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Equality and mutual respect needed in human rights dialogue

(People's Daily Online)

15:41, June 21, 2013

Edited and translated by Liang Jun, People's Daily Online

In recent years, exchanges and dialogue between different countries in the field of human rights have seen an increase. China has established dialogue and consultation mechanisms on the subject with nearly 20 countries or institutions - a positive step towards promoting the healthy development of the cause of human rights across the globe.

Due to their diverse historical backgrounds, cultural traditions and stages of development, different countries face different challenges. This disparity is particularly evident in comparing developing countries and developed countries; each of these groups gives priority to different factors in the improvement of human rights, and this results in different views on the issue. Constructive dialogue can help enhance mutual understanding and promote common progress through exchanges and mutual learning.

However, the prospects of success in this of dialogue and exchange are not helped by the attitudes and practices of some Western countries, who too often display a sense of moral superiority, act like an international police force, and spend too much time pointing the finger at other countries' shortcomings.

In genuine dialogue, both sides treat each other as equal partners, and both sides listen to what the other has to say. Only on the basis of equality and mutual respect can both sides communicate frankly, so as to deepen understanding and learn from each other.

Another major source of problems in human rights exchanges is the double standards applied by some western countries in their approach to the matter.

They pursue a philosophy of tolerance towards their own defects, while always being ready to judge others against the strictest of standards; they remain silent about their own human rights issues, or evade them on the pretext that their own political, social and judicial mechanisms have no shortcomings. They seize upon non-existent flaws on the part of other countries, and use them as the basis of condemnation of those countries' record on human rights.

The truth is that every country has a duty to promote its own human rights, and a right to set up its own mechanisms. Western countries should address themselves to their own problems, and stop pretending that their mechanisms are a universal panacea. The global financial crisis serves as an effective example of the deficiencies of some Western mechanisms and systems – a fact that has not escaped the attention of numerous scholars.

The double standards of the Western countries are particularly apparent in the case of countries which are allies, or sympathetic to their interests. In such cases, even the poorest record on human rights will be selectively ignored. Another standard applied by the West in judging whether a dialogue has been ‘successful' is the extent to which the discussion ‘partner' has been coerced into adopting western concepts.

Frankly, no country will accept the imposition of a philosophy that changes its fundamental political system. Diversity is a basic feature of human civilization, and brings color and vibrancy to the world.

Since China initiated its policies of reform and opening up to the outside world in 1979, the government and the people of China have made painstaking efforts to promote and protect human rights. Their achievements are self-evident: people live a better life, and are able to act and speak freely within the rule of law.

However, there are many challenges yet to be faced in further improving standards of living and in the application of human rights - China has an enormous population, and the country is subject to significant regional disparities and uneven development.

We have a clear understanding of our own problems, and we will continue to spare ourselves no effort in promoting greater progress in the cause of human rights.

Read the Chinese version: 人权对话要有建设性

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