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What we mean when we talk about "human rights"

·3 min read

BEIJING, July 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- An interview with reporter Sun Wanlu from China.org.cn on China's human rights:

During the past year, I have heard Western media and politicians frequently challenging China's position on human rights. So today let's talk about it.

Back in the 18th century, the concept of "natural rights" was proposed by Western thinkers. The idea was that certain rights of human beings are inherent, and that we are all born equal and free. There is a tendency to elevate civil and political rights to a higher level on the west's human right agenda; sometimes they appear to equate "human rights" exclusively with "civil and political rights".

I think, freedom, democracy, justice, the pursuit of happiness… these are values recognized by all of us.

We value civil and political rights — they are indeed an important embodiment of human rights. From the early 20th century, the people of China were engaged in a mighty struggle to overthrow feudal rule and colonial occupation, so that people could exert their political rights.

But I do believe that those values cannot be implemented in the absence of certain social conditions. And we expect our country to not merely protect us from any harm, but provide necessary conditions for our subsistence and development as well.

For example, people's first need is to survive, before they can pursue other rights. Some in the West might argue that it's so obvious that it does not need stated. They overlooked the fact that there are many people around the world who, unlike them, do not enjoy this fundamental right. You know, in China just 4 decades ago, people were still struggling to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese took the view that protecting people's health and saving people's lives are the basic human rights; and we are completely bewildered that 600 thousand people died because of the pandemic in the States. Such things are simply unacceptable in our eyes.

The right to development is also among the fundamental human rights. This is not obvious to many people in the West, but it is a comprehensive concept; it does include civil and political rights, but economic, social, cultural and environmental rights are just as important.

The logic is simple: methods like promoting education and fair employment are to make people more free and equal, in line with human dignity and worth, very much in the spirit of other international agreements regarding human rights.

In a previous episode, we mentioned that western countries focus more on individual rights. But in China, with the longstanding influence of traditional thought and the more recent history of struggling for national independence and social and economic development, people believe that only when our country is securely on a sound path can human rights and fundamental freedoms be guaranteed.

This much said, let me show you some Wechat Moments from my friends in Xinjiang.

In my perspective, the progress of each right needs to be mapped out in a coordinated way based on the actual conditions in that country as they are there and then. Using human rights as a weapon, or spreading malicious allegations and falsehoods, well, that's just not going to help anyone.

China Mosaic

What we mean when we talk about "human rights"


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SOURCE China.org.cn