Ambassador Shiqiu CHEN of the People’s Republic of China (right) with ASEF’s Executive Director Karsten WARNECKE (left)
“Nobody can belittle the valuable contributions of civil society organisations to advancing human rights.” Speaking from many years of experience working on human rights issues, seasoned diplomat AmbassadorShiqiu CHEN’s powerful statement is not mere rhetoric.
In an interview with the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) on the sidelines of the Steering Committee of the Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights Series (HRS) Meeting held last February in Singapore, Ambassador CHEN stressed the role of HRS as an important platform for dialogue on human rights issues between governments and civil society actors.
Ambassador CHEN said that the “Human Rights Series has gradually matured over the past 20 years” in terms of how the Seminar series is structured and organised, yet it has remained consistent with its objective of facilitating an informal, open and non-confrontational dialogue.
The statesman has worked on human rights since the early days of his diplomatic career.
“I started to get involved in human rights in the early 1980s when China joined what was then the UN Commission on Human Rights, now the UN Human Rights Council. China has actively played a role in the Commission, and then the Human Rights Council, since 1982,” Ambassador CHEN shared.
His interesting diplomatic career is comprised of assignments in Switzerland, Austria and Indonesia. During his first posting in Geneva, he dealt with issues concerning human rights and refugees. As Chinese Ambassador to the UN and other international organisations in Vienna, he attended the historic World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, wherein the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted. He was then assigned in Jakarta as Ambassador of China for four years, witnessing first-handedly the “political-changing times” of Indonesia under 4 different presidents.
He later served as Member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, which became the Advisory Committee of UN Human Rights Council after 2006. Currently, he is a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Human rights engagements obliged him to travel to Geneva frequently all these years.
Ambassador CHEN has actively participated in the Informal ASEM Seminar on HRS since 2007, serving as the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China to the Steering Committee. Since the beginning of 2019, China has become a funding partner.