Dialogue China and human rights treaty bodies is improving
Despite its relatively poor compliance record, as some scholars, NGOs, or states hold, China does consider itself subject to the international human rights treaty regime. There is a systemic dialogue between China and the treaty bodies, which has generally improved over time, especially on China’s part. That is one of the main conclusions of Jingjing Wu’s dissertation research, which she will defend on December 18th, 2018 at Tilburg University.
The relationship between China and international human rights law is an often-discussed issue, which has to do with China’s rapid rise to its global superpower status—economically, politically, militarily, and (in a way) culturally. In academics research, however, this relationship remains ‘peripheral’, insofar as the common approach situates China as an outlier in the international legal order that must be treated differently. It is this commonly held point of view that first prompted Jingjing Wu to undertake this study.
Wu examined the justifiability of particular reasoning–based arguments offered by China in the constructive dialogue on specific topics (i.e. interpretation, reservation, sovereignty, and treaty implementation).
‘Particular reasoning’ is a type of reasoning that by resorting to particular circumstance or facts, asks for an exclusion or deviation from the rules or principles. A more relatable (but less accurate) term for it is relativistic arguments. 'Constructive dialogue' is a formal examination procedure of the international human rights treaty bodies that is conducted between the treaty body committee members and the state party's delegation. Loosely speaking, it is like an oral exam taken by the state party, where inquiries, statements, and arguments from both the committees and the state party regarding whether the state at issue is fulfilling its treaty obligations are taken place.
The human rights treaty bodies committees have a greater impact on China than China has on the committees, Wu concluded on the basis of her research. Specifically, when it comes to topics on which China does not hold a strongly oppositional position, legally justifiable and dialogically constructive arguments from the committees are very likely to make a positive impact on the process, whereas un-justifiable or non-constructive arguments do not have this effect, or even affect the process negatively.
Wu’s research also reveals that the relationship between China and international human rights law rather complicated and may sometimes seem like it has reached an impasse.
Nevertheless, there is a systemic dialogue between China and the treaty bodies, which has generally improved over time, especially on China’s part. The fact that China has made an effort to offer justifiable or constructive arguments implies that it is adapting to the ‘rightness’ of the rules and principles of IHRL. This adaption to the ‘rightness’ of the regime is, in Wu’s view, a process of institutionalization. In other words, despite its relatively poor compliance record (as some scholars, NGOs, or states hold), China does consider itself subject to the international human rights treaty regime.