The Impact of Poverty and Starvation on Human Rights

August 1, 2017

On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by fifty-six members of the United Nations. The vote was unanimous, although eight nations chose to abstain (not vote).

At the time, the most powerful countries in the world was the members of the alliance that won World War II. It would take another sixty-three years for the rest of the world (minus three) to join and reach 193 countries. That means in 1948, twenty-nine percent of the world’s countries decided what human rights was.

Although Nationalist China was one of the original fifty-one members of the UN in 1945, Communist China (established in 1949 after the end of the Chinese Civil War) didn’t become a member until October 25, 1971, when the UN General Assembly expelled the Republic of China (Taiwan), and admitted the People’s Republic of China as one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. – Growth in United Nations membership, 1945-present

The five most powerful countries are on the U.N. Security Council: China, Russia, France, United Kingdom, and the United States. They are also the five most powerful countries that worked together to defeat Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II.  Six of the eight that abstained and did not vote were members of the Soviet Union’s Communist Bloc in Eastern Europe.

Merriam-Webster defines human rights as: “rights (such as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons.”

When I read A Different Turning Point for Mankind by G. W. Bowersock in the May 9, 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books, I had one of those “Aha!” moments while I was reading about the history of several different cultural philosophies and ideologies.

For millennia, the major cultural influences on the planet have been: Greek, Roman, Jewish, Christian, Chinese, Hindu, Islamic, and Buddhist.

But the concept of human rights that dominates the planet today has its roots from ancient Greece and Rome, not China, Africa, India, or the Middle East.


China focused on poverty reduction first over human rights. After all, what good are human rights if you are poor and starving?

This Western, Greek-Roman concept of human rights that evolved over a period of centuries to dominate the planet today came about due to the fire and brimstone of the colonial era of the 18th and 19th centuries where European countries such as Spain, England, France, Germany, Portugal and Italy ruled, often brutally, over most of the planet as colonial powers. Later the United States joined in building its own global empire once again based on a Greek-Roman, Christian foundation.

When Western citizens criticize China or Asia, the Middle East, or Africa for human rights violations, these cultures are not being judged by their own perception of what human rights might mean. Instead, the West, especially the United States, is forcing its beliefs on those cultures.

In the West, human rights are based on the ideology of the self that emphasizes autonomy, but this is not relevant to a Confucian based society that stresses the primacy of community and the person’s obligation to others. – University of Illinois Press

And for the Islamic Middle East, Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im says, “Shari’ah, which is the historical foundations of Islamic law, directly affects the millions of Muslims around the world. Because of its moral and religious authority, it has great influence on the status of human rights for Muslim countries.”

Words for thought: are claims of human rights violations outside of Western countries based on the status of human beings as individuals or as a member of a community or group of people, because traditional cultures do not always view the individual as an autonomous being possessed of rights above society? – Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center

In addition, hunger and poverty also influence the concept and evolution of human rights. “The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people, or one in eight people in the world, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing fifteen percent of the population of developing counties.” – World Hunger.org

If you were one of the almost one billion people around the world suffering from chronic undernourishment (starving), would you be sitting around debating freedom of expression, religion, democracy, and equal pay for men and women? If you have never experienced living in a so-called democracy, how can you be expected to understand what that’s like?

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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A Chinese Beat Cop in Action, and what are human rights

February 21, 2017

China is often criticized for human rights violations through the United Nations and the west’s media based on European and North American values.

For instance, my last trip to China was in 2008, and we heard about an incident from a friend, a witness to an event that involved the police and two Chinese citizens: a single man in his late forties, who lived in the same building our friend lived in, and one of his girlfriends.

The older 40-year-old man’s girlfriend was in her early twenties, and she called the police from his apartment and claimed she’d been raped. After police officers arrived on the scene of the alleged crime, she demanded, “Arrest and punish him!”

The original single family house in what was once the French sector in Shanghai was now shared by several families; each family had one or two rooms divided up between two floors in what was once a three-story house.  The bottom floor was occupied by a clothing shop.

The neighbors, including our Chinese friend, from the 2nd and 3rd floors, crowded the hall outside an open door to witness what was happening. The police officers, who had arrived on the scene, calmly heard both sides and everyone learned that there had been no actual forced rape. It turned out that the woman had discovered her boyfriend, who was more than twice her age, had two other girlfriends and one of them was twenty years older than he was.

