In early July the Commission welcomed Simon Xu, a Masters level student at the China University of Political Science and Law - Institute for Human Rights (CUPL), to the country as part of the New Zealand Human Rights internship.
During his time here, Simon will experience the work of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission; undertake work toward their chosen research topic; and to have an opportunity to experience New Zealand life. We spoke to Simon about why he’s taking part in the programme and what he hopes to learn during his time here.
How did you get involved in this programme and why?
I heard about this internship in 2014, when I was at the very beginning of my human rights study, and set myself a goal of getting into the programme.
I studied hard to get in and earlier this year, I filed an application with Professor Wei ZHANG, who is responsible for the selection. After two weeks, I was chosen from a number of candidates as the student who would come to New Zealand.
In Asia-Pacific, a number of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) were established successfully, among which New Zealand has made quite impressive achievements.
As a country which already has a good human rights record, New Zealand is still working on to further improve the situation. I was impressed by the New Zealand’s National Plan of Action, it shows willingness of the government and the Commission to protect and promote human rights. This internship will be invaluable in helping me learn about NHRIs.
I’m also looking forward to studying and conducting research at Victoria University on human rights in New Zealand and applying my learning in China.
Apart from all of that though, I have to say that New Zealand is a natural and beautiful country and this experience will be a wonderful memory I will have for my entire life.
What are you hoping to learn during your time here?
My first goal is to learn about how a NHRI works and look at the difference between the practice and the theories. In New Zealand, the HRC tends to receive a lot of complaints and enquiries about discrimination and racial and sexual harassment issues and as a result, focuses on those issues.
Every country needs to find its own way. It will be useful for me to understand how the HRC in New Zealand operates and then figure out what the best way forward for China will be.
I’m particularly interested in the Casual Racism Campaign. I encountered casual racism myself, while on the street in Wellington where some drunk guys shouted at me things like ‘Fxxx off’ and ‘go back to Asia’. I felt scared, so I’m happy that the HRC is developing its casual racism campaign and are actively monitoring the actions promised by Government in regard to looking out for international students.
I’d also like to learn about how New Zealand is protecting indigenous rights in business activities. This will help the Chinese companies investing in New Zealand to follow and understand the rules here and respect human rights and cultural differences. I’m really keen to learn more about the New Zealand culture.
What are some of the key human rights issues facing China?
The Rights of people with disabilities. China is continuing to improve accessibility to buildings and other public facilities, but as quite a large country and with a large population, there is still a long way to go. Alongside that, the views of society need to change, as there is a lack of respect for people with disabilities that still exists in many places. For example, on the internet, when describing the people with disabilities, people may use words with discriminative meanings. I’m hopeful that in time we will have full and effective participation and inclusion of all members of society.
Environment issues are also a large concern for people and the Government in China. Last year, a documentary about air pollution in Beijing named “Under the Dome” made by renowned journalist Jing CHAI, got more than 200 million clicks in 48 hours. A healthy environment is essential to many human rights, but Beijing and other major cities in China are suffering from the pollution haze.
How do you think your learnings and experiences during your time here will contribute to your career going forward?
The learnings and experiences here will help me understand and work with people from different cultures. Working in China has become more and more international, so it is increasingly important to know how to communicate crossing various cultural background will be inevitable.
Second, this will help me build my values, which will be a huge wealth for my entire life. It is wonderful to see so many people are trying hard to promote human rights of everyone in society. I really to be such kind of a person who can help others.
Third, the ability to do research is critical to my future career. Conducting research in a new area, collecting and organizing the information and seeking help effectively are all challenging. I believe when I finish this paper, the gain will be huge.
Finally, the knowledge and experience will make me further understand human rights theories and practice. If China on day establishes an NHRI, I hope to work in it!