Two Human Rights Activists in China

Meet Dong Yunhu:

With his striped Pierre Cardin shirt and his easy smile, Dong Yunhu doesn’t fit the stereotype of a tow-the-line Communist. Yet at just 37, he is a prime architect of China’s sensitive human rights policy.

…With a Ph.D in Western philosophy from a Chinese university, he cites Kant, Hegel and the U.S. Bill of Rights in his quest to develop “a concept of human rights appropriate for China’s reality,” which he freely acknowledges has non-Western priorities.

“The West stressed personal and individual rights; we stress the need for harmony between the individual and the collective,” he said, from his office in the Tibet Hotel. “The West stresses political liberties, and we stress the right to subsistence…”

…At first many balked, even blocking publication of his first book. But ultimately his view prevailed, which he views as a great personal triumph.

“This was a very big change for the ’90s — opening up human rights as a legitimate topic of study and concern,” he said. “Now we can talk about it with foreign governments.”

Although he admits that China still has problems, he maintains that it now supports many of the same rights as the West, even signing last year, though not ratifying, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights…The difference, he said, is how and where countries limit such freedoms in the interest of national development.

Dong is a vice-chairman of the China Association for Human Rights Stduies, and he edits its glossy English-language magazine, which features smiling members of non-Han ethnic minorities in traditional costume. The Association website carries Xinhua reports on human rights in China, and currently features a banner with the slogan: “Dalai Clique’s Separatist Activities Condemned”.

Dong gets to travel around the world telling audiences about the slow but sure advance of human rights in China.

Meet Hu Jia:

Hu Jia is an outspoken advocate for people with living with HIV/AIDS, especially in China’s poor rural areas. He is the co-founder of the Beijing Aizhibing Institute of Health Education.

…Hu Jia is also a veteran environmentalist, and was an active member of the Chinese environmental movement from 1995-2001. He was a leader of China’s Green Camp from 1996 to 1997, helping promote student participation in environmental conservation. Hu Jia offered tremendous support to the development of one of China’s best known environmental groups, Friends of Nature. He also helped to establish Greenpeace’s first Beijing office in 2000… He set up a Tibetan Antelope Information Center and ceaselessly raised awareness about antelope poaching on the Tibetan Plateau.

…Hu Jia has never hesitated to stand up against violations of human rights, particularly those of China’s most socially-vulnerable groups.

Hu gets to spend the next three-and-a-half years in a Chinese prison.