March 17, 2006

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Putting humans into human rights

The People's Daily asks an interesting question and replies with a load of blather: are human rights higher than sovereignty? The not-so-subtle introduction says:

As the United Nations is reforming its Human Rights Commission into Human Rights Council, the United States has published 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices accusing countries like China, DPRK and Myanmar of having poor records and claiming human rights are higher than sovereignty. Experts say the essence of such a claim is a pretext for interfering in other country's domestic affairs.

That human rights are higher than sovereignty is an excuse.

That's their emphasis. The assumption is that human rights and sovereignty are mutually exclusive propositions. However many places, such as the United States, are founded on the principle that sovereignty and human rights are intimately linked. Try the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
In this silly game of tit-for-tat in human rights reports, the Chinese have lost sight of the biggest difference between them and the Americans - the Americans know and admit they aren't perfect. The non-interference in internal affairs line is logically incoherent and a morally bankrupt piece of self-justification. In that regard it fits China's government like a glove.

posted by Simon on 03.17.06 at 06:39 PM in the China category.


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Many people consider the right for women to have abortions, whenever and for whatever reason, to be a basic human right.

Were the UN to make an issuse of this, I'm sure that he US would object and say that the UN was interfering in it's internal afairs.

posted by: ACB on 03.17.06 at 10:57 PM [permalink]

Actually, ACB, the US would probably engage in a similar debate as the one that is currently taking place among Americans.

posted by: THM on 03.17.06 at 11:45 PM [permalink]

Cmon THM, Americans have two reactions to the UN and other international bodies criticizing our social policies: a) who cares or b) how dare they. Special rapporteur report on torture in Guantanamo, a perfect example: most of the US doesn't know/care, while Rummie gets pissed off that they only used secondhand reports (even though that was because Rummie wouldn't meet the rapporteurs baseline standards, which even friggin' China attempted). Plus the recent xenophobia over the ports deal? Fuggedaboutit, American indignation over foreigners gettin' up in our business is at an all-time high. There is a double standard on human rights issues if you don't condemn the US for its direct or indirect contributions to abuses while pointing the finger at China.

posted by: davesgonechina on 03.18.06 at 02:50 AM [permalink]

Those who preach it had better PRACTICE it. If in actuality it can't be exerciesed because of silliy reasons like need for oil, then it doesn't really exists.

posted by: bobby fletcher on 03.18.06 at 03:10 AM [permalink]

Did the Iraqis had a chance to decide if US notion of human rights is higher than their sovereignty?

Our notion of human rights seems to include use of depelted uranium dirty bombs, white phosphorus/napalm firebombs, torture gulags.

I just heard in the news that 1500 occupation force along with 50 blackhawk/jetfighters is trying to catch/kill 100 Iraqis. It seems to me US sovereignty is higher than other's sovereignty, and nothing about human rights.

posted by: bobby fletcher on 03.18.06 at 03:26 AM [permalink]


I'm not saying there isn't any room for criticism towards some of our policies, but ACB seems to have an itch for the US lately.

Hell, I'm even guilty of telling the UN to butt out - especially when it comes to our use of the death penalty and our border with Mexico.

posted by: THM on 03.18.06 at 09:03 AM [permalink]

Dear simon,

I wonder if you have read this exciting book: China's Global Reach: Markets, Multinationals, and Globalization by a famous Chinese commentator George Zhibin Gu, whose powerful newspaper pieces are widely read. I was very happy to run into it: overpowering and fun to read. It gives huge cutting-edge ideas on current global issues. Being your fan, I love to get your review on this book. All the best.

posted by: Jack on 03.18.06 at 12:40 PM [permalink]

Haven't read that one, Jack. Feel free to send a copy and I'll read it (email me for details), otherwise I'll add it to my ever-growing list of books to get and read.

posted by: Simon on 03.20.06 at 08:49 AM [permalink]

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