The Responsibility of World Citizens for The Human Rights Development for World Citizens
Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze
Zhang-men-ren of Tai Ji Men
President of Federation of World Peace and Love
Honorary Vice-President and member of Advisory Board of
Association of World Citizens UN/NGO/DPI/ECOSOC
The birth of our living planet has given an opportunity for all living creatures to develop and evolve. It is such a privilege that world citizens have a place call home. The central theme of 2010 World Summit on Human Rights for World Citizens is the discussion of global health, which is closely related to the attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and in response to the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in various countries. It is also expected that world citizens will focus on the discussion of human rights from the perspectives of: Respect, Law, Taxation, and Environment.
Mercy, Forgiveness, Respect and Tolerance as the Cure for Devastation
In 2010, devastating earthquakes and landslides occurred in a split second. The repeated counts of natural disasters and manmade catastrophes have the potential to destroy modern technologies and human civilizations in the blink of an eye, especially the areas dominated by humans. Though technological advancement has enabled us to simulate these dire scenarios, of critical importance is that we have to take actions to prevent these catastrophic effects from occurring.
As evidenced by recent movies and documentaries which present various scenarios on environment protection and climate change such as The Inconvenient Truth, The Day after Tomorrow, Home, Avatar, 2012, and etc., over exploitation of natural resources disrupts the balance of earth and causes destruction. The wisdom of balanced yin and yang in Tai Ji Men is the foundation of harmonious co-existence for all living creatures. This wisdom starts from each individual loving the natural environment with their heart, listening to the rhythm of nature and living in harmony with all things. We have to bear in mind that the earth can do without us but we cannot do without the earth. Mother Earth has her own life cycle and is entitled the right to be treated with respect, love and peace. The Earth has her own rights, and deserves our practicing love and peace on her. Mankind is the children of the earth. Showing respect to nature and living in harmony with the environment is the first step towards the survival of world citizens.
World War I took more than 15 million lives, wounded 20 million people and affected the lives of 1.5 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population at that time. World War II killed more than 27 million soldiers and 55 million civilians, and dragged near 2 billion people or 80% of the world’s populations into war. The calamities of two World Wars caused a lot of changes to the world, and people have come to appreciate the fortunes of peace, which is evidenced by the continuous advocacy by the United Nations to protect human rights for world peace. The spirit of the Olympic games, where nations call a truce in wars to engage in sport competitions is a demonstration of the peace-loving nature of humanity. Human beings have learned from the Olympic games to respect each other and to live in peace. God loves people and, as a spiritual symbol to humanity, sets an example of mercy, forgiveness, respect and tolerance for mankind to follow. The Confucianists in the east share similar philosophies.
Natural Rights Based on the People and the Rule of Law
The rights of world citizens endowed by heaven should not be subject to unfair treatment or deprivation, despite public ignorance or lack of attention. Civilization brings human confidence and progression. Laws enacted by people with a public designation, empowered through the social contract of trust; define the boundaries of human activities and is the rationalization of mankind’s behaviors. In traditional Chinese culture, rights exist to maintain social and political orders, regulate civilian activities and define contracts and obligations. Therefore in the development of the Chinese legal system, it has been a tradition that rights are at the core of the law and law regulates when a right is being breached. The concept echoes what was highlighted in the Book of the Later Han, which said that “when a society is lost its right, law rules. Therefore, rights and law are interlinked.” It also agrees a western saying that said that lawful behavior is a moral minimum. In modern time, based on the basic principles of Chinese law rights are used to complement the regulation of law. The two ends on the scale of regulation are moral values and human rights protections, which should be established based on the people and the rule of law. People should observe the principles and spirit of the law established through constitutional rights. However, at times, regulators expect the people to follow the orders without scrutinizing the underlying rationales and principles of law and many times now the people who make the laws are the ones who violate the law and the basic principles of law are compromised.
In ancient times, the law was established to regulate civilian activities so that the people would act within certain parameters and follow uniform principles. Therefore, vehicles ran on the same tracks, money was created with fair values, land was cultivated to reap harvests, and taxes were collected to meet national budgets. As such, the royal families who managed the nation well provided a foundation for people to live in peace and enjoy prosperity. Even though regulatory regimes differ from country to country and change over time, the same principles hold true for a system built upon human rights, democracy, and rule of law. Practicing the Tai Ji principle of balanced yin-yang will bring a nation peace and its people affluence; these is brought about through the development of civilization, social progression, economic growth, education, national defenses and emerge into inter-cultural exchanges.
The United States Department of State released in mid-March, 2010, the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices providing a specific, detailed picture of human rights conditions in 194 countries around the world. The report explores various aspects of human rights including “Integrity of the Person,” “Civil Liberties,” “Political Rights,” “Official Corruption and Government Transparency,” “Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons” and “Worker Rights.” Taiwan scores high on democracy and rule of law, but leaves much room to be desired in corruption of governmental officers, sexual discrimination, trafficking of humans and unfair treatment of foreign labors. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasizes that human rights are the fundamental universal value and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the North Star in guiding the foreign and human rights policy of the Obama administration. It is obvious that the well-being of people, the civilized development of a nation and even the world community depends on how human rights are being practiced and realized. Therefore, as world citizens, we should proactively monitor the condition of human rights, which are closely related to every individual, in our country and internationally.