“He asked me to strip,” she said. “He is corrupt.”

The officer studied her, and then the man. The woman was several inches taller and at least twenty pounds heavier. “You have legs. You could leave,” the officer said, “But you stripped. Is that correct?”

There was the sound of laughter from the hallway audience.

The soon-to-be former, much-younger, girlfriend nodded.

“No laws have been broken,” one of the police officers said. “He is a single man and can date anyone he likes, even more than one woman. You could have said no. If you feel that you have been abused, there’s a woman’s organization that will help you. Do you want the phone number?”

“I already went to them. They won’t punish him either.”

The officer shook his head. “You will never come to this apartment again,” the officer said, and he wrote his verdict in a notebook.

China’s police do not have to read a suspected criminal his or her Miranda rights. U.S. Miranda rights do not exist in China. Arguably, In China, the police have more power than police in the U.S. We often hear about China’s human rights violations, but how can they be human rights violations when there are no laws that define them; no human rights laws to enforce?

It might help to compare a few crime statistics between the United States and China.

Nation Master.com reports the murder rate per year per 100,000 people

  • China: 1.2 per 100,000
  • United States: 5 per 100,000

Number of Robberies recorded by police per 100,000 people

  • China: 24.5
  • U.S. 146.4

Prisons Population (reported by the BBC)

  • China: 1,548,498 or 118 per 100,000 people
  • United States: 2,193,798 or 737 per 100,000

What did Patrick Henry say on March 23, 1775? “Give me liberty or give me death.” I wonder what Patrick Henry would say today if he were still alive and saw these compared facts.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

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The Cultural Perception of Human Rights

August 20, 2013

I was reading A Different Turning Point for Mankind by G. W. Bowersock in the May 9, 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books, and I had one of those Aha! moments when I read about the history of several different cultural philosophies and ideologies.

For millennia, the major cultures on the planet have been: Greek, Roman, Jewish, Christian, Chinese, Hindu, Islamic and Buddhist.

But the concept of human rights that dominates the planet today has its roots from ancient Greece and Rome—not China, Africa, India, or the Middle East.

This Western, Greek-Roman concept of human rights that evolved over a period of centuries to dominate the planet today came about due to the fire and brimstone of the colonial era of the 18th and 19th centuries where European countries such as Spain, England, France, Germany, Portugal and Italy ruled, often brutally, over most of the planet. Then later the United States joined in building a global empire—again on a Greek-Roman, Christian foundation.

When Western citizens criticize China—or Asia, the Middle East or Africa for that matter—for human rights violations, these cultures are not being judged by their own perception of what human rights might mean. Instead, the West may be forcing its beliefs on those cultures.

In the West, human rights are based on the ideology of the self that emphasizes autonomy, but this is not relevant to a Confucian based society that stresses the primacy of community and the person’s obligation to others. Source: University of Illinois Press

And for the Islamic Middle East, Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im says, “Shari’ah, which is the historical foundations of Islamic law, directly affects the millions of Muslims around the world. Because of its moral and religious authority, it has great influence on the status of human rights for Muslim countries.”

For example: Are human rights claims based on status as an individual human being or status as a member of some community or group of people? Because traditional cultures do not always view the individual as an autonomous being possessed of rights above society. Source: Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center

Also, world hunger and poverty influence the concept of human rights—that may be only a momentary luxury because of developed countries where citizens have time to debate human rights instead of worry where the next meal or drink of water will come from. It may be a challenge to want democracy and human rights when you are starving.

“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people, or one in eight people in the world, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties.” Source: World Hunger.org

If you were one of the hungry billion suffering from chronic undernourishment, would you be sitting around worrying about freedom of expression/religion, democracy [If you have never tasted democracy, how can you be expected to understand it?] and equal pay for men and women?

Discover Human Rights the Chinese Way

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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The Human Rights of Individualism

September 3, 2010

The Guardian.co.uk reported that China moves to reduce number of crimes punishable by death.  Considering that in 1980, China had no legal system much has been accomplished and more is yet to come.

I agree that some of the crimes that warrant the death penalty in China are unfair for the crime committed, but China is not a Western country and the history of China prior to Communism shows that convicted criminals were often executed for a long list of nonviolent crimes.

