Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Human rights are an all-round concept

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-18 08:30

Editor's Note: The 2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights held on Wednesday and Thursday was attended by many experts and scholars from home and abroad, who elucidate the many aspects of human rights. Following are some of their views:

Importance of consensus

From the perspective of human rights politics, people of the world have reached a political consensus on universal human rights. The consensus has been influenced by many political and social factors, among which international conflicts, the world wars in particular, have been the most significant. A review of 20th century history would show the deep influence of World War II on the consensus on respecting and guaranteeing human rights across the world.

It was the United Nations, established after WWII, which passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most influential document in the field of international human rights. The Declaration has become the most prominent symbol of the consensus on human rights reached by the people of countries around the world, and a milestone on the road of development for international human rights.

Chang Jian and Liu Yi are researchers in human rights at Nankai University, Tianjin.

China's vital contribution

The global war against fascism had an inseparable relationship with the cause of human rights worldwide. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based on the summarization of the experiences in the global war against fascism, including the rich experiences of the Chinese people in defending human rights during the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

Seventy years ago, the Chinese people won a great victory in their desperate struggle against Japanese fascism on the Eastern battlefield of the global war against fascism, safeguarding their national esteem and fundamental human rights. It was both a victory against foreign aggression and a triumph of human rights.

Li Junru is vice-president of China Society for Human Rights Studies.

A great push for peace

From June to August 1956, the Supreme People's Procuratorate exempted more than 1,000 Japanese criminals who had committed minor crimes or expressed deep repentance for their actions from prosecution and ordered their immediate release.

After those Japanese war criminals returned home, they formed the "Association of Returnees from China". Established in 1957 and dissolved only in 2002, the association faced surveillance from the Japanese government, threats from right-wing forces, social indifference and media criticism throughout its nearly half century's existence. But despite the persecution, they never forgot the oath they had taken when they founded the association: to "contribute the rest of my life for the cause of peace" and become an important force to promote the Sino-Japanese friendship and maintain peace in Asia and the world. From war criminals to anti-war activists, such a transformation is rare in the world. This is an important contribution New China made in its early years to maintain peace in Asia and the world, and to the cause of international human rights.

Zhu Liyu is executive director of the Center for Human Rights Studies, Renmin University of China, Beijing, and Xiong Kan is a lawyer with Zhong Sheng Law Firm.

Hong Kong an internal affair

The major contribution of China to world peace was the peaceful settlement of the Hong Kong and Macao issues in line with the "One Country, Two Systems" policy which helped the peaceful reunification of Hong Kong and Macao with the motherland. The peaceful settlement of the Hong Kong issue prevented possible social unrest when China resumed exercising its sovereignty over the territory and boosted the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong territory.

But the peaceful return of the Hong Kong territory to China does not necessarily mean that the "One Country, Two Systems" policy will be smoothly implemented. What should be especially noted is that the electoral reform of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is China's internal affair in which foreign governments should not interfere.

Gu Minkang is a professor at and associate dean of the School of Law, City University of Hong Kong.

Protection to minorities

With China's economic development and improved status in the international community, the right to development of ethnic minorities in the country will get even better protection. In recent years, the system to encourage the participation of ethnic minorities in politics has been greatly improved. For instance, the Ningxia Hui autonomous region and other places have introduced specific rules and regulations to encourage ethnic minorities' participation in political affairs and guarantee their right to vote and to be elected.

The Chinese government has strengthened various investment and economic assistance channels to ethnic minority areas. Owing to the efforts of the central and local governments last year, the number of impoverished people in the eight ethnic provinces and autonomous regions dropped to 22.05 million, down 3.57 million from the previous year, reflecting a poverty reduction rate of 13.9 percent.

With the development of cultural undertakings in China, the cultures of ethnic minority groups will get a boost. In the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, for example, 12 years of free education was introduced in three prefectures in the southern part of the region from 2014. Minority groups in Yunnan province, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and other places have also received State assistance in various forms. And State investment has been growing in order to protect minority languages, cultures and ethnic identities.

Gulazat Tursun is a professor at Law School, Xinjiang University.

Japan still trampling rights

Evidence of Japanese atrocities were destroyed or covered up by the Japanese government when it formally signed the World War II surrender treaty in Tokyo Bay on Sept 2, 1945. Huge volumes of records pertaining to war crimes and the responsibility of Japanese leaders, including the emperor, were burnt. The Imperial Japanese Army and the country's navy, and almost all government ministries destroyed the incriminating files.

Japan's denial of its war history and excuses for its war crimes are a continuous violation of human rights and have prevented its conflicts with the victim nations from ending. By not officially apologizing to the victim countries, Japan is rubbing salt into their wounds.

Japan is sabotaging a more complete reconciliation and peace with the victim nations, continuing to create conflicts with the victim nations, and risking its integrity.

When Japan denies or tries to shun its war crimes, the people of the victim nations have to surmise that today's Japanese are in agreement with the country's war crimes and the victims feel humiliated and deprived of their human rights. As such, the victims will continue to reject the Japanese government and hostilities will continue to build because Japan has not created the right atmosphere in which their wounds can heal.

Worse, since the official documentations of Japan's war crimes have been destroyed, Japanese people have been stripped of their rights to know the truth. Official textbooks and officials' visits to shrines that honor war criminals have, to a certain extent, made the younger generations in Japan believe that Japanese warmongers did not commit any crimes or even if they did, they were not as heinous as facts show. This kind of wrong knowledge of history or incomplete education continue to create misunderstandings, hatred and quarrels leading to conflicts between the Japanese and the people of victim nations.

Thomas In Sing Leung is founder and president of Culture Regeneration Research Society, Canada.

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