Human Rights in China, Continued
The Search for Common Ground
"I have shown your DVD on China and Human Rights to a number of people. You got rave reviews from this Chinese woman, an eminent cancer researcher who lives in Shanghai. She felt your presentation showed real balance and sensitivity to the issues."
— Arthur K. Ellis, Professor and Director
Center for Global Curriculum Studies
Seattle Pacific University
Highlights of the Documentary
The documentary, a 50 minute film, is in available in both VHS and DVD format. Viewers will receive an up-to-date grasp of contemporary China, since most of the pictures were taken throughout China in November of 2003. The program draws on the knowledge of eleven scholars, three of whom are faculty from universities in China and several government officials and activists. A major theme throughout is searching for common ground between China and the United States.
The content begins with background that describes the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations after World War II. China Scholar Roger Ames questions the underlying assumptions of this document, arguing that the Universal Declaration is based on western individualism, which is considered a pathology in Chinese culture. On the other hand, international scholar Jack Donnelly defends the Universal Declaration and claims it is the common ground which all nations should have as their goal.
The second topic, the uniqueness of Chinese culture, builds on the Bangkok Declaration, which was positively received by the developing countries of Asia, including China, and which changed the Universal Declaration by allowing cultural differences to be given consideration when assessing human rights practices. The disagreement between Professors Ames and Donnelly continues in this section and other scholars enter the debate, which focuses on China's historical and cultural traditions and values.
The third subject, social order and human rights, centers on the debate between those who argue that China's need for stability and order is paramount versus those who believe that the chaos argument is over done. Jia Qingqua supports China's position that political stability is more important than individual and civil rights. Those who disagree point out that the problem in China is that there still is resistance to change and China's leaders continue to exert an iron grip on their own people because they don't want to lose power.
The fourth topic, economic change and human rights, begins with MacArthur Foundation Fellow, John Kamm, reminding us that "it was precisely when China did not have trade with the rest of the world that human rights was at its worst." The Chinese model gives priority to economic development over political development. Those who disagree point out that the transformation has been going on for over fifty years, and the same party-military dictatorship is still in control of China. However, rapid economic growth has not benefited all of the people in China. Scholars interviewed are critical of China's neglect of the "floating population," and their concern is illustrated by vivid pictures of these people waiting for work in several cities.
The last topic focuses on the Falun Gong, a symbol for many worldwide human rights groups of China's lack of progress on human rights. The documentary gives a brief history of the Falun Gong prior to 1999 and discusses the question of whether it is a threat to the stability of China and the Chinese regime.
Highlights of the DVD
The DVD includes the documentary and 64 minutes of additional discussion, which follows the documentary outline and offers the viewer three choices. The first choice is to select the documentary. The second is to select one of five chapters from the documentary. The third choice is to select one of five additional discussion chapters. The DVD is designed to be used in the classroom as a flexible teaching tool. Faculty can either show the entire documentary or select from five chapters within the documentary and/or five chapters in the additional discussion section. Below are some highlights of the additional discussion chapters in the DVD.
The Background Chapter continues the debate between Roger Ames and Jack Donnelly. Henry Rosemont differentiates between first generation and second generation human rights and explains why the Chinese see second generation rights as their priority. Anthony Yu reminds us that there has been a history of western nations exploiting a weak China during the 19th century, so we shouldn't blame China for being somewhat paranoid.
An example of the uniqueness of Chinese culture is a discussion by Wang Jiaxiang who acknowledges that women's reproductive rights are indeed human rights, even though she defends China's one-child policy. The chapter on social order and human rights offers a persuasive argument by Peking University scholar Jia Qingquo who describes the major transformations China is undergoing. Because of these changes, Jia defends the Chinese government's position that political stability is the most important policy for China at this time in history and that stability must take precedence over human rights. Other scholars question Jia's argument.
The chapter on economic change and human rights further explains the exploitation of factory workers, the disenfranchisement of peasants who relocate to the cities, and the perils of young women who can't find work after coming to urban areas.
The Falun Gong Chapter addresses the following questions: whether it is a religion or a social movement, whether Li Hongzhi is perceived by practitioners as a God, and whether, according to Anthony Yu, China's long religious tradition is responsible for how the regime is currently treating the Falun Gong.
The following scholars and individuals were interviewed or granted us permission to include comments from their lectures. They are people who made this program possible.
Roger Ames, Univ of Hawaii
Professor of Philosophy
Jack Donnelly, Univ of Denver
Professor of International Studies
Donald Emmerson, Stanford Univ
Senior Fellow in International Studies
Jia Quingquo, Peking Univ
Associate Professor of International Studies
John Kamm, DUI HUA Foundation
T Kumar, Amnesty International
Suchin Pan, Falun Gong practitioner in US
Elizabeth Perry, Harvard University
Professor of Political Science
Henry Rosemont, Saint Mary's College of MA
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Richard Smith, Rice Univ
Professor of History
James Tong, UCLA
Associate Professor of Political Science
Wang Jiaxiang, Beijing Foreign Studies Univ
Professor Emeritus of English Studies
Anthony Yu, Univ of Chicago
Professor in the Humanities
Allen Zeng, Falun Gong practitioner in US
Copyright © 2005 Sacred Mountain Productions