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By Francis C. W. Fung, PH.D.

In the U.S. media human rights is used as a one sided absolute
standard rather than relative progress to judge developing countries
who are striving to improve. At the same time there is a noticeable
lack of self criticism of America’s own human rights records. This
double standard often leave many developing nations suspicious of
American motives. Even though seeds of human rights are contained
in teachings of major world cultures, its development to keep pace
with modern world is rather recent. Essential human ideals such as
harmony, freedom and democracy, judging from world cultural history
certainly all predated and had far more thorough study by many
cultures old and new than human rights. Just as harmony and
democracy, human rights is also a broad principle indeed. As much as
is generally agreed by the civilized world that human rights is
important and necessary, as a universal common value its agreed
scope and its method of implementations are still developing. This lack
of consensus is obvious from the current great debate that takes place
in U.N. and on world stage.

For representative East vs. West debates on human rights, one is
referred to two recent excellent papers. First one authored by Prof.
Albert H.Y. Chen, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong,
entitled “Chinese Cultural Tradition and Modern Human Rights.” Second
one is a featured story published Nov. 24, 2006 by People’s Daily
Online, entitled “Harmony: China’s Creation to Promote Human
Rights.” It is fair to point out, elements for and against human rights
were contained in both East and West cultural heritage. The modern
development of human rights in the West is not cultural specific to the
West but has universal significance and general applicability for all
cultures. In fact the ideal of universal benevolence and universal
education were the corner stones of Confucian teaching. The Chinese
civil examination was the first historical large scale comprehensive
system to provide equal advancement opportunity to all its citizens.

In the first paper, Prof. Chen concluded “Thus it would be possible for
us to rehabilitate the virtues and insights of Confucianism and other
precious elements in the rich and great Chinese cultural tradition which
modern Chinese deserve to feel proud of, and simultaneously work for
the further democratization and better protection of human rights in
China of the 21st century. This, I believe, is the way forward for China,
and the lesson finally learnt from the immense sufferings which the
Chinese people have endured in the throes of modernization in the last
two centuries.” This on going process of improving human rights in
different degrees, with the progress of modern human society is
applicable to all other nations and U. S. is no exception. In fact as the
most prosperous major nation in the world, the U.S. massive penal
correction system failed to stop the crime rate from being the highest
in the world. This is a sign of societal imbalance in education vs. penal
correction in the application of human rights principle.

In the second paper, Dong Yunhu, Secretary General of the China
Society for Human Rights Study also rightly pointed out “The value of
human rights is universal, but the dynamic of its implementation
varies in different countries.” The Hon. Makarim Wibisono, Indonesian
Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the U.N., added “The
idea of harmony being connected to human rights is significant and
relevant to Asian culture, which are largely rooted in Confucianism.
Harmony certainly can render the concept of human rights more
approachable to many who are not familiar with the notion.” Prof.
James Williams of North Carolina University not untypical of U.S. main
stream thinking said “In Asian countries at large, governments are
keen to advocate cultural factors playing a role in universal rights,
acting on the principle that the individual rights conflict with a wider
social harmony and stability, citing Asian values as contradictory to a
Western notion of universality.” This type of thinking is not in touch
with Asian reality when the debate is no longer in the general
acceptance of human rights but in the scope, the dynamic of its
implementation and the historical setting.

Implementation of human rights in a complex society of vast
population is a study in engineering system analysis. The key lies in
dynamic balance of a multitude of parameters. Human rights progress
requires painstaking monitoring and iteration by the willing society.
Casual and judgmental statements from the U.S. media and
government often miss the point and are counter productive. China’s
birth control policy to prevent over population is an overwhelming
necessity not just for China but for world development sustainability.
But it conveniently became the target of perennial attacks by the U. S.
media. That is why a higher order universal criteria such as harmony
as common value, may be used to judge the progress of human rights
in some cases where global development sustainability are at issue.
Harmony is essential to world human rights development because it is
nature’s order and it prescribes dynamic balance in engineering
system analysis. Harmony includes the universal common value of
tolerance, respect, equity and most of all humility. It can also be called
the concept of scientific development for sustainable development.
Harmony consensus as a standard naturally comes to mind when
today’s world conflict continue to exist despite well intentions from
major religions and intentional laws. To quote Dong Yunhu “Social
harmony relies on justice and the right to development because both
poverty and injustice are the roots of disharmony in the world.”

The recent Virginia Tech massacre and similar frequent mass murder
occurrences in the U.S. are the consequence of the government’s
inability to enforce stricter gun control laws. Most civilized world sees
the proliferation of guns in a society is a threat to the majority citizen’s
human rights. The American government’s reluctance to control the
unnecessary spread of guns is a left over problem unique to the U.S.
historical setting. It is up to the U.S. to solve its own disharmony. No
other countries are able to enforce it from outside short of invasion,
even though the spread of guns by American citizens also endanger
world human rights. Individual nation’s human rights must be built on
its firm sovereignty foundation. A country not respecting the
sovereignty of other nations by advocating overt forceful regime
changes is in serious violation of world human rights. The tragic
catastrophic Iraqi civilian sufferings, as a result of U.S. invasion, is a
lesson of violation of human rights lacking harmony consideration to
be learned by all.

In a recent book titled “Keeping faith in our values in a dangerous
world”, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the renowned Dean of Princeton
University Woodrow Wilson Institute, advocated including tolerance,
humility and faith into American system of values. She also suggested
that American practice “value based foreign policy” to improve our
image, so that our spreading of human rights and democracy can be
more effective. Her theory is well founded but short of the more
universal ideal of harmony diplomacy and mutual win-win development
already in practice by parts of the world. Harmony is an ancient ideal
that belongs to the world. It is accepted by many cultures East and
West. It is an extensive system of common values and certainly more
inclusive than just adding tolerance, humility and faith to American
value system.

One can also have faith in harmony, which in time will work its way by
resonance. The truth of harmony diplomacy includes the spirit of
working with all nations in the world. Between any two countries there
exist complementary advantages for mutual win- win development.
Preconception of incompatibility is counter to harmony ideal of
tolerance, acceptance and respect of others. It also negates the value
of humility in practicing tolerance and acceptance. Madam Slaughter
proposed working with NATO nations, English speaking and other
major nations for the propagation of American values and “value based
foreign policy”. Yet in her list of “preferred” nations, many significant
nations including China, Russia and other obvious nations who have
disagreements with us are noticeably absent. World human rights
practice must also include respect of all cultures.

The scope of human rights also grows with social and economic
modernization of a society and must be in harmony with the society
and nature. From the very beginning nature also imposes boundaries
on our human rights aspirations. Harmony as dynamic balance is
nature’s order. It exists as a higher order guide applicable to affairs of
family, society, nations and the world. When there is no harmony as in
todays confrontational world, extremism results and human rights are
threatened. Human rights ideal is a universal truism but we must allow
cultural diversity in scope, cultural emphasis and historical sequenced
difference in implementation within a well planned engineering system.
As much as there is engineering system analysis in the implementation
of human rights in a nation there needs to be the same consideration
in world human rights.

The world needs harmony diplomacy through dialogue and consensus
to maintain world human rights. It is within the realm of U.N. and not
the judgmental whim of any one nation, no matter how powerful we
are. The weak in their anguish has limited means must be persuaded
to refrain from suicide mode. The powerful, with dominant media and
military, needs to practice humility. To minimize confrontation through
extremism and unilateralism it is time for all to advocate harmony
diplomacy and win-win mutual development. Thus harmony is
essential to world human rights as a supranational universal guidance
and system engineering analysis milestones in the dynamic
implementation of world human rights.

Francis Fung