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On Human Rights, Intervention and the International Order

October 19th, 2008 265 comments

The idea of “human rights” is neither new nor did it suddenly sprang into existence after WWII. It has arguably existed since the dawn of human existence, as portrayed in human stories and mythologies and exemplified throughout human history in man’s struggle against the arbitrariness of a higher power, be they of gods, fortune, nature or tyrants.

In Chinese society, such struggles are found in the stories and mythologies of 大禹 (Great Yu) taming the floods, 神農  (Shennong) inventing agriculture or the Monkey King’s rebellion against Heaven. Socio-politically, a central theme of Confucianism is the rights and duties of each member of society, from the peasant to that of the Emperor. Subsequently, 孟子 (Mencius) argued for the rights of the citizens to just rule, while later 王夫之 (Wang Fuzhi) favoured governing in the interest of the people (i.e. for the people) instead of for the benefit of the rulers. Read more…

On China and Religion

June 25th, 2008 68 comments

For different cultural, political and historical reasons, the Chinese government officially recognises Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism as religions. As in the realm of commerce, medicine, the legal profession or any other human endeavours, China, like many nations and for her own reasons have chosen, as it is her right, to lay down a legal and regulatory framework within which religions are practised.

Within the above five religions, the government does not prefer one religion to another and neither does it care about ecclesiastical or inter-faith doctrinal differences. It does not care whether Jesus is the Son of God, one of the Prophets of Allah or just a mere rabbi. It does not care whether the Virgin Mary or the Saints ought to be worshipped and much less whether the Quakers are pacifists who live according to personal beliefs. Like any other governments in the world, what it does care about are whether they break China’s laws while in China and whether a belief system contravenes the public interest.

In no countries are the clergy or religious institutions free from or above the temporal laws of the land. An American Catholic priest convicted of paedophilia, fraud or mere speeding in America is still guilty and may suffer the appropriate judicial consequences, irrespective of the fact that he is a priest. Should the Church as an organisation in any way be involved, it too is liable to criminal as well as possible civil lawsuits.

Just as there is no such thing as absolute political and commercial freedom, neither is there such a thing as absolute religious freedom. There are only varying degrees of religious freedom that is regulated in turn by ecclesiastic rules, doctrines, temporal laws, social customs and traditions in accordance with the demands of the relevant state and society. For example, many in the UK believe in Fengshui, but nevertheless in a test case before the English Court of Appeal, the Judges, as it is within their remit, chose not to recognise it as a religion, just as they do not recognise any religion that is not monotheist as a matter of policy. By contrast, because of its Chinese community Indonesia recognises Confucianism as a religion when China only sees it as a school of philosophy, so that just because something is lawful in one country does not make it so in another.

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A Discussion On Religion in China

June 25th, 2008 30 comments

This is a continuation of the discussion from the June 14th 2008 blog entry “Chocolate City” – Africans seek their dreams in China“, an article originally published in The Southern Metropolis Daily Jan 2008. Because of axes and grinding the discussion morphed from a debate about race relations in China to one about religions in China. As I have been invited to turn it into a blog entry and the issue of religions in China appears topical, I am posting the extract from my comments and other posters’ responses and questions, sans editing (apart from my own extract’s typos).

Please Note: I am a newbie at blogging and nor am I a full- time blogger. Any perceived expletives occurred in the heat of passion(ate) (debate), as these things are wont to happen and I beg readers’ indulgence.

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Categories: Analysis, culture, q&a Tags: , ,