The Western view of human rights is wrong

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JIN DING/CHINA DAILY

The United Nations human rights system is quite comprehensive and covers civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

However, the Western view and practice of human rights, especially those of the United States, are rather problematic – for example, there is a lack of balance between the different rights. Furthermore, the United States and other Western countries often place an undue emphasis on civil and political rights while ignoring the right to life and development, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

Worse still, despite being the only superpower, the United States has not acceded to six of the nine fundamental human rights conventions. And judging by UN standards, human rights problems abound in the United States and other Western countries. For example, more than 30 million people (out of a total population of about 330 million in the United States) have no medical insurance, and none of the Western countries guarantee equal pay for equal work for men and women. women. Both are violations of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Moreover, the West does not recognize the complex relationship between individual rights and collective rights. The West tends to believe that human rights are individual rights and argues that collective rights can be violated, without recognizing that individual rights can also be violated and cause enormous damage to collective rights.

For example, a few years ago, a few Danish and French cartoonists infuriated Muslims around the world by publishing cartoons that many believed were blaspheming Islam, but they resorted to freedom of expression, an individual right, to justify their actions. And during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Western countries, many refused to wear face masks or observe anti-pandemic measures in the name of individual freedom, inevitably taking a heavy toll on human lives.

Unlike the Western concept, the relationship between individual and collective rights in Chinese philosophy is dialectical.

An ideal system of human rights protection should consider both individual and collective rights, freedom and responsibility, and strike a balance between rights and obligations. In this regard, the Chinese concept of human rights, which balances rights and obligations, is more in line with the requirements of the times.

The United States and many Western countries also tend to ignore differences in national conditions and demand that all countries follow the same human rights standards. But the fact is that human rights cannot be divorced from the social and political conditions, history and culture of a country. Ignoring these conditions, the United States attempted to forcibly transplant Western concepts of human rights to other countries and used human rights as a political tool to interfere in their internal affairs, resulting in political strife, social unrest, economic ills and human suffering.

The West is also caught in the dilemma of legalism. He views human rights issues almost solely as legal matters, which in itself is controversial. By comparison, China believes in protecting and promoting human rights through comprehensive economic, social and political measures while improving the rule of law.

Take for example the targeted poverty reduction work in China. The government regards poverty alleviation as a basic human right, organizes vocational education and special training for the poor so that they can lift themselves out of poverty through development. He also put in place policies to provide credit guarantees to poor households and asked banks to provide loans to those in need. Such practices have gone far beyond the Western approach to the protection of human rights and have thus enriched the practice and concept of human rights.

Overall, the West has failed to properly manage the relationship between cultural traditions and human rights. In fact, rich ideas about human rights are embedded in traditional Chinese culture and many other cultures.

By promoting Western values ​​as “universal values” and viewing the culture of others as backward compared to Western culture, this approach is an attempt to replace the rich and diverse cultures of the world with Western culture. Indeed, the international cause of human rights should be more inclusive of different cultures and wisdoms.

More importantly, the United States should be held accountable for human rights violations committed in its wars of aggression abroad. For example, the United States has turned the lives of the Afghan people into hell with its two-decade occupation of the country. UNICEF recently said that nearly half of Afghan children are malnourished and that 3.2 million children under the age of five are at risk of dying from severe malnutrition. And the UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan said 95% of Afghans don’t have enough food.

The $2.3 trillion the United States wasted on the war in Afghanistan could have eliminated extreme poverty in the world. Or it could have saved tens of millions of Americans from the heavy debt of college education. But the American administration does not want to do this, because the American political system has long been hijacked by the military-industrial interest group, which has made astronomical profits from wars, especially the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the wars civilians in Syria and Yemen, and now the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

The United States is mired in its own human rights issues, but it never tires of lecturing others about human rights, while violating the human rights of many at home and abroad.

It’s time for the United States to stop pretending to be the defenders of human rights, improve its human rights record both at home and abroad, and renounce the use of human rights. human rights as a diplomatic tool, and join other countries in promoting the international cause of human rights.

Opinions do not necessarily represent those of China Daily.

The author is dean of the China Institute of Fudan University.

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