Monday, November 22, 2010

Whither Asian values

By Muhammad Shamin, 20 November 2010

Recent developments in and about China have been quite unprecedented. First, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Following ths award, 23 prominent members of the Chinese Communist Party wrote a letter blasting the Chinese government's clampdown on free expression.

According to The Guardian, the signatories to the letter include Li Rui, the former secretary to revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and other retired high officials in state media and the propaganda apparatus who were once themselves responsible for enforcing strict censorship.
Then in an interview by Fareed Zakaria, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said: “I believe freedom of speech is indispensible for any country, a country in the course of development and a country that has become strong.”

This comment drew criticism from the People’s Daily, the main Chinese Communist Party newspaper saying any changes in China’s political system should not emulate Western democracies, but “consolidate the party’s leadership so that the party commands the overall situation.”

All these developments are certainly observed with great excitement by democrats and free speech proponents all over the world. At a time where there are still those who advocate the idea of Asian values, the developments in China is a reaffirmation of the universality of human rights.

Political freedom is indeed the inalienable rights of human beings anywhere they may be regardless of skin color and religion.

Yet, the PAP continues to propagate the nonsensical argument that Asians don't subscribe to the universal values of human rights as described in the Universal Decalaration of Human Rights by the the United Nations.

Channel News Asia quoted “One, a system that fits societal values; two, one that can deliver an effective and honest government; and three, a system that provides security, jobs and prosperity for the people.

The developments in China is watched closely by people all over the world who yearn for freedom. The PAP's Asian values propaganda is looking more and more obsolete given that the Prime Minister of China himself agrees that freedom of speech is a universal right and not something to be dismissed as a Western idea.

Shamin is a member of the Young Democrats. He completed a stint as an intern at the European Parliament earlier this year.

Comments from SDP site:

Sat 20 Nov 2010 11:39 PM | freedomT - Welcome to Wayang Singapore.

And won 82 out of 84 seats without even all voters have the chance to vote due to walkover. The PM keeps on saying he has the mandate to rule Singapore zzzzzz. Wayang here and wayang there. Remember his father cried on TV when his dead wife suffered from a minor stroke. Others have worst problem than him. Some have cancer and at stage 4 but they don't cry on TV seeking others to pity them. Such is Singapore.

Sun 21 Nov 2010 4:29 AM | | Erik Strand - Dictatorships and so called democracies

As a comment to PAP's claims this is a good and relevant. However, there is reason to contemplate the focus on notorious authoritarian states like China and Myanmar (to choose a couple of examples).

There is a detrimental media propaganda portraying these countries as fundamentally differnt from formal democracies like Singapore, US, UK, Norway and Sweden. When it comes to Singapore, an international NGO called Transparency International has named Singapore one of the three least corrupt countries in the world. A really nice piece of propaganda, isn't it?

A website that has got some really interesting articles, is They have an article - see - which describes the media hypocricy in being concerned about the rule of law in Myanmar and not the US (seen from an American point of view).

For myself, I live in those countries blesses by democracy - at least according to media propaganda - namely Norway (for some background see ). A couple of years ago, I sent a letter to one of the nice NGOs concerned about human rights, referring to documentation of grave corruption and human rights violations in Norway. But Amnesy International did not give that any priority - the have other things to do (an interesting thought here: if Norway was not ruled by a corrupt elite, maybe instead of awarding Obama with the peace price, it could have been shared among some people who have fought for freedom of speech in Singapore).

The examples I chose concern different countries, but they have something in common that oppositionals in Singapore as well as the US and other countries should be aware of - the intent to use well known authoritarian regimes and focus on them to give people the false impression of living in a democratic society.

Mon 22 Nov 2010 5:24 AM | Robox

Re: "At a time where there are still those who advocate the idea of Asian values, the developments in China is a reaffirmation of the universality of human rights."

The Asian Values mantra one that is used with a knife held to the waist of the person being spoken to. Underlying is this message: "We abuse human rights because it is our culture, and if you criticize us, you are culturally insensitive and thus racist."

I am as anti-racist as they get. But I equally deplore false charges of racism such as the one that authoritarian Asian govenments, many are openly racist themselves. This is meant to paralyze mainly Caucasian-dominated western nations by guilting them.