Culture Is No Excuse For China Denying Its People Democracy

From The Observer:

A little more than a week ago, in Davos, at the gathering of the world’s great and the good, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, directed a polite, though pointed question to Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani strongman. How could we trust the Pakistani supreme court as the arbiter of fairness of future elections when Musharraf had removed all the judges who opposed his authoritarian rule? President Musharraf lost his cool. How could Roth (an American) presume to ‘impose’ his ‘European values’ on the Pakistanis! Pakistan, he said, had its own idea of and human rights. Indeed, what Musharraf was offering was not some Western notion of freedom, but ‘the essence of ’.

A day before this arresting exchange, the same Kenneth Roth had annoyed another official from a non-Western country, senior Chinese diplomat, Wu Jianmin. China, Roth pointed out, was not a democracy, so could not be expected to promote civil society around the world, but it could, surely, do more to stop mass atrocities in places such as Darfur. This launched Ambassador Wu into a passionate speech about ‘Chinese democracy’ and about the folly of Westerners trying to ‘impose’ their idea of democracy on others.

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