“Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”
We Greco-Christians seek personal liberation from worldly bondage and prioritize abstract rights like unfettered, irresponsible public speech, export these values as ‘human rights’ and use them to justify invading smaller countries. That does not impress the Chinese, says Randall Nadeau1, “Christian-based Western values like radical autonomy of the individual, the soul in a transcendent relationship to the world, the prioritizing of the individual over the family and the prioritizing of the individual over the state are alien to the Chinese. The West defines human rights as ‘freedom from’ oppressive tendencies of the family and state and grounds human rights in the fundamental equality of all persons. Thus, human rights are equated with human liberation–liberation of the autonomous individual from the restrictive community.”
The Chinese prioritize the family over the individual and the state over the family, they seek liberation through fulfilment of their communal responsibilities and see material well being as a primary right and public speech as secondary. They prioritize morality over law, community over individuals, the spiritual over the material, responsibility over rights, national well-being over democracy, order over freedom, this life over the next, harmony over conflict, civilization over impoverishment and family over social class. Their creation of a xiaokang society next year will, in their eyes, be the greatest human rights achievement in history.
To be clear, they have no fundamental disagreement with us after all, Confucius himself insisted that all rights begin with individual responsibility, “From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything else” and Mao said, “By political human rights we mean the rights of freedom and democracy.” In 2010, PM Wen Jiabao explained, “Science, democracy, rule of law, freedom and human rights are not concepts unique to capitalism. Rather, they are common values pursued by all mankind throughout history, the fruits of human civilization. It is only that–at different historical stages and in different countries–they are achieved through different means and in different forms.”
National priorities may differ but treaty obligations don’t so, since both China and the US have ratified The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let’s compare their compliance with that document’s strictures. Since we hear much criticism of China’s human rights and little of our own, it is sobering to begin with Jimmy Carter’s reminder,Cruel and Unusual Record. By JIMMY CARTER JUNE 24, 2012. New York Times “The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.” In the examples, below, I have not sought to be even-handed but, rather, to show that we, the world’s leading human rights critic, rarely observe even the basic rights we swore to uphold.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Preamble: The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was voted into existence on December 10, 1948 so that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. In the World Values SurveyWorld Values Survey Wave 6: 2010-2014, V55.- How much freedom of choice and control over own life?, more Chinese than Americans said they felt free.
2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. China’s liangshaoyikuan policy–privileging minorities, preferencing their education and showing greater leniency towards their offenses–contrasts with our treatment of minorities.
3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Says Jimmy CarterIdem, “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.” While we must judge China’s 1979 attack on Vietnam severely, America’s attacks on other nations are more numerous and less justified.
4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. Forced labor abuses are common in American prisons and on its farms.
5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Jimmy Carter: “Our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the 30 Articles, including the prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. We hold prisoners in Guantanamo specifically to avoid recognizing them as persons before the law. We trust our legal system half as much as the Chinese trust theirs.
7. All are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. The US executes one-thousand people and imprisons two million without trial every year and does not prosecute its criminal elite. China does not.
8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law. America denied effective remedy to Guantanamo prisoners, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and imprisons and executes more blacks than South Africa at the height of apartheid, mostly without trial.
9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. The US kidnaps and imprisons hundreds of people at home and abroad each year.
10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him. Carter: “Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations. This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration. In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention.”
11.1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed. America holds twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population, mostly without trial, including forty in Guantánamo Bay who committed no penal offense, some of whom have been tortured a hundred times.
12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. The US operates 360-degree, 24-hour surveillance and police home invasions regularly kill innocent homeowners. Attacks upon citizens’ honor and reputation are carried out daily in and by our media.
13.1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. America’s secret, no-fly list denies this right to 50,000 citizens. China’s hukou publicly deny citizens the right to change residency without permission.
14.1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. The US actively seeks to deny Edward Snowden and Julian Assange the right to asylum from persecution.
15.1. Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. 16.1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. American families break up twice as often as Chinese.
16.1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. American families break up twice as often as Chinese.
17.1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. Without adducing evidence or proving a crime, American police take more money from citizens each year than robbers.
18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. China restricts public practice of religion but in the US, says Carter, “Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship, or with whom they associate.”
19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. America observes this better than China, though US censorship is narrowing the gap.
20.1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association. The US flunked its United Nations ‘peaceful assembly’ inspection while Chinese protesters hold a hundred thousand public protests each year.
21.1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. Neither Chinese nor American voters directly elect their heads of State, but Chinese prisoners retain the right to vote and voter participation is sixty-two percent in China compared to fifty-five percent in the US. Twenty percent of Americans approve of their government’s policies compared to ninety percent of Chinese.
22. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality. China will close this gap by 2021 when every citizen will have health and old age insurance and access to first class schools.
23.1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. China’s labor participation rate is much higher than ours, its union membership rate is double ours and its wages have outpaced GDP growth for forty years while ours have lagged it.
24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. Chinese employees have sixteen annual, paid, mandatory vacation days. Americans have none.
25.1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates there are roughly half a million homeless people in the United States on any given night, in a country with 18 million empty homes. China has none. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. American has five times more hungry childrenHunger in America: Compromises and coping strategies. Feeding America, 2014. than China, more survive childbirth and all will live longer, healthier lives than ours.
26.1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Chinese kids finish high school three years ahead of ours and even their poor children outscore ours academically.
27.1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. America’s intellectual property rights are stronger than China’s but Chinese participation in the arts is higher.
28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized. Since World War II, America has deprived thirty-five countries of this right by invading them.
29.1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
Postscript: In 1997, China ratified the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the US has yet to do so. In 2014 President XiXi Jinping at UNESCO Headquarters. 2014/03/28 urged the UNJune 2017, HRC35, “The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights” and the resolution was adopted 30 to 13. A follow-up study will advance China’s ‘development first’ agenda and its resolution on “The right to food” (A/HRC/34/L.21). to consider “People’s collective freedom to push forward and create a community of shared future for all mankind” and proposed food and development as primary human rights. The US opposed the motion, “We reject any suggestion that development goals could permit countries to deviate from their human rights obligations and commitments. Attempting to reframe the relationship between development and human rights in a way that deviates from consensus texts adopted by UN Member States.” The UN Human Rights Council voted 30-13 in favor of China’s proposal.
 Randall Nadeau, Confucianism and the Problem of Human Rights
 The Great Learning
 On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People
 Cruel and Unusual Record. By JIMMY CARTER JUNE 24, 2012. New York Times
 World Values Survey Wave 6: 2010-2014, V55.- How much freedom of choice and control over own life?
 Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year. Christopher Ingraham. Washington Post, November 23, 2015
 Hunger in America: Compromises and coping strategies. Feeding America, 2014.
 Xi Jinping at UNESCO Headquarters. 2014/03/28
 June 2017, HRC35, “The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights” and the resolution was adopted 30 to 13. A follow-up study will advance China’s ‘development first’ agenda and its resolution on “The right to food” (A/HRC/34/L.21).