The China-Central Asia Human Rights Development Forum 2023 was held in Beijing on September 12th under the theme “Building the Belt and Road for Human Rights Development.” The event was hosted by the China Foundation for Human Rights Development (CFHRD) and organized by the CICG Center for Europe and Asia (China Pictorial Publications).
The forum witnessed the presence and speeches of distinguished guests, including Wang Gang, vice minister of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC); Wang Guoqing, vice-chairman of the CHFRD; Du Zhanyuan, president of China International Communications Group (CICG); Zhang Ming, Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); Kairat Sarybay, Secretary General of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA); and Dogdurkul Kendirbaeva, executive chairwoman of the International Public Foundation Roza Otunbayeva Initiative.
More than 100 experts and scholars from media and think tanks as well as youth representatives from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan attended the forum.
In his opening speech, Wang Gang emphasized the historical and cultural connections between China and the countries of Central Asia. He mentioned the ancient Silk Road, which connected these regions more than two thousand years ago, fostering strong ties and mutual understanding. He pointed out that the recent First China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an marked a significant milestone in strengthening the China-Central Asia relationship, envisioning a closer community of shared future. This summit laid the foundation for a new era of cooperation and provided a clear direction for China and Central Asian countries to collaborate on various fronts, including human rights cause.
Wang Guoqing highlighted the success of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) over the past decade as a global public good and a significant platform for international cooperation. He said he hoped the international community, including Central Asian countries, join hands with China to review the achievements and experience of the BRI, outline a development blueprint, and promote high-quality development of the BRI in broader areas at deeper levels, and write a new chapter in the Silk Road times characterized by mutual benefit, people-to-people bonds, and cultural exchange.
Du Zhanyuan pointed out that the enjoyment of human rights by all is an unremitting pursuit of human society, a direction in which all countries in the world, including China and Central Asia, should work on towards. He emphasized the importance of prioritizing the right to development, further consolidating consensus on development, focusing on cooperation to promote development, deepening practical cooperation, and consistently using equal dialogue to promote cultural exchange and enhance mutual understanding.
Zhang Ming pointed out that over the past 22 years, guided by the “Shanghai Spirit,” the SCO has been dedicated to safeguarding security and promoting human rights through development, creating a stable and conducive environment for regional human rights efforts. It has also contributed positively to advancing global human rights governance towards greater fairness, justice, and inclusiveness. The SCO welcomes regional countries, including China and Central Asian nations, to engage in bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
Kairat Sarybay stressed the BRI has emerged as one of the most ambitious and transformative projects of our time. It envisions a network of infrastructure, trade, and economic cooperation to connect nations and foster development. The BRI is not just about building physical infrastructure; it is about forging stronger economic, cultural, and people-to-people connectivity. He also called for collaboration and youth engagement in shaping a future characterized by cooperation, prosperity, and respect for human rights.
Dogdurkul Kendirbaeva, representing the Roza Otunbayeva Initiative, discussed their efforts to promote youth education in Kyrgyzstan. With support from various partners, they have organized over a hundred educational events annually in Kyrgyzstan’s mountainous regions. The foundation also translated foreign books, including Chinese children’s fairy tales, which have received acclaim and are set to be distributed to Kyrgyz primary schools for free. Kendirbaeva sees the forum as a valuable platform for sharing human rights development experiences and hopes it becomes a regular event. She also encouraged China to engage in women’s rights activities, pledging support from the foundation.
The forum also featured the launch of the China-Central Asia Youth Initiative for Human Rights Development, where young representatives from the six countries shared their voices to advance human rights cause.
The forum was attended by keynote speakers including Liu Hao, counselor of the Department of Eurasian Affairs at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Kazbek Maigeldinov, chairman of the China Research Association and a member of the National Kurultai under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Abayaly Asankhanov, academician of the National Academy of Sciences and director of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Ethnography of the Kyrgyz Republic; Zhao Qiuyan, second-level inspector of the Department of Eurasian Affairs at China’s Ministry of Commerce; Marufjon Okilov, director of Television Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Sun Zhuangzhi, director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Vali Shavkiev, chief researcher at the International Institute for Central Asian Studies in Uzbekistan; and Sapargeldi Amangeldiyev, a Turkmen student at Peking University’s School of Engineering.
Li Yingying, Vice President of Tianjin Foreign Studies University; Kubanychbek Taabayev, advisor to the Kut Bilim Media Center, professor at Ala-Too International University, and former president of Kabar news agency; Li Yunlong, professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance); Anton Bugayenko, chief expert of the Chinese and Asian Studies Program at the Institute of World Economy and Politics in Kazakhstan; and Hu Biliang, executive director of the Belt and Road School at Beijing Normal University, were among the experts, scholars, and media professionals from China and Central Asian countries who participated in the forum and delivered thematic speeches.
At the forum, dialogues and discussions revolved around topics like “Building the Belt and Road and Human Rights Development” and “Belt and Road Cooperation and Youth Responsibility.”
Guided by the principles of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the inaugural China-Central Asia Summit, the forum is the first-ever human rights exchange event focused on Central Asia, held on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the BRI. Its aim is to enhance the understanding of the BRI as well as China’s human rights development philosophy, path, and achievement among the people of Central Asian countries, fostering greater mutual understanding between China and Central Asia.
Before its opening, Central Asian experts and youth representatives were invited to visit southwestern China’s Chongqing Municipality for a five-day exploration, experiencing the vitality of Chongqing’s natural beauty and robust development. This visit also provided them with the opportunities to witness the sense of gain, happiness, and security among Chongqing people, offering a sample of how China has promoted human rights through development.