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Why Does China Have Such A Poor Record Of Human Rights?

2799 words - 11 pages

Throughout the history of mankind, human rights have been a cherished ideal. In recent years however, the realisation of this ideal has transformed from one of utopian idealism to that of pragmatic realisation. This transformation has been fuelled by the UN's global influence, as well as several documents pertaining to the fundamental rights of every human being, such as the UDHR (Universal Document of Human Rights), UDDBHR (Universal Draft Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights), and the two UN Covenants (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) on human rights. Furthermore, a myriad of non-profit groups have taken it upon themselves to advance this very ideal (eg. Amnesty International). These groups regularly chastise nations whom they perceive to be human rights violators. A regular target of these groups is China. From the Chinese government's dealings with Tibet, to the persecution of 'cult' religious movements like the Falun Gong, China has come under much international criticism, much to the chagrin of the Chinese government.But why has China come to be viewed as such a gross offender of human rights? After all, China is a signatory to both the UN Covenants, and at the 43rd UN General Assembly, even went on record as declaring the UDHR "the first international instrument which systematically sets forth the specific contents regarding respect for and protection of fundamental human rights" (IOSC 1991, pp. 43). Why then, have the Chinese fallen short of its commitments to secure human rights for its people? The answer is not simply a blatant disregard for human dignity or the international community, but a dispute with the apparent universality of human rights. Furthermore, the Chinese government claims that its unique conditions must be taken into consideration, a view held not just by China, but by several other Asian states. Thus, in an effort to explore the specific reasons for the current debate on human rights, this paper will first analyse the theoretical foundations of the current human rights framework. It will then address the official Chinese position on the issue, as well as the historical, cultural, and political basis for its perspective. Further on, the views of other Asian states will be taken into account so as to demonstrate continuity for the Chinese position. Finally, the issue of 'universality' in human rights will be reviewed in light of the differing positions, ultimately reaching a consensus that while China has a long way to go in improving its human rights record, the advancement of 'universal' human rights will not be conducive to its progress.Though often regarded as universal, human rights in its current framework is essentially the product of 17th and 18th Century European thought, most notably the Lockean idea of 'natural law' (Rayner, 'History of Universal Human Rights'). Because of its foundations in European thought,...

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