Asian Human Rights Case Study

1939 Words8 Pages
ASIAN VALUES AND HUMAN RIGHTS:
A CASE FOR UNIVERSALITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ASIA

MIDTERM PAPER:
HUMAN RIGHTS AND GENDER STUDIES

ZIVYA SYIFA HUSNAYAIN
016201200114
IR DEFENSE-2 2012
The origin of modern human rights can be traced back as far as John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government in 1688, which stated that rulers are bound by their citizen’s natural rights to life, liberty, and estates (Donnelly, 1999). Despite a major flaw in its universality (Locke’s natural rights theory is not applicable to women, servants, and wage labourers), Second Treatise of Government, along with the Magna Carta (1215) have established a basis for several other early human rights documents, including the American Declaration of Independence (1776)
…show more content…
Asia, which covers 8.7% of total Earth surface and hosts 60% of the world’s human population, is comprised of 49 countries, each with distinctly different culture and value. Unlike Europe, whose countries’ history and cultural values are tightly interlaced and thus allowing strong regionalism to occur, Asian cultures are too greatly differentiated for the coining of a single ‘Asian’ value. In fact, the values argued by Lee Kuan Yew and Le Peng to be ‘Asian’ are mostly based on the teaching of Confucianism, which originated from Ancient China; the spread of Confucianism is limited to East Asia (China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam), and to see Asia as a single unit is a distinctive Eurocentric perspective (Chan, 1999; Sen, 1997). Even East Asian states, who share similar roots, are diverse, and there are many cultural variations between Japan, China, Korea, and the rest of Asia; generalization of Asian values can be nothing but extremely crude. East Asian value of Enyo (a conscious use of silence) and Han (suppression of individual attributes), for instance, differ greatly from the tradition of India, where elaborate argumentations are common and celebrated (Sen, 1997). Cultural relativism and ‘Asian Values’ also undermine the rights of citizen and is often used by authoritarian governments to infringe the rights of their citizens in the name of said values, not for the…show more content…
Although it is true that several countries where the distinctly-Confucian value of putting the state’s rights about all else is enforced, such as Singapore, Japan, and China experience high growth and development rate, the success of those states is mostly attributed to specific economic reasons and cannot be generalized down to the enforcement of ‘Asian Values’ (Donnelly, 1999; Zechenter, 1997). This is further emphasized by researches noting that the fastest-growing state in the world is neither China nor Singapore but Botswana, whose democratic government highly contrasts other African states’ authoritarian tendency (ibid). Donnelly also stated that regardless of its so-called influence in development, regimes that sacrifice human rights to development do not represent a desirable form of government; he further elaborated that in actuality, it is the denial of human rights that may cost the state economic disadvantages (Donnelly, 2007). For instance, the existence of free press may counterbalance self-interests of bureaucrats and expose corruption cases of government officials. Also, development in the cost of infringement of universal human rights has actually been rejected during the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 by Asian states through the
Open Document