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Human Rights

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Ever since human rights became the controversial issue that it is today, western countries have constantly clashed with other cultures over differing ideologies on the topic. The introduction of the media as a continuous broadcaster of international news has moved the inhumane conditions that exist in some countries into the spotlight. The result of this has been a painful realization that many cultures have a contrasting philosophy on the subject of human rights. The happenings in Eastern Europe over the last decade and at present in Kosovo are testament to this; human rights do not seem to be an inherent part of many cultures, China included. We in the west take for granted things like the freedoms of speech, press and association and struggle to comprehend the fact that people are literally dying to gain the same rights. China is a country that, historically, has had a different viewpoint on human rights. This stems back to Confucian days but also includes the Marxist idea that the collective wellbeing is considered vastly superior to the individual. As a result, it is little wonder that when the west and countries like China open up a human rights dialogue, confrontations are inevitable.

Human rights in China had its origins at about the same time that the Ching dynasty collapsed and again in 1911 as part of Sun Yet Sing's program. Eight years later in 1919, a new iconoclastic movement took over and the appeal of human rights for the radicals of the time came about because it gave them the antithesis of Confucian values, the self. This antithesis aided them in their quest to escape the imperialism of the time and modernize China. Confucian teachings urge the government to rule humanely and with virtue. The ultimate goal of helping the common-people to become educated and thus prosper. Harsh laws and severe punishments, which were common in Confucius' day, should be abolished. In short, his theories of governing were in complete contrast to those in power at the time. The solution to these problems was to awaken the people to the necessity of reason, and reinforce the thought of morality and harmony. One of the reasons that many Chinese do not formally object to human rights violations is that the collective wellbeing and not the self has been part of their culture for hundreds of years. Confucian teachings are so revered that elements are intertwined with communism throughout the economy and legal system. The fact that communism is the style of government in China is a further reason that China's human rights record is considered to be less than ideal by Western standards as those in the west stress the right of the individual above all else.

As part of the communism that has existed throughout China for the last half-century or so, Marxist thought also held that the collective is vastly superior to the self. In Karl Marx's surveying of society he critiqued the issue of human rights as part of his ideal society. His writings made clear the proletarian attitude on the subject and he established a revolutionary, scientific and systemized theory. The point of Marx's analysis was to break from the capitalist version of human rights and replace them with a communist interpretation. He maintained capitalist rights were those of the bourgeois and, as such people become alienated from one another due to the existence of private ownership . As a result Marx cited that material interests becoming the defining element of existence and ultimately the community. The end result is an egoistic society disengaged from the community and such an attitude means the people are not working for the common good, but rather in self-interest at the expense of someone else. Marx sees that capitalist human rights are not naturally endowed and innate, but rather stem from things like blood lineage. The individual rights of the capitalists, gained under the guise of human rights, held nothing for the proletariat; these human rights became merely a tool for the greater enslavement of the workers. This, Marx believed, represented the major social inequity of the modern world and the token measures of raising living standards and increasing wages does not go far enough to fill the gap between the two classes and enable the proletariat to gain the truest form of human rights .

The society, that people like Mao Zedong attempted to create with the help of communism, would be liberated and with equity amongst the people fully realized. This liberation would occur because communism is designed to eliminate the class system as well as private enterprise, replacing it with ownership by the public where all members of society collectively used and governed the means of production. Marx held that human rights in this situation would be better off as there is no uneven possession of property and hostility and alienation take a back seat to free alliance and voluntary labour. The way to obtain this society, Marx wrote, was to educate new communists of the wonders that were achievable through communism. Communism is a method of government that seems viable in theory, yet throughout history has not shown itself to be capable of creating the successful society it claims it can. When China implemented this system into their country, they brought with it the Marxist ideas on human rights. While these arguments appear to be for the good of the people, the population of countries that have instilled communism seem to be worse off, a direct result of the brutality and paranoia of the leaders. Communism does not allow dissent and anybody who departs from the official line is crushed. This is yet another reason that China has a shocking human rights record, the party that claims to work for the people does not give the basic freedoms it promised. Add to this the fact that Confucian ideology has fundamental differences to the west and the result is a population, that apart from students and activists, are either unaware or are too scared to speak out.

The Chinese Human Rights Alliance was founded in 1979 with the idea of stressing the importance of better living conditions for all Chinese people. Just after their founding on January 1st, they posted a document on Democracy Wall in Tian An Men Square known as the Chinese declaration of human rights. Although it is unofficial it still attracted widespread attention and lively discussion, however, apart from students and those interested in reforming China, the majority of people did not universally accept it. The document contains nineteen articles and includes clauses such as the freedom of expression and the release of all political prisoners. It demands that party leaders come under scrutiny and be evaluated by the constitution and that Chinese society be firmly built on democracy. Further to this it asks the leaders of China acknowledge



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