Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, February 11, 2002
Different Views Between China and the West on Human Rights: Official
All countries, organizations and individuals are welcomed to propose ways of improving human rights conditions in China, and China is also ready to hear their criticisms, said Zhao Qizheng, director-general of the State Council Information Office (SCIO).
Nevertheless, China is opposed to any attempt to politicalize human rights and use human rights as an excuse to interfere in China's internal affairs, disrupt the country's social stability, sabotage its international prestige and hamper its development, Zhao added.
Zhao made the remark in an interview with the Human Rights magazine, which was launched Sunday. Published by China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS), Human Rights is the first professional magazine of its kind in China on human rights.
China's views vastly different from the West's
Zhao said that China's views on human rights are vastly different from those prevalent in the West.
Since 1990, the United States and some other Western countries have proposed anti-China draft resolutions at ten annual sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. None of the attempts succeeded. Despite their failure, these countries wouldn't give it up once and for all. That, in itself, is sufficient to demonstrate the magnitude of the differences between Western countries and China on the human rights question.
China, UN Sign Agreement on Human Rights Cooperation
Two types of differences
The official pointed out that these differences fall into two types: those resulting from differing ways of approaching a reality, and those from conflicting concepts of human rights.
Differences resulting from conflicting concepts are, relatively speaking, fundamental in nature, in that they make people draw diametrically opposite conclusions in viewing the same thing.
Westerners still insist conditions in China become worse
Some Westerners acknowledge the economic development China has made over the past two decades.
Nevertheless, they insist that China's human rights conditions have become worse because the country continues practicing socialism under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and, therefore, its political system can in no way be democratic and be based on a sound legal system.
But Chinese believe great progress
However, as the Chinese believe, the past two decades has witnessed the most rapid development of China's human rights cause under the state policy of reform and opening to the outside world, even though the country's human rights conditions still need to improve.
The rights of the Chinese people to subsistence and development and their economic, social and cultural rights have all improved. The country's legal system of democracy has been effectively strengthened, hence the effective protection of the Chinese people's civil and political rights.
The diametrically opposing views on China's human rights conditions can of course be attributed to the differing ways of seeing things. But the fundamental reason lies in the fact that some Westerners, basing themselves entirely on Western views, use their political system and their way of dealing with human rights as the sole criterion to measure China's human rights conditions.
Attempts to impose a unitary pattern against law
Human rights, as a matter of fact, have to undergo a process of constant development in step with societies' progress and the development of civilizations. Countries vary in the state of economic development, history and culture and, naturally, should follow different ways in striving for development and promoting human rights.
Attempts to impose on all countries a unitary pattern and approach towards development and human rights go against the law governing human development, and represent a departure from the fundamental spirit of human rights, Zhao emphasized.
Improvement in human rights conditions conforms to the fundamental interests of the Chinese people. This, in fact, is a major target that the Chinese Government and people have been sparing no effort to attain to usher in an all-round social progress. To achieve that purpose, China is keen to learn from good experience of other countries and draw inspiration from whatever is good in whatever civilization, Zhao said.
Difference should be ironed out through proper ways
China differs from the West in historical, cultural and religious background, economic development, political system and ideology. It is only natural that there exist differences between them on the issue of human rights.
Nevertheless, such differences should on no account be used to justify conflicts or attempts to block communication and, instead, should be turned into a force that motivates both sides to try to understand each other, he continued.
Zhao pointed out that to iron out any difference, the proper way is to strive to narrow the gap, not to expand it. Both parties to the conflict should, on the basis of equality and mutual respect, sit down and have calm talks, and never will it do for one party to be bossy to the other and try to impose its will on the other. As regards those outside China who have misunderstanding and even enmity against China due to insufficient understanding of China's human rights conditions, we hope that through contact, dialogue and exchange, their misunderstanding can, as far as possible, be reduced, mutual understanding reached and cooperation with China enhanced. In case of failure to reach a consensus of opinion, it is advisable to shelve the differences while striving to seek a common ground.
China has made great efforts in human rights
In recent years, China has conducted dialogues on human rights at different levels with the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and many other Western countries. This has resulted in enhanced mutual understanding and improved cooperation. Zhao hoped that dialogues of this kind would continue in a positive, effective manner.
"I can't agree to the assertion that the world should follow just one set of standards for human rights, and I find it still more impossible to accept the notion that the human rights standards practiced in one country or region should be taken as universally applicable", said Zhao Qizheng.
It goes without saying that the general objective pursued by countries in striving for human rights should be identical, that is the universal human rights and basic freedoms described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations human rights convention, according to Zhao. The Chinese Government appreciates and supports efforts by the international community to turn the universal human rights and basic freedoms into a reality.
China holds different countries adopt different methods
Nevertheless, China holds that countries differing in history and culture and at different stages of development inevitably adopt different methods and follow different models to attain the universal human rights. For this reason, people hold different approaches towards the question of human rights. Oriental cultures, the traditional Chinese culture in particular, attaches a great importance to harmony between the individual and society and the individual's responsibility for society, hence the stress on the need to balance the individual and collective rights. In comparison, Western cultures give a greater emphasis on the individual rights, on attainment by the individual of his or her personal freedoms and realization of the values to the person's preference, hence the stress on individual rights that are supposedly independent of, or in opposition to, governance and society.
Zhao gave another example, saying that human rights conditions in a certain country are closely associated with how developed the country's economy is. Developing countries invariably concentrate on their own social and economic development, and are keen to uphold and promote the right of their people to subsistence and development and their economic, social and cultural rights. For developing countries, development is the most outstanding, most fundamental issue, the key to resolving all problems including problems related to human rights. To sum up, the specific conditions of developing countries are different from those of developed countries in the West. Besides, approaches taken by people of developing countries towards marriage, family and many other issues are not totally identical with those by Westerners.
Zhao believed that in this world, no country can claim a perfect human rights record. Human rights problems are found in all countries though in different forms and to varying degrees. In promoting human rights, countries should proceed from their specific conditions and from problems found in themselves. One western view holds that it would be impossible for China to develop a market-oriented economy under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system, and it is impossible for it to promote human rights. This view is wrong, in that it takes the political and social system of the West, along with the Western model of human rights, as the universally applicable criterion, using political discrimination to judge China's reality.
The world is diverse, and countries differ from one another in a thousand and one ways. The official commented that the true fact is that it is indeed unrealistic and very dangerous to take the human rights criterion of one country or one region as the universally applicable criterion and try to impose it on other countries or regions, Zhao said.
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Zhao made the remark in an interview with the Human Rights magazine which was launched Sunday. Full Text
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