Faculté des lettres

Chinese traditional values and human rights : an empirical study among students in Shanghai

Kämpfer, Ines ; Friedli, Richard (Dir.) ; Wolf, Jean-Claude (Codir.)

Thèse de doctorat : Université de Fribourg, 2006.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights clearly formulates its demands universally. When it comes to the concrete application of these rights, however, the claim for universality cannot remain unquestioned. The question that is asked is whether or not human rights fit into all cultural contexts, or if they are just another aspect of western cultural imperialism. This discussion is... Plus

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    Summary
    The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights clearly formulates its demands universally. When it comes to the concrete application of these rights, however, the claim for universality cannot remain unquestioned. The question that is asked is whether or not human rights fit into all cultural contexts, or if they are just another aspect of western cultural imperialism. This discussion is especially vivid in the Chinese context, where quite often Chinese values deriving from China’s traditions and religions are seen as either an obstacle or an alternative to human rights. It was the goal of this project to examine how Chinese religiosity, in particular Chinese traditional values, are related to human rights. Based on a quantitative empirical survey among 424 Chinese students in Shanghai I discovered two dimensions of traditional religious values. The two dimensions were labeledli (ritual property) and ren (forbearance). Whereas li describes interpersonal, hierarchical, and active values, ren stands for more inwardly oriented, fatalistic and passive values. Li values correlate positively with the support for human rights, as most students have a very hierarchical understanding of human rights. The study has also shown that human rights only make sense to those who truly believe in the possibility of social change. Consequently ren values do not seem compatible with the human rights idea, as they promote a very passive and rather fatalistic worldview. An other result of this study is the fact, that being religious has no direct influence on one’s attitude towards human rights: Being religious is coupled with support for both li and ren values, which have opposite relations with the support for human rights. The study allows the conclusion that a wider and more complete human rights understanding, which includes both hierarchical and egalitarian aspects, would have the capacity to integrate both value dimension. A view which is absolutely in line with the ideas proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.