A panel of experts from China University of Political Science and Law have proposed establishing an independent human rights commission in a recent forum attended by both Chinese and foreign human rights experts. (China Daily has more details.) If this proposal becomes enshrined in China’s constitution, that’d be a really interesting development. Below are couple of key passages from the China Daily report:
Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, told the forum that China has made significant progress on human rights by developing its economy and enacting relevant legislation.
But Wang said problems remain with China’s human rights efforts due to uncoordinated economic development, such as the increasing income gap between urban and rural dwellers.
. . .
Respecting values and enhancing mechanisms for negotiation will contribute to protecting human rights, Wang said.
Wang stressed that the government has made international exchanges and cooperation regarding human rights a priority.
The forum, attended by more than 100 Chinese and foreign human rights experts, focused on human dignity and the diversity of culture and values.
While one may view this as mostly a domestic development, I think if this proposal is accepted, it will have a global impact. For far too long, China has been put on the defensive by Western ‘human rights’ antagonism. An organization such as proposed would formalized the Chinese view on what she thinks human rights ought to encompass. The big hint is above – human dignity and the diversity of culture and values. Note, it didn’t say anything about “freedom” and “democracy.”
Actually, many developing countries have been subjects of Western ‘human rights’ politics in the U.N.. Hence, it is no wonder in majority of the “human rights” related votes, developing countries generally supported each other, and win.
China needs focus on improving her human rights in a practical way which matches her circumstances. Through such a commission, I think she can be proactive too in driving the conversations about human rights on the global stage. “Human rights activists” in the West, especially those who are politically fixated on China, may not like this development. What irony.