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The European Union and China have been urged to expand people-to-people exchanges on human rights beyond intergovernmental and institutional dialogues.
More than 60 experts and scholars attended the fourth Europe-China Seminar on Human Rights, which concluded last week in Bruges, Belgium. They explored the universal goal of protecting and boosting human rights development.
The event, which was hosted by the China Society for Human Rights Studies, had as its theme Diversity of Civilization and Human Rights Protection.
"We are different but the ambition should be the same," said Pierre Defraigne, executive director of the Belgian think tank Madariaga-College of Europe Centre.
According to the United Nations, human rights include the right to life and liberty, the right to work and the right to an education.
"The UN"s definition is clear," said Emanuel Castellarin, director of the research federation at the University of Strasbourg. "Human rights include both economic, social, and cultural rights, and civil, political rights."
In addition to government-to-government dialogues, he also emphasized the importance of boosting in-depth people-to-people exchanges between China and the EU.
China has managed to meet the basic living needs of more than 1.3 billion people, lifting more than 800 million out of poverty and creating more than 770 million jobs through the end of last year, according to Xian Weiyi, minister-counselor of China"s mission to the EU.
"We need consensus on human rights between the West and the East," Defraigne said. "And we must accept the reality that the priority in China is to take its citizens out of poverty first."
Europeans must recognize there are different paths to achieve human rights and democracy, which depends on a range of factors, including national conditions, he said.
Misunderstandings around differences between each other should not keep the EU and China from cooperating on global governance for the world, he said.
Defraigne also said dialogue at the academic and civil society level is needed.
"Our people must understand each other"s differences and why European countries should work in unity with China," he said. "The cooperation between the EU and China is key to world stability, peace and prosperity, especially today, when the United States is behaving in a very aggressive and irresponsible way."
The US announced on June 19 that it would pull out of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council.
Christian Mestre, honorary president of Robert Schuman University of Strasbourg, said the behavior of the US had changed the links between Europe, China and the US.
"People need both China and the EU to take the leadership to solve many global issues," Mestre said.
Liu Jia contributed to this story.
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