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Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program (HRTC)

HRTC activities for 2010–11

In August 1997, China and Australia initiated a high level dialogue on human rights. During the course of the initial dialogue it was agreed that the two countries would undertake a program of technical cooperation.

Goal and purpose of HRTC: The goal of the program is to strengthen the administration, promotion and protection of human rights in China. The purpose of the program is to assist in the development of key Chinese organisations to contribute to improvements in the administration, promotion and protection of human rights in each of the three program theme areas, being (i) legal reform, (ii) women’s and children’s rights, and (iii) ethnic and minority rights. The program promotes the universality and indivisibility of human rights through a range of activities involving Chinese and Australian academics, police, prosecutors, judges and other officials including those responsible for promoting and protecting the rights of women and minorities.

Australian contribution: Approximately $2.5 million annually

Duration: 1997–ongoing

Location: China and Australia

Project components: Each year the HRTC oversees around 20 practical activities implemented by Chinese government agencies which focus on the three main theme areas: (i) legal reform, (ii) women’s and children’s rights, and (iii) ethnic and minority rights. Activities include study tours, workshops, seminars and cross-visits between Australian and Chinese agencies working in fields with human rights dimensions.

HRTC activities are designed to have immediate and longer term outcomes. The program encourages the development of linkages between Chinese and Australian organisations and between Chinese and Australian professionals in specific areas. Increasingly activities support existing Chinese programs of reform and the development of new policy and practice.

Outcomes: HRTC activities touch on a very broad expanse of Chinese human rights activity. Despite its relatively modest size, the program is both vertically extensive in that it works at many levels within Chinese society, and horizontally extensive in that it crosses many sectors. There are clear themes and common attributes for all activities, as follows:

  • all activities are underpinned by the belief that cooperation is the key to progress
  • each activity involves working directly with a key Chinese organisation in a position to effect practical change
  • each activity attempts to bring to bear the ‘best’ Australian expertise and practice
  • each activity incorporates objectives on two levels: immediate, albeit modest, impact and longer term change.

Achievements: The HRTC program has a strong geographical spread of its activities. HRTC activities conducted in China during 2009–10 were conducted in Beijing, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Heilongjiang and inner Mongolia, and the program engages the participation of officials from a wide range of provinces in HRTC activities in both China and Australia. The focus of the program is on dissemination, transfer of knowledge and expertise which is evidenced through the breadth of Chinese participation.

The program has specifically resulted in: enhanced capacity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Human Rights Division to develop and implement human rights laws, policies and practices; support to the development of the Supreme People’s Court’s (SPC) third Judicial Reform Plan (2009–13); brought together senior Australian and Chinese personnel to exchange information and experience on policy measures for protecting and promoting the rights of detainees under the Penitentiary administration policy consultations; and engagement strategies/activities that recognise the incremental nature of policy development—progressive engagement on human rights policies.

HRTC is a concrete manifestation of the commitment of the two governments to work towards improvements in the administration, promotion and protection of human rights in China. Individual activities focus on practical measures to achieve these ends. The entire program is fundamentally underpinned by the view that by working together and by exchanging views and approaches, the most effective elements of human rights protection, promotion and administration will develop and prosper.

Managing contractor: Australian Human Rights Commission

Chinese counterpart: Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Last reviewed: 4 April, 2012