for combating terrorism—“we are trying to identify effective community-led measures for resolving the terrorism problem while not undermining rights protection in Muslim communities, such as the applicability of the practice where Muslim mothers are engaged to guide their radicalised children [away from radical actions].”

In addition to debating counter-terrorism measures in Muslim communities, the debaters actively engaged with the audience, shared their personal experiences and long-term observation as regards how to conduct human rights dialogues with China’s government authorities and officials, and responded to some general questions on how to ensure China’s sustained engagements with the international human rights bodies, and how can academics and international organisations make a meaningful contribution thereto. 

Additional information: CCHRC affiliate Peter Peverelli of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, recently visited another Muslim region in China: Linxia. You can read his blog about that visit here.

CCHRC Delegation Attended 2019 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights

The annual gathering of European and Chinese scholars and others with a genuine interest in the cultural embeddedness of the implementation of human rights took place in Vienna this year, June 19 – 22.

Sub-themes for the Seminar are:

  1. Universality and Particularity of Human Rights;
  2. Human Rights Significance of the Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings;
  3. History and Evolution of Human Rights Values;
  4. Human Rights Practice in China since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China and Its Global Significance.

Participating in this event granted an opportunity for the CCHRC delegation to share the ideas on human rights with their counterparts from Europe and China. The team consisted of 16 members from the Netherlands, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Czech Republic, who have put human rights diversity and cooperation in their research focus.

CCHRC delegation at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Before the official seminar, under the topic of Opportunities for China-Europe Cooperation in the Area of Human Rights within the Changing International Order, we held a meeting with delegates from China Society for Human Rights to discuss if and how Europe and China could make a further step towards cooperation in this area. CCHRC’s director, Professor Tom Zwart, indicated that, with the America’s retreating from the international human rights fields, such cooperation is desirable and possible between the two parties. This picture is actually being more clear considering the increasing political influence of Central and South Europe nations among the EU. These countries share a similar eager to promote certain economic and social rights with China. The delegates from both sides agreed on the importance of human rights cooperation, and proposed to start from the topics with less existing divergences, such as the terrorist threat, as well as some new areas like Big Data and AI.

The CCHRC delegation had a breakfast meeting on the next morning to know further about each other, and to carry out an exploration of the consensus reached by the last day’s meeting. The members all agreed to assist in bringing the cooperation on human rights between EU and China respectively from their own academic channels.

The official seminar was held in the Conference Hall of the Austrian Ministry of Justice, on 21 June. The theme was Comparison of Human Rights Values between the East and the West. The CCHRC members presented their speeches on various topics ranging from the universalism of human rights, the principle of good governance, to freedom of belief, migrants and refugee issues, and the ideological Jihad of liberalism. Among other topics, the universality and particularity of human rights attracted much attention. Some Chinese researchers concluded several global problems as the common challenges, including the terrorism, development, economic globalisation, and hegemony of superpower. In spite of different approaches to dealing with such challenges taken by EU and China, they do share the same purpose, which should serve as the basis of their cooperation. As to some new challenges posed by the development of the information technology, it was recognised that both sides can start building trust in these fields that had not had many conflicts yet.

CCHRC delegate Prof. André van de Braak of the Fac. of Theology of Vrije Universiteit Amstedam

The three-day meetings contributes to the understanding on the diversities and identities in the human rights discourse between Europe and China. Bearing in mind of this, it is necessary and pragmatic to make a further step on human rights cooperation.