Call me an Old Testament man. I believe if someone is convicted with overwhelming evidence of a brutal crime, he or she should face punishment equal to or worse than the crime they committed.

A trial for first-degree murder should end in a swift execution.

Face it, there are convicted criminals who cannot be allowed out of prison. Instead of locking them up for decades at a high cost to honest hardworking taxpayers, the criminals should be executed.

The Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Recognition of inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”  Source: Human Rights Here and Now

I disagree with the term “all members” of the human family. Some criminals forfeit that right due to the nature of his or her crimes.

In forty-six American states and the District of Columbia, convicted criminal offenders are denied the right to vote while serving a sentence in prison. Thirty-nine states also disenfranchise felons on parole and twenty-nine disenfranchise those on probation.

In fourteen states, even ex-offenders who have served their sentences remain barred for life from voting. Source: The Sentencing Project

However, there is pressure on the United States to go easier on ex-offenders and allow them to have the right to vote again.

In fact, almost every country is changing due to pressure from human rights groups.  I don’t oppose what the human rights groups are doing yet slavery didn’t end during the American Civil War. Why isn’t more being done to end slavery?

Today, more than 27 million men, women and children endure brutal working conditions for no money and under the constant threat of beatings, torture and rape. Source: iAbolish.org

All a slaver has to do is make sure he or she lives in a country that, at worst, will lock him or her up for life and provide free shelter, free food and free medical—something that China doesn’t do for these types of crimes.

Do you believe pampering hard-core criminals is going to change them? Maybe theWest should consider what “human rights” looks like in a collective culture as opposed to individualism.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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China Rejects Western Pressure on Human Rights

August 13, 2010

One place to read anything positive about China is in the “China Daily” or a few Blogs written by people like me, who have been to China and do their homework to know what’s really going on.

In China rejects Western standards on human rights, Xinhua (7-3-2010), Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying says that the “West” ignores China’s political progress.

In fact, there has been much political progress since Mao died in 1976. See China’s Capitalist Revolution to learn more.

I’d like to rewrite Minister Fu Ying’s statement to say that most of the “Western media” and conservative and liberal political action groups in the US ignore China’s progress for a reason. These groups have a political agenda against anything that has the word “Communist” in front of it. To them, China is still a Maoist country that they fear, and they do not want to hear the truth.

Minister Fu Ying is correct when she says that the Western point-of-view on human rights in China is spread by “political extremists”.

The Tibetan separatists represent about one percent of the Tibetan population, and the Muslim separatists from China’s northwest are the same as the Islamic fundamentalists the West is fighting on the other side of the border in Afghanistan.

The other loud voice is the Falun Gong, a cult with enough money to support a traveling international musical troop, a TV station and a newspaper. That has to cost a small fortune, so where does that money come from?

Well, we know from Congressional hearings that the CIA supports the Tibetan separatists, so it isn’t a stretch to figure out who supports the Falun Gong and the Muslims.

I suggest you watch the three videos and tell me who isn’t guilty of human rights violations.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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Human Rights – East versus West

July 24, 2010

The loudest voices for human rights originate in the West where the individual has more value than the whole. In China, the opposite is true. In China, the emphasis is on collective rights, which explains why China has the death penalty with the highest execution rate in the world.  The idea is to get rid of individual threats to the collective welfare.

Dr. Sun Yat-sin (1866 – 1925), who is celebrated in mainland China and in Taiwan as the father of modern China, said it best, “An individual should not have too much freedom. A nation should have absolute freedom.”

Interpreted, that means individuals in China will not have the level of freedoms as exercised in Western nations and even if China were to hold democratic elections, that situation will probably not change. Human rights in China does exist but from a collective point of view.

Joe Amon, writing in the Huffington Post, shows his ignorance of Chinese culture when he says, “But the government should be held to account for stifling the work and voices of Chinese AIDS activists and nongovernmental organizations.”

To work for change in China, one must understand the collective thought process of most Chinese.  If change is to take place, it must come from within China and it must be done from a collective point of view. In fact, it is culturally taboo to talk about HIV/AIDS in China since the Chinese seldom talk publicly about the so called white-elephant in the room anyway.

See Human Rights the Chinese Way

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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