>To what extent should places like China have the freedom to handle human rights issues as they want?

>Western democracies are liberal democracies. We believe in upholding basic human rights, and ensuring the freedom of the individual insofar as they doesn’t enfringe upon the freedoms of others. But would freeing people like Liu Xiaobo enfringe upon the liberties of others? Do we have a right to say our way is undeniably better, and that there are no disadvantages with ordering his release? Or is China right to suspect that violence and unrest might walk hand in hand with greater freedom to protest? After all China learnt a lesson from Gorbachev; and much of the reason why they keep such a tight reign on the country is because of the perceived lessons from that period of Soviet history.

3 comments

  • >Hi RobertHuman rights are nothing if not universal, so as those who believe in human rights we have to stand up for them where ever we see them being attacked.That's not the same thing as believing we are inherently right or as trying to force our values on others. But human rights values are cherished in China too and we should recognise that and support those who fight for human rights.China is a violent police state, using the tools of oppression and censorship to ensure the government and the vested interests remain in power. We shouldn't confuse Chinese power politics with legitimate differences of culture.

  • >I agree in main. This isn't simply power politics, for there is logic behind their actions. However the logic conveniently upholds the current power status quo, and is flawed in itself. China was right to learn from Russia, but they learnt the wrong lesson.Now I agree with Bentham that there are no such things as "natural rights", for if everyone were at birth given such rights based on what is right then human history would look far different, and treatment of animals would also be far different today, seen as they deserve to be treated humanely too. However this does not mean that humans should not have rights, and indeed as you say human rights are cherished in China just as they are elsewhere around the world.The logic used by China can be simplified by looking at a basic history of Russia. The history books largely attribute the first permissive cause of the Russian revolution to the emancipation of serfs in 1861. And again most historians attribute one of the short term causes of the USSR's dissolution to Gorbachev's Perestroika and Glasnost reforms, which inadvertently led to member states attempting to assert their political independence. So China fears political reform, particularly those which are perceived as 'softness', because of how they believe it will unleash a force of political unrest.They are wrong to postpone political reform based on this analysis. The reason why Russia's reforms unleashed such a force from Russian society is because the reforms came too late, and came as a shock all of a sudden. Russia had tried to keep a lid on the changing ideas and changing society of the time. Then when reformists came along they took the lid off and of course all the problems spilled out as the state and social structures sought after a new equilibrium.This lesson is especially important for China to learn, especially in the age of the information and technological revolutions, where the state really can't keep a lid on ideas no matter what it does. The longer China keeps peaceful reformists like Liu Xiaobo in prison the more people will learn about the oppression of the Chinese state, and the more people will become frustrated.One of the key lessons of the frustration-aggression hypothesis is that in times of rapid economic growth those who get left behind (and this is very apparent in China, where inequality is growing) get frustrated. This frustration builds up, while ideas like those of Charter 08 will inevitably spread around. The frustration is tempered while growth is high because those at the bottom have reason to hope that one day some of that wealth might trickle down. But when the first recession comes along, and those at the bottom suffer, after having gained nothing during the period of rapid growth, that frustration is enacted upon in signs of aggression, as it was when Russia's rapid growth reversed itself in WW1.I realise I've moved somewhat off the question here. Basically China need to have some freedom to handle human rights matters as they wish, simply because of what is realistic. The rest of the world lacks the power or the willingness to enforce the UN declaration of human rights. However as you rightly say Graham those of us who believe that human rights should be universally upheld have a responsibility to promote them. Partly this is because the logic is on our side, as mentioned above. But besides this logic it's simply the right thing to do. For Liu Xiaobo is a peaceful protestor and would never intentionally act to cause violence. Locking him up is simply barbaric.

  • Pingback: Does Everyone Deserve Freedom? | Battison's Blog

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