Systems and Rules of Law Instituted to Protect Human Rights
The law and taxation are created to protect people and serve people. As world citizens, do we all understand the basic human rights of a world citizen and pay attention to their developments? No matter who we are, we should all stay abreast of the latest developments of the human rights of world citizens. A nation’s prosperity is the result of the collective endeavors of the people and the people should be able to enjoy the fruits of progress. The infrastructure of a country is built to benefit the people, the society and the nation, so the construction is welcomed by the taxpayers. Putting ourselves in the shoes of an individual whose assets are confiscated, reputation damaged, and life ruined due to groundless charges of violation of taxation, we should be able to witness the deep pain and sorrow of unlawful taxation. We cannot imagine the pain and agony of torture, distained reputation, ruined fame and broken families, inflicted upon the people who were illegally charged by judicial and tax agents for not complying with the Law. It is therefore understandable why many crusaders are keen to speak out on behalf of the civilians to fight for freedom, for survival, for the advancement of our society and nation. Some are even willing to risk their lives to fight for the deserved rights for all.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the National Father of modern China, was a medical doctor. But he refused to practice medicine because the number of people he could save as a doctor was limited. He was willing to sacrifice the high income of a doctor and risk his life to save innumerable Chinese people from pain and despair. After 11 rounds of revolutionary battles, he eventually overthrew the Qing Dynasty and established a country of freedom and democracy. The former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was a strong fighter for democracy. He was the son of the chief of a tribe and dedicated to the liberalization movements. He led the people of South Africa in a fight for democracy, freedom and human rights. For his actions, he was held in prison for 27 years and won the presidential election by wide margin after his release. He became the first black president in South African history as remuneration for being an anti-apartheid activist and a fighter for democracy, freedom and human rights. This year, February 11 marked the 20th anniversary of his release from prison and was widely celebrated for his contributions to human rights and to South Africa.
Barack Hussein Obama II won the US presidential election in a nation with diverse cultures with his visions and leadership toward wide and open possibilities. The 21st century is the century of people’s voices. In June of 2009, President Obama wrote to me saying “the future we leave to our children and grandchildren will be determined by our willingness to shoulder each other’s burdens, take great risks, and march forward. With your help, we will build on what we have already achieved and lay a foundation for real and lasting progress.” Utilizing the Whitehouse website as a platform for communication, President Obama hopes to hear the voices of the people and seek collective resolutions to revive the economy and restore national confidence. Michael Kelleher, Director of Presidential Correspondence, wrote in July to express gratitude for my suggestions and said “Your voice is shaping our country’s future, and we encourage you to join us online to share your thoughts.”
Listening to the voices of the people is the driver of national development and progress. Early this year in a meeting with the press, President Obama frankly stated that he understands the anger of American people. He advocates reconciliation between the Democratic and Republican parties to make efforts to listen to the voices of people and takes great efforts to contribute to the welfare of the people. President Obama emphasizes that the great thing about the American people is their resilience in face of adversity. People still produce, raise children, and run business in times of economic crisis. This is the spirit that makes America a great nation. President Obama is the first president in American history to acknowledge publicly the people’s anger. He understands how “Respect, Law, Taxation and Environment” will affect the American people and world citizens, and works hard to improve and lead his people and the world toward what is expected.
In the new century, mankind cannot afford to stay in the old rut and stick to established practices. Natural calamities hit various corners of the globe, and the wind of change has blown. World citizens should awaken to the new challenges of living in the new world order. Without genuine respect between and among races, societies, people, and nations; disasters and man-made catastrophes may strike at any time. Without sound legal and taxation systems, people have no rules to abide by and the nation will have no foundation of legitimacy to benefit its people. The very fabric of a society and the nation will fall apart. People are the foundation of a country. Mistimed and inappropriate laws and systems must be reformed to keep pace with the times. If humanity does not appreciate the beauty of the environment and start treating our planet with love and respect, the day of lack of water, energy and food will soon arrive. Where will our children go from there?
World Citizens Should Stand Up to Protect Human Rights against Draconian and Illegal Laws
The presumed innocence as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is the common standard internationally accepted by the United Nations and other nations in proceeding criminal charges. It is also the fundamental principle of evaluating evidence in the court of law. The idea is to rectify the pre-determined bias and force the responsibility of presenting evidences on the prosecutors as so to provide a foundation of human rights protection for the defendants. Recently a Japanese citizen having served 17 years in prison and after many rounds of appeal; finally received a non-guilty ruling. The three presiding judges stood up and bowed to the defendant to express sorrow and provide an apology. This has set a very good example for international communities to follow. World citizens should stand up and fight for human rights. Taking the first step to safeguard human rights is to create genuine democracy.
The economic downturn has caused many people to become unemployed and companies to go bankrupt. However, the commodity prices have not stop rising and the higher prices make it even more difficult for people and companies to make ends meet. Many entitlement spending has been cut and it becomes more difficult to be eligible for social welfare. The taxation system is of special significance to people at times like this. Paying taxes is citizen’s obligation. But property right is also the basic human rights. As taxation is the deprivation of taxpayer’s property rights, its exercise by government should be very prudent and careful and tax agents should abide by rule of