How does China define human rights?

After diplomatic debate over dissident Chen Guangcheng, we ask on what basis the US should judge China’s rights record – Published on Al Jazeera, May 21, 2012.

Chen Guangcheng is the Chinese dissident behind a diplomatic rift between the US and China. After months of wrangling over his fate, Chen and his immediate family arrived in the US on Saturday, capping off three weeks of rollercoaster diplomacy that reached the highest levels of the Chinese government and the US White House … //  

… Joining presenter Ghida Fakhry to discuss these issues are guests: Simon Shen, an associate professor of international relations at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and Chinese University of Hong Kong; David Finkelstein, the director of China Studies at the Centre for Naval Analyses, a retired US army officer and a specialist on Chinese security affairs; and Mei Renyi, a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University and a political analyst specialising in China-US relations and foreign policy.

With a lot of people still in poverty the stress on economic and social development would be the priority, an important part of China’s human rights approach … when you are hungry, you don’t have proper housing you are talking about things beyond the expectation of ordinary people – (Mei Renyi, a political analyst specialising in China-US relations).


  • Many Chinese argue that their understanding of human rights is different to that of the West as a result of China’s unique history and socio-political system.
  • Chinese Confucianism places a greater emphasis on harmony between the individual and society as well as the individual’s responsibilities within a society.
  • As a result, greater importance is given to the rights of the community or to the collective than to the individual. That is in comparison to the West, where individual rights and personal freedoms are paramount.
  • But the difference in understanding also extends to what human rights mean. The Western notion focuses on civil and political rights, whereas the Chinese tend to emphasise economic, social and cultural rights as being the most important.

(full text).


Inside a Sweat shop: Interview of a former Amazon warehouse worker Nichole Gracely, on Dissident Voice, by Paul Haeder, May 19, 2012;


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