On April 19th I received an e-mail from BlogCatalog about their Bloggers Unite initiative. This initiative has been designed to
harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place. By challenging bloggers to blog about a particular social cause on a single day, a single voice can be joined with thousands of others to help make a real positive difference; from raising awareness for cancer, to an effort to better education systems or support 3rd world countries.
That day, I immediately wrote this article, to be posted today on may 15th automatically, when bloggers all over the world write about Human Rights, their successes, and their violations.
I’m a law student and I’ve always been interested in human rights, so I think that this is an excellent initiative, and I gladly support it. I don’t pretend to know solutions to problems on the world, and I won’t say that my contribution will be worth a lot as far as it’s content is concerned. I just hope that even people who don’t keep reading after the break, will at least be activated and persuaded to think about the status of human rights a bit. That’s all I’m asking for. But, of course, feel free to keep reading, there’s more after the break.
On forums or blogs where people are talking about Pocket PC’s, when I see someone complain or argue about WM vs iPhone or something like that, I often think about the luxurious position we are in. So many people don’t have the money to provide their families with basic food supplies, water, and clothing. And here we are, reading blogs on our laptops and desktop pc’s, about gadgets that, when you think about it, are pretty much the highest form of luxury available. That’s something that a lot of people realize and, once in a while appreciate. But there are also things that we take for granted, like being able to write blogs or read them, and having free access to information and communication.
We, in the Western world, can just turn on the TV and watch the news, knowing that what we see is not dictated by our government. There is free press, and we have faith in that. We trust on the media to give us the true information that’s available, which allows us to form opinions about what happens in other parts of the world. At the moment, there are various issues that show that this is not the case everywhere. Luckily, our societies allow us to learn about those situations, so we can raise awareness and force our politicians to take action and try to improve the situation in other parts of the world.
An example I want to bring up is the situation in China. China doesn’t have the kind of censor-free press that we know and enjoy. I really have no clue how (and if) their media report on the situation regarding Tibet and the way China deals with it. I didn’t do a lot of research about this myself, so I don’t know too much about how the history of China and Tibet looks like. But what is relevant here, is that there is a conflict about the independance of Tibet – the people from Tibet claim that they should be an independant state, while China sayd that Tibet is one of their provences. Now that the Olympics in 2008 are organized by and in China, the people from Tibet take this oppertunity to raise their voice and make the entire world aware of their situation, for example by messing with the world tour of the Olympic flame. This way, we are confronted with the situation and it becomes a subject of discussion everywhere. Here in Europe, there is discussion about wether or not athletes should stay home, because going to China would imply support of their actions. The sporters, on the other hand, say that they’ve trained for years, and that they go to the Olympics to compete in their field of sports, not to be involved with politics. So they feel that boycotting the Olympics is not something for them to do. Now, the discussion has moved to the question if politicians (our prime minister, for example) should visit the opening and closing ceremony of the Olympics, or that they should stay away from it, showing their disapproval about the way the Chinese deal with human rights.
To read more about the status of Human Rights in China, you can visit the website of Amnesty International here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/asia-and-pacific/east-asia/china
Amnesty International speaks of:
stalled reform of detention without trial, repression of human rights defenders and internet censorship
Amnesty International has been able to confirm at least 470 executions by China – the highest overall figure. However, the organization has said that the true figure for China is undoubtedly much higher.
China, which the report refers to as the world’s top executioner, classifies the death penalty as a state secret. As the world and Olympic guests are left guessing, only the Chinese authorities know exactly how many people have been killed with state authorization.
Personally, I am not in favour of the death penalty, and in the Netherlands it has been abolished years ago. In several countries around the world the death penalty can still be used as ultimate saction, but in a lot of those countries it has been practically abolished. Nonetheless, probably some of the readers here will still support the death penalty. (I’m not saying that I don’t think that murderers and rapists deserve to live, I just think that there is no way of punishing them and making them feel the same way their victims must have felt, without lowering ourselves to our level. Also there’s the problem about knowing with 100% certainty that someone is guilty, because the death penalty can’t be reversed.)
But no matter how you think about the death penalty, goverment should never have the right to kill people in secret, just because people disagree with goverment policy.
And that brings us to the most basic human right there is, the right to life. All other rights, like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right to privacy etc. are nowhere without the basic right to life.
With this article I’m not trying to push you to take action, you know that you can, and this is a decision everyone can make for themselves. There are plenty of websites and organizations that deal with human rights, or that fight discrimination, so they’re easy to find if you want to. I just ask you to think about the priviliged position we are in. The more people that are aware of the status of Human Rights, the higher the chances that it will become a political issue, and that our governments force other countries to improve the ways they take care of their inhabitants. I don’t expect a country to reform in 25 years, because it also took Western Europe hundreds of years to give women voting rights for example. But with constant pressure, we must do what we can to improve the standard of living as much as possible, for as many people around the world as we can reach.
If you’ve read this far, all the way to the end, I you to know that I sincerely appreciate the few minutes of time you dedicated to Human Rights. You’ve helped BlogCatalog making their Bloggers Unite initiative succesfull today.
P.S. After the recent earthquake in China, it’s good to see that the Chinese goverment seems to be open when it comes to sharing information about the disaster that has hit so many. Hopefully, the fact that disasters like this are too big to censor gives an opening to improvement in the future.