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Scholar: interpreting human rights not monopoly of the west

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BEIJING, July 17 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese scholar has called for ending the dominance of a few western countries in interpreting concepts like freedom, democracy and human rights.

In a signed article in the People's Daily on Thursday, Zhang Weiwei, director of the research center for the Chinese model of development at Fudan University, said that people from all countries should have the right to interpret those concepts, which are the "common heritage" of humanity, otherwise, there will be absurdities.

More than 600 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty since 1978, a feat considered irrelevant to human rights progress, while the Iraq War waged principally by the United States, which killed at least more than 100,000 civilians and displaced millions, was deemed a defence of human rights, Zhang wrote.

For the past 300 or so years, western countries have determined global affairs, thanks principally to their overwhelming power and strength.

When Europeans were exterminating the aboriginal people of the Americas, they said they had no choice; when they were trafficking black slaves, they said they were just doing what others were doing; their explanation for the rapacious plunder of colonialism and imperialism was that they were spreading modern civilization. They have a lot of reasons to justify racism and ethnic segregation, he wrote.

The notions of freedom, democracy and human rights were gradually transformed from the prerogatives of a small elite into universal values, thanks to the efforts of the nations that resisted slavery by the West and from Western people with insight. The meanings of these notions were greatly enriched through interactions between different civilizations.

Reviewing the historical course of freedom, democracy and human rights, the article notes that these notions, in their modern guises, have not been recognized by the West for long. Many problems dog their practical implementation.

The year 1965 -- when the United States began to allow equal rights for black and white people -- was only 50 years ago, a mere decade before China's reform and opening-up began.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140717/scholar-interpreting-human-rights-not-monopoly-the-west