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Human rights in the 21st Century: the case of China

Speakers: Bruce Gilley; Brad Adams; Yiyi Lu.
Chaired by Professor Sarah Worthington
Tuesday 24 October 2006


The extent of China's economic miracle is now widely appreciated, as is the fact that it is certain to be a major global player in the 21st century. The country's growth rate, its expansion into overseas markets and its fast developing diplomatic engagement with the world mark it out as a potential - perhaps already actual - superpower. But the more China emerges into the world, the greater the strain there threatens to be between the views of its leadership and the orthodoxies of the international community of which it desires to become a leading member. This emerging tension is nowhere greater than in the field of human rights. Can China's attitude to its religious and other minorities be sustained in light of the demands of international human rights? What about its treatment of prisoners, its attempted regulation of the internet, and its approach to press freedom? Is the idea of human rights the same in China as in the rest of the world? Can a universalistic approach to human rights survive the emergence of a hostile world power or is it essential to both parties that common ground be forged between China and the human rights community?

Bruce Gilley is an Assistant Professor of Political Studies at Queen's University in Canada and author of China's Democratic Future: How It Will Happen and Where It Will Lead (Columbia University Press). He spent 10 years reporting on China and Asia for the Far Eastern Economic Review before returning to Princeton University for his PhD in 2002. He is a participant in the National Endowment for Democracy project on democratization in China, and has lectured widely on democracy in China. His current research centres on the question of legitimacy and institutional change.

Brad Adams is the Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division

Yiyi Lu is an Associate Fellow at Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) and is currently leading a project on civil society and environmental governance in China. Yiyi Lu previously worked for several international development organisations in China, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the Ford Foundation, and Save the Children UK.