Letter: Advocates of'Asian' rights

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Sir: Not all Asian leaders and human rights groups would accept the support of your correspondent, Randhir Singh Bains, for the new 'Asian' interpretation of human rights (Letters, 8 March).

At the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna last year, at least two prominent Asian leaders, the Dalai Lama and South Korea's Foreign Minister, Han Sung-Joo, stressed that human rights are indivisible. '(The Asian attempt to emphasise) the importance of particularities in cultural values, historical backgrounds and religious differences only undermines the very universality of human rights', as the joint declaration of more than 50 non-governmental organisations put it at the conference.

The fact that some Asian governments with exceptionally poor human rights records have been among the most eloquent in defending the new 'economic development/social stability' model of human rights gives cause for concern. When countries such as Indonesia, which has surpassed Pol Pot's Cambodia in its genocidal excesses in occupied East Timor (1975 to present), and continues to perpetrate a staggering range of human rights abuses against its own citizens, emerges as one of the champions of this new 'Asian' human rights order, the warnings sounded at Vienna seem increasingly urgent.

Yours sincerely,


Trinity College


8 March