Alaska cools down already frosty US-China relations

Can the definition of human rights be changed to be inclusive to all nations?

26 March 2021 | CCCA

In geopolitics, the human rights issue was popularized during Cold War 1 when the West criticized USSR on the Gulag,

The Anchorage US-China summit adds the supplication of new Chinese diplomacy and the statements by Commissioner Yang (China Foreign Affairs) which has put China on par with the United States as an influential global leader.

With these words from Chinse Foreign Minister Yang “On human rights, we hope that the United States will do better on human rights. China has made steady progress in human rights, and the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the U.S. itself as well.”

The debate and discussion on a universally accepted definition of human rights now shifts onto the platform for the global agenda. Human rights in China existed for two thousand years. Under the Confucian tradition it is said that human rights are best defined not as ‘freedom from the restraints of community life, but freedom from participation in the totality of human relationships.

Simply, in China, the collective rights of the group transcend the rights of the individuals. There are many scholarly articles in the literature describing the Confucian perspective on human rights. Writing for the Harvard University Review Tun Wei Ming outlined A Confucian perspective on human rights.

In 2006 academic Craig Williams wrote a paper on International human rights and Confucianism in which he cited Singapore—a nation with virtually none of the freedoms espoused by western liberal democracies—as being a significant example of a society which adheres to a specifically Asian definition of human rights.  

Shannon Tiezzi wrote in The Diplomat (23 February 2021) Can China change the definition of human rights.

The question posed by Tiezzi, was answered by an Australian writer, Nick Al, on academic discussion site Quora.

Nick Al’s is neither a Chinese view or an overseas Chinese view. His views are worthwhile reproducing here:

  1. China will not seek possessively dominating and monopolizing defining and upgrading of Human rights like the West from its beginning.
  2. Certainly, China will definitely be one of the important members of defining, enriching and upgrading its definition as a contributor, involver and defender, and no one could condescend to lecture others in the world.
  3. The definition of Human right should NEVER be the west’s private ends and private property, which should belong to all people, all countries, and all classes on Earth and in the world. Everyone should be only a generous, humble contributor but not a nasty, villainous dictator in this regard.
  4. We all should banish all such preconception, prejudices, and ignorance, and fully recognise that China has genuine interest, determination and ambition to progressively promote and improve the whole quality level of its human rights based on its inheritance, tradition and vision.
  5. It is high time for the west to acknowledge and admit that the time of its dominating the moral high ground of human rights is completely over and gone forever. The definition of human rights has its diversity, richness and depth for the future.
  6. Undoubtedly, China’s approach and route toward human right will be unique, sometimes different and to some extent contentious, not politically correct, but generally we should not suspect its genuineness and motives.

Al concluded “With regards to this matter, we all should be more patient, in good faith, or at least with the benefit of the doubt”.

We share Al’s expectation as such an important declaration should not be politicized and would bring the world to a “real” rule-based system agreed by both the East and the West.  If such a universal declaration is possible, then between “East and West” the twain shall meet”. Peace on Earth.

This commentary is supplied by the Chinese Community Council of Australia Incorporated: Founding President, Dr Anthony Pun OAM, President, Mr Kingsley Liu. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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