China-Europe seminar on human rights held to dispel misunderstanding

By Liu Xin and Fan Lingzhi in Rome (Global Times) 08:53, September 21, 2023

When scholars and politicians from China and Europe gathered on Wednesday in Rome, Italy, to discuss important issues in the arena of human rights, they expressed their worries over the alarming tendency of some countries to weaponize and politicize human rights, and called for joint efforts to promote global human rights governance via cooperation and dialogue.

More than 140 scholars from 15 countries attended the 2023 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights. The seminar, themed "Modernization and the Diversity of Human Rights Among Civilizations," was held by the China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS) and the law faculty at Sapienza University of Rome.

There is high anticipation for this year's seminar, Chinese analysts said, as there is a need to promote communications in human rights fields and dispel misunderstandings, as some people in Europe have been trapped in information cocoons and misled by disinformation spread by some Western media outlets and anti-China forces, especially regarding China's human rights situation.

The world has entered a new turbulent period, and global governance on human rights is facing severe threats with entrenched problems, including war, hunger and terrorism remaining unsolved, Baimachilin, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) and president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, said at the seminar on Wednesday. Baimachilin continued that new problems, such as displaying a Cold War mentality, hegemonism, unilateral sanctions and the weaponization of human rights, have become major impacts to global human rights governance.

Baimachilin called for joint efforts to promote positive development of global governance on human rights through cooperation, to achieve humanity's overall development during the process of modernization and to learn from each other to diversify civilizations.

Rome was not built in a day and human rights development cannot be completed over one night and it needs persistent efforts, said Baimachilin, while welcoming foreign guests to visit China and have a closer look at China's human rights development.

Lord Neil Davidson, a member of the House of Lords and Labour Party Parliamentarian of the United Kingdom, attended the Wednesday seminar via video link and said that at a time of tension in international relations, it is apparent that various efforts are being made to "weaponize" the human rights debate.

Davidson noted that certain sections in the UK's political parties have been particularly vocal in their use of human rights criticisms to attack other states' parties. "In the case of the UK, one does not require to be steeped in history to reflect that the history of the British Empire reveals case after case of the destruction of the human rights of peoples across the world," he said.

When it comes to the discussion of human rights and the different approaches adopted by different societies, there is no discernible benefit from confrontation, Davidson said.

He noted that discussions on human rights with the objective of mutual understanding between countries can only serve to improve relations. Differing ideologies and differing cultures are a given in today's world but an acceptance that mutual understanding makes for a safer world for all is hardly a controversial proposition.

There is an alarming tendency that human rights have been politicized and some people in the West feel that when China talks about human rights, it poses a threat to their own values, which is not only wrong, but also ideologically biased and apprehensive, Zhang Yonghe, a standing council member of the CSHRS and also executive director of the Human Rights Institute of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times

Zhang said that Chinese and foreign scholars discussing human rights in Rome - a place of significance for Western civilization and a city where cultures have converged and flourished for many centuries - would also help more people to understand the essence of human rights under the view of the development of all humanity.

Several foreign scholars attending the forum told the Global Times that the seminar offers a good opportunity for China and Europe to deepen understandings of each other on issues of shared concern.

"It is important for us to understand more about China… I think people here have the best starting point to have good discussions about the situations if we get more understanding of each other's positions," Norwegian Thore Vestby, honorary mayor of Frogn, member of parliament representing the Conservative Party, founder and chairman of Ichi Fund, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"They are finding different subjects to attack China to keep the unipolar world," said Vestby, referring to Western media's reports on China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Vestby said he visited different places in Xinjiang in 2019 and what he saw was different from the description in the Western media. "I saw people singing and dancing and everyone was happy…," he said. "They were very friendly and came to talk to me."

The China-Europe Seminar started in 2015 and has been held seven times in various cities in China and Europe. The 2019 China-Europe Seminar was held in Austria in June that year, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held in Chinese cities with Chinese and foreign experts participating in person and virtually.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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