Improving human rights cooperation

By Shen Dingli
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, May 2, 2010
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China and the U.S. will resume talks in Washington, D.C., on human rights over two days in May after a two-year hiatus, which were themselves resumed after a long halt that began in 2002.

It is encouraging that China and the U.S., who are both devoted to improving human rights at home and abroad, will talk again. For a long time, both have strived to lift human rights and contributed to this global cause. Each has its own history and developed its own approaches to enhancing human rights. Based on their backgrounds and experiences, they have launched national programs to address human rights issues, giving priority commensurate with their own needs and characteristics. They have had various setbacks, but overall they have attained great progress in respecting those fundamental universal values.

China and the U.S. have some different views on the definition and priority of human rights. There was a time when their perspectives were completely different. Often, it was because human rights are associated with the broader dimension of bilateral ties. But history indicates that as long as they aspire to better their own people (according to their constitution mandates), they will be able to narrow their differences and appreciate each other.

First of all, both China and the U.S. have great respect for human dignity and have experienced successes and setbacks. When Europeans immigrated to North America in recent centuries, many went with a hope of freedom in the new land. As succeeding generations of new immigrants moved to America, many went with dreams of freedom and prosperity, though the reality may have been less optimistic.

The establishment of human rights in America has been a long march. When the new republic expanded westward, it hurt many indigenous people. The spread of exotic pathogens brought by the Europeans killed tens of millions of Native Americans, while the conquering of their land further deprived the rights of natives to live their own ways. Slavery in the South was so ugly that it prompted President Abraham Lincoln to take resolute efforts to abolish it.

Such a noble cause couldn't be accepted by southern plantation owners, who subsequently pushed for secession from the union. Many of us still have a fresh memory of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. in 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is cherished, and he further drove the implementation of tenets in the Declaration of Independence.

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