Chinese official offers glimpse of discussion on human rights

China still has “a long way to go” before its citizens can enjoy full human rights, a senior Chinese official said in a rare admission of the challenges ahead, pointing to social conflict and even rising house prices as stumbling blocks.

Wang Chen, head of the State Council Information Office, said in a speech published in the English-language China Daily Wednesday that while China had made remarkable developments on this front, the way forward would be hard.

“Affected and restricted by natural, historical and cultural factors, and economic and social development levels, the cause of human rights in China is still facing many difficulties and challenges, and there is still a long way to go before achieving the lofty goal of the Chinese citizens fully enjoying human rights,” Wang said.

Our national development remains significantly unbalanced and uncoordinated because of … wide gaps in income distribution, increasing pressures on prices, soaring housing prices in some cities, food safety problems, insufficient and unevenly distributed educational and medical resources, unbalanced urban and rural development, and increasing social conflicts caused by illegal land requisitioning,” he said.

China has long rejected criticism of its human rights’ record, saying providing food, clothing, housing and economic growth are far more relevant for developing countries like it, pointing to success at lifting millions out of poverty…

Wang said that China plans to draft a new “human rights action plan” for 2012-2015, “with the aim of expanding democracy, enhancing the rule of law, improving the people’s livelihood and safeguarding human rights…”

Wang’s comments underscore Beijing’s continuing concerns about rising discontent sparked by a growing wealth gap, rampant corruption and illegal land seizures, issues that the current crop of top leaders have staked their legacy on.

You can accept or ignore what little analysis threads through the Reuters article. I’d suggest reading the original via the link up top. Personally, my experience with dialogue on the future course of China’s economy, political forms and human rights has been exactly what I expected – and satisfying.

Once Westerners get past their “superior” attitudes, find an avenue of discourse among their peers in China’s economy and government, the discussion can be satisfying, assuring. I can ramble on in several directions about existential quotients; but, the negatives dragging most on the Chinese side of the discussion are inertia and ennui – both deriving from a national identity and culture that has millennia of history. Something few Westerners appreciate.

The truly critical part of the analysis still devolves to a materialist dialectic that essentially says – “we will expand human rights when we can afford it”. There are simple parallels in the West in the changing relationships within what we understand as a family. Americans, Brits and most Europeans think romantic love, for example, has always been the defining characteristic of marriage. Historically, that’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Even though “eternal” is what you have been told by Walt Disney and John Wayne, even Tony Richardson and Leslie Howard. But, it didn’t become mainstream until families could afford the choice.

Maybe that’s a sloppy metaphor; but, I’m not about to haul out whole chapters of Engels or Morgan to add to your studies of history. I’m just letting you know – that’s where China’s ideologues are coming from.

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