Human Rights: Ireland and China

 ‘Human Rights in China’ is a much debated, and disputed, issue.

In April 2016, the Irish Foreign Minister stated, “The position taken by Ireland (is) wholly consistent with EU policy in relation to China as set out in a letter by EU Ambassadors on 24th February 2016. It is consistent also with our national position on global human rights issues articulated repeatedly at the UN.’

The letter mentioned expressed concern about new laws on counter-terrorism, cyber security and management of NGOs, seen by many as too confining. The Chinese politely replied that the steps had been taken to protect its citizen from the world-wide terrorist threat. The discussion ended on that note. Not only were delicate matters of trade and global cooperation involved, but also because basis attitudes to human rights diverge.

There are 30 ‘rights’ listed in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first 21 focus on personal rights, those highly regarded in the West, such as equality under the law and freedom of expression.  The remainder are more economic and social: the right to work, to rest and leisure, health care, education and housing.

These latter are the ones that China, and some other developing countries, list as their priority. Once the majority of people are well fed and housed, they claim, more freedom can be given in what they individually chose to say and do.


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