RE: The Ethical Dilemma of Tibet: Is Human Rights Globalized or Localized

The blog post of Clearlaughter on The Ethical Dilemma of Tibet: Is human rights globalized or localized reminds me and at the same time reaffirms the question the question we posed and attempted to answer in a recent yet to be published co-authored reviewed article – Deconstructing Legal Dominance in Human Rights Discourse: Setting the Agenda for Paradigm shift in Peace Business in the 21st Century. However, as argued by Camellia XiaochuXiang and Denise Tugade in their article that the two sides arguments between China and the United states foreshadows the two countries divergent views on political stance and cultural tradition which dovetails into their interpretation of human rights. It must therefore be reiterated that the historical foundation of the United States itself was an offshoot of strong agitations for the first generation of rights i.e. the Civil and Political rights. These type of rights can only be understood within the purview of the historical events that bared it in the first place and more importantly the rationale behind the United States advocacy for it and ultimately as a priority to be embedded in policy actions world - wide without any limitations. On the other hand, the emergence of other categories of rights such as the second and third generation of rights that the Chinese and some other Asian regions considerably favoured equally can only be understood within its historical milieu. In which case, the four freedoms as defined by Franklin D. Roosevelt were pressing issues of priority of that historic milieu (See for example the history of the Statue of Liberty). Consequently, it must be stated that the main thrust of this particular (category) of rights-Civil and Political rights is that; it is an inalienable right that is an exclusive preserve of all that is called human as long as they remain human. The second and third generation of rights such as the Economic, Social and cultural rights and the collective rights which China et al., have identified with are all products of historical events. These historical events shape and re-shape the philosophical views of human rights by the various contending blocks. However, the tension between the first and second generation of rights stemmed from and became more pronounced during the Cold War between the United States and the former USSR or simply put between the bi-polar politico-economy ideologies of that milieu. As such, scholars of human rights have attempted to distinguish between these categories of rights as advocated and favoured by the two ideological blocks. To this end, positive and negative rights eventually emerged, the former is a derivate of Economic, Social and Cultural rights and the latter is also a derivate of Civil and Political rights. Consequently, subsistence and development rights which are China’s priority are positive rights that put the state under duty and obligation of ‘collectivism’ and conspicuously supported by the 1996 Vienna Declaration and programme of action acknowledging the rights to development as a universal and inalienable rights and components of basic human rights. Therefore, as  further espoused by Camellia XiaochuXiang and Denise Tugade in their article that the protection of the people against starvation, exploitation and the promotion of economic growth are the main contents of human rights’ interpretation by China is well said and of course cannot be contented. Besides, the approval of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) in 2001 and the severally suffered Bill and yet to be passed into hard law- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly x-rays the ideological views and orientation of China i.e. collectivism as opposed to individualism, socialism s opposed to capitalism. Again, as noted by Camellia Xiaochu Xiang  and Denise Tugade in their article that the United States thinks human rights can be applied universally such that its application will transcends national boundaries have always been contested significantly by scholars of human rights and practitioners that are not western oriented. It must be argued therefore that the philosophical origin of human rights is normative in nature and a derivate of moral laws and subsequently these moral laws are codified and the codification finds expression in the justiciable statutory law book of nations that are signatory to the international consensus documents where interpretations and sanctions are invoked by appropriate quarters in most cases and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in rear cases. Besides, these moral laws are products of human values and human values are deep seated in human culture. By this, we must bring to bear and take cognizance of the strong holds of cultural relativity in regard to universalizing human rights. Although, advocates of universal human rights support their claims by arguing that moral laws are derivate of natural laws, hence human rights can be applied to all humans irrespective of region, colour, race and what have you just because natural laws are divine laws bestowing upon man his dignity. For example, virtually all cultures have a way of disposing their dead ones; all cultures have a way of reproducing and replacing themselves on the surface of the earth. But the ways, patterns and methods of performing these actions vary across cultures and besides all these actions are value laden and value driven. If natural laws are said to be connected to divinity from which moral laws are derived, therefore human values can be said to be connected to divinity since values are broad ideas (cognitive) that underlies human action and more importantly they are epi-phenomenal. In which case, divinity itself has endowed man with an array(not one) of values that can be term as natural values as opposed to socially constructed ‘values’ of codified human rights laws. Values only become potent where there is society, and outside society values become inconsequential. Consequently, universalizing human rights will tantamount to cultural imperialism by the moral high ground as rightly held outside the ‘West’. It must be categorically emphasized that the inherent challenge in universalizing   human rights is never in its normative sensibility but rather the codification of the justiciable only by the moral high ground. Similarly, as  noted by Camellia Xiaochu Xiang and Denise Tugade that the position of China is that sovereign states should be responsible to protect human rights by legislation and Western countries should not evaluate other countries’ human rights by their standard also points to a strong assertion for cultural relativity and value differentials.

However, commenting on US and China policies on Tibet, one can observe a tussle of politico-economy ideology. While china prides itself on the Tibetan economic and social achievement in the areas of capital projects, assistance given to herdsmen to expand production, free medical services, social reliefs and disaster programmes etc, the social and political reforms which include the abolishment of feudal serfdom and the total freedom of the productive forces are all peculiarities of a socialist politico-economy ideology. Conversely, the United States sees such political reforms as a ‘structure mechanism’ by China to sustain its hegemony on Tibet. That is, such social reforms should be a ‘Bottom Top’ approach and not the reversal as adopted by China. Therefore, it will not be incorrect as argued by Camellia Xiaochu Xiang and Denise Tugade that China and the United States view of human rights originates from the lens of their national interests hence judging for the right and wrong may be challenging sequel to the political ‘game’ and the moral high ground. In the same vein, Camellia Xiaochu Xiang and Denise Tugade also argued that for China to gain more leverage in the supposed ‘unfair game’ .The concept of human rights experienced a localized process in china’s situation in which China developed its own model of human rights i.e. Individual rights equal Collective rights with strong manifestations in subsistence, development and political rights. Obviously in this regard, localizing human rights may indeed be antithetical to the ideas of universal human rights as different baselines for what is considered the minimal standard for dignity given to a person which is a major concern for the United States and the West in general. The bottom line is that until a middle ground is reached on which to be taken as a priority between negative and positive rights, between individualism and collectivism, between cultural relativism and cultural universals before a meaningful judgment can be made. Therefore, the current of globalization today is forging a common and homogenous culture at a very fast pace, since human social actions are value laden and driven and perhaps values that are seen or perceived to be alien and contradicting the existing(or localized) values of the bi-polar blocks today may become homogenous tomorrow by a gradual evolutionary process consequent upon globalization and openness by the bi-polar blocks in all its ramifications-Time will tell when to shift ground and who will shift ground!


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Tags: Democracy, Economy, Ehthic, Globalization, Human, rights


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