RWI and Peking University Law School’s Research Centre for Human Rights held its annual opening and graduation ceremony for 45 newly enrolled students and 24 graduates who recently finished the year-long human rights master programme.
Since its launch in 2004, the programme has become the most comprehensive human rights certificate programme in China, and a national model for high-quality human rights education.
Enrolment in the programme is competitive, with 35-45 students admitted among over 100 applicants each year. After 15 years of successful operation, the programme now has over 300 graduates, working in China and abroad in academia, government, law firms, business, media, NGOs and international organisations.
In her speech at the ceremony, RWI’s interim China Director Malin Oud highlighted that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, and that one of the members of the drafting committee of this document was a Chinese diplomat, Dr Peng-chun Chang.
Professor Gong Renren, founding Director of the Research Centre for Human Rights, said that his goal with the programme was to increase the students’ knowledge and awareness of human rights, so that they will respect and feel empathy with their fellow human beings, in particular with vulnerable groups in society.
Professor Gong also emphasised the fundamental importance of rule of law for human rights protection. “The original meaning and purpose of the rule of law is to limit state power in order to protect the rights of individuals,” he said.
Professor Wu Qing, guest lecturer at the programme and a prominent women’s human rights advocate and former local people’s congress delegate, further urged the students to become “human rights activists”.
“Human rights are not just about knowledge or a ‘subject.’ It’s about human beings and the rights that everyone should enjoy. And yet, in China, although the term human rights has been included in the Constitution since 2004, it is still a taboo. So I think it is so important for every single person to know that they are born with these rights. These rights were not given to them by the Party or the Government. It means there should be no difference between people born in the city or in the rural areas, in the Han district or in the minority district. Every single person. And I think we should fight against extreme nationalism as well. When we talk about human rights for all, it means every single person on this globe.”