Human rights were not given but always fought for
Not only do we have human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international treaties - but we also have a personal responsibility to society to ensure that we receive our full human rights.
HK people are not only 'protesters' - we are also marshalls for UN human rights!
Human rights were not given but always fought for
Apple Daily 14 December 2020 by Yan Kei (format added)
On December 10, the world celebrated the Human Rights Day. I think every day should be a Human Rights Day. But this day is celebrated around the world as the day the world created the first set of modern human rights norms and standards.
I think there is nothing much to celebrate. Why? Because from day to day the rights of millions of people are violated. In fact, violations have become the norm, and the protection has become an exception.
Mostly these rights are violated by states or state mechanisms and victims are the powerless: the poor, the vulnerable and the socially, culturally and politically marginalized populations.
I also think it is the day to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR], the first universally accepted document on protection of human rights which was adopted on that day in 1948. But 72 years on, the world has been progressing gradually mostly to codifying the rights into laws internationally and locally, and struggling to actually implement them.
There were a few things about human rights the world should have remembered when commemorating the 72nd birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
First, human rights are not given. Individual rights as enshrined in many international human rights documents were always fought for by the ordinary people. In other words, the rulers or governments did not wake one day and decided they should give these individuals freedoms and rights to their populations. Rather, the ordinary people fought for them for decades and centuries, sacrificing their lives, families and friends, to reach a compromise between the powers of rulers and the freedoms and rights of peoples.
In fact, many can be traced back to codified modern human rights in the 1215 Magna Carta or Great Charter in England (I do not think the foundations of human rights originate from the Magna Carta as I have found principles of rights, equality and democratic values in the original teachings of Lord Buddha in about 500BC).
What was Magna Carta? It was in fact a document first drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the then unpopular ruler and a group of rebel barons, intended to protect the elite and the Church, promising the protection of church rights, protection of barons from imprisonment and of their access to justice.
This gave birth to a process of recognizing individual rights against state power. Although it did not protect ordinary citizens, it provided them with a foundation for fighting for their own rights. In fact, that process of fighting for rights has since been ongoing for centuries. Individual rights are continually tested by state powers that try to control and contain them. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international human rights treaties play an important role in providing an international consensus in favor of protection of individual rights.
When the world “celebrated” the 52nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration on December 10, 2000, it had been more than a couple of years since the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) by the United Kingdom. There were mixed feelings – anxiety, hopes and cautious optimism - about the Hong Kong Administration at that time.
I vividly remember in the evening of that day there was a beautiful and peaceful mass gathering at the Chater Garden, right next to the old LegCo building. There was a stage on which many political and civil society leaders shared their thoughts on the significance of the day to Hong Kong. I remember there was a huge, inflated plastic ball on which various individual rights were written and it was being bounced among the crowd attending the event. I was one of those who were there to bounce the “human rights globe” on that day. Hong Kong has come a long way since that day to where we are now.
Hong Kong has a tradition of respect for fundamental freedoms and individual rights. Hong Kong law enforcement agencies and judicial institutions used to be very much part of that tradition. That was probably why many political and social activists sought refuge in Hong Kong over decades—a legal regime coupled with its independent, efficient, and impartial institutions made everyone safe and secure.
There was a better sense of security in Hong Kong than in any other Asian cities, especially in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Later, South Korea and Taiwan progressed rapidly, leading rights and rule of law reforms and their implementation.
However, Hong Kong, including its police force, once considered the finest in Asia, lost its place in human rights and the rule of law in Asia during the last few years. This damage is hard to repair unless swift and committed action is taken by the Hong Kong Administration to restore the confidence of its population in its rule-of-law institutions.
When it comes to the thousands of skyscrapers in Hong Kong, everyone understands the importance of the foundation for such mammoth structures. If the foundation for a building has an issue, it cannot stand and will collapse one day. Hong Kong was a unique place in Asia that had a strong foundation and impartial and independent institutions to protect human rights with the rule of law.
With recent spread of fear among the population instead of reassurance and protection of individual rights, this foundation is threatened. We need to understand this foundation for the individual rights and freedoms and the rule of law is everything—if it collapses, Hong Kong will lose everything - most importantly the world class financial hub and prosperity - it has built so far.
Going back to the 1215 Maga Carta, there was something that took place centuries ago the Hong Kong Administration can reflect upon. It was the effort to make a compromise between an unpopular ruler and a group of rebel barons. The King at that time realized that it was important to come to a compromise rather than imprison the barons. The process might seem to make the ruler lose face but somehow he agreed to do [the] right to not only establish peace but also a universal foundation on which modern individual rights and freedoms were built, which is for everyone to reflect upon.
(Yan Kei, Advocate for criminal justice reforms)
CCP, People of China - Will you give your children HUMAN RIGHTS?
On HUMAN RIGHTS in HONG KONG...
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