Rights beyond Borders: The Global Community and the Struggle over Human Rights in China

Rights beyond Borders: The Global Community and the Struggle over Human Rights in China

Rights beyond Borders: The Global Community and the Struggle over Human Rights in China

Rights beyond Borders: The Global Community and the Struggle over Human Rights in China

Synopsis

Over the five decades since the establishment of the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights issues have become a dominant feature of the international system, embracing new actors, eroding the traditional Westphalian concept of sovereignty, and leading to anacceptance that the treatment of individuals and groups within domestic societies is legitimately a focus of global attention. This book examines the affect that this normative evolution has had on the individual, state, institutional and advocacy network behaviour. Having described this normative environment it assesses its impact on key actors' relationships with China, especially in the period since the Tiananmenbloodshed in June 1989. It also examines China's responsesDSinternational and internalDSto being the focus of global attention in this issue area. The book's theoretical concerns are to uncover the conditions under which international human rights norms influence behaviour, including domestic changeswithin states, and about the operation of norms in the global system.

Excerpt

In conversation with a British foreign office official, I asked him whether he could make an interest-based argument to explain his government's attention to China's human rights record in its external relationship with the country. He replied that he could not, except if one looked—uncharacteristically for policy-makers—to the long term, when an improved level of protection might signal Chinese adherence to a set of values more compatible with those operating in the West. In the short term, he thought, regular reference to human rights conditions in China complicated the practice of diplomacy. Yet, he added, the issue could not be avoided, not as a result of ministerial dictat or with reference solely to a recent, more strongly articulated commitment to an ethical foreign policy, but because the issue area had become central in international diplomacy, and particularly so in the case of the global community's relationship with China.

This book accepts that description of present reality, traces how and why that reality has come about, and shows how the normative concern for human rights has influenced the behaviour of key actors within the global system. By key actors, I am referring to selected non-governmental organizations (NGOs), some national governments, and the United Nations' human rights institutions. The latter have been crucial to the elaboration and legitimation of human rights norms, and in providing a platform upon which governmental and NGO criticisms of abuse can be aired; the NGOs themselves have drawn attention to and provided alternative sources of information about norm violation and compliance. The state, however, has played a vital role in carrying the message forward. It is the body that signs the convention and then produces the requisite domestic legislation. Operating externally, the state may create new

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