Beijing dons a new role as human rights promoter - RTHK
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Beijing dons a new role as human rights promoter

2017-12-07 HKT 14:26
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  • Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and minister of the Propaganda Department Huang Kunming arrive at the Great Hall of the People to attend the conference. Photo: AP
    Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and minister of the Propaganda Department Huang Kunming arrive at the Great Hall of the People to attend the conference. Photo: AP
Hundreds of participants attended the opening of a human rights forum in Beijing on Thursday in the latest instalment of the mainland's energetic drive to showcase what it considers the strengths of its authoritarian political system under President Xi Jinping.

The "South-South Human Rights Forum", drawing some 300 participants from over 50 mostly developing countries, follows a conference of political parties last weekend in Beijing also attended by hundreds of delegates, some of whom sung the praises of Communist Party rule.

Addressing Thursday's opening session, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the party congress had "identified the goal of forging a new field in international relations and building a community of shared future for mankind".

"This is China's answer to the question of where human society is heading, and it has also presented opportunities for the development of the human rights cause," Wang said.

China's growing confidence on issues like human rights is related to broader global trends, said William Nee, an Amnesty International researcher on China. "Obviously we've seen the Trump administration deprioritize human rights, we've seen issues like Brexit, and China is kind of stepping in the field and void," he said.

Participants at the Beijing forum were mostly government officials, diplomats and academics from developing nations, along with representatives from the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation. Absent were representatives of NGOs working in the field of civil and political rights such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch or Reporters Without Borders.

China has long rejected traditional notions of human rights as defined by the Universal Declaration and Western constitutions, redefining the concept along the more prosaic lines of the right to development, health, nutrition and housing.

Speakers at the forum kept their comments strictly within those parameters. Citing falling poverty rates and rising life expectancy, Tom Zwart of Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteit told participants China had "entered a new era of human rights".

"China has started to play a bigger role in building a just and harmonious international order that also includes the international human rights system," Zwart said. (AP)