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Jun 4, 2009

Ma on Tiananmen

Today Ma made his statement on Tiananmen square. (English here). One paragraph is just bullshit, considering the political rights situation is worse than it was twenty years ago:

Over the past decade, the mainland authorities have paid greater attention to human rights than before. China has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, it has published a series of white papers on human rights, and just this past April took an even more concrete step forward by formally adopting the National Human Rights Action Plan of China. The Action Plan has received mixed reviews from the international community, but the mere fact that they took this step is a clear signal that the mainland authorities are now willing to directly address the issue of human rights. This shows a robust openness and confidence on their part, the likes of which we have not seen from them in the past.

Other than that, the speech is largely a rehash of Taiwan's own transition to democracy with the clear nod to Chiang Ching-kuo's vision of a democratic Taiwan making the mainland prosperous and democratic before unification. There's plenty of references to improved cross-strait relations, as well, and finally a shout out to the Zhonghua Minzu.

Really, not much to see here. I heard one blue voter express some disappointment in the speech, and I know it hasn't made the Tiananmen leaders in exile here happy, but I think most people expected something about like this. It has been 20 years, after all, and this is a topic not fresh in most people's minds.

5 comments:

Thomas said...

Ma must be aware of the fact that the autocrats in Beijing define human rights as lifting people out of poverty and providing the basic necessities. This is the foundation on which Beijing claims that it has improved the human rights situation in China. This does not mean that some forms of expression have not become more open in the last 20 years. However, citing government-backed human rights plans is pointless as Beijing's definition of human rights is different than that of Western countries, and of Taiwan.

STOP Ma said...

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...Beijing's definition of human rights is different than that of Western countries, and of Taiwan.

I don't mean to come across as irritated at you Thomas, but it's truly sad when I hear people make this argument -- especially from my Chinese colleagues. This is usually followed by lashing out at human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the UN. Human rights in modern society is not a relativistic concept. Basic human rights should be looked at in a "universal" framework -- especially basic rights such as freedom from political persecution.

China had every opportunity to expand these human rights in the past decade, but they chose not to succeed in this regard. Simply look at the way they handled the Olympic Games last year -- they broke almost every agreement made with the IOC with regards to human rights and freedoms.

Be careful Thomas. Don't make excuses for Beijing. Don't use the double-speak. China REJECTS basic human rights and continues to do so at a blistering pace.
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Robert R. said...

SM: My reading was that was Thomas' point. Ma's statement that Beijing has improved HR is pointless because they're not talking about the same thing that the rest of us are.

Ma must know this, and therefore he is the one engaging and endorsing the double speak.

STOP Ma said...

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Robert,

Maybe so (and I wasn't being really critical of Thomas as I pointed out). I just cringe at the "definition is different for human rights" part every time this equivocation is used.
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Thomas said...

Stop Ma, I wasn't making excuses for Beijing. My point was that Ma should not be telling everyone that BJ is improving on the human rights front when, by BJ's admission, they use a different standard to measure human rights.

It is as though my friend dyed her hair magenta because she thought it looked prettier, and then I told everyone who saw her picture that her hair was prettier because she said it was.

In this situation, who would look sillier, me or my friend? If you judge based on looks, it would be her. If you judge based on character, it would be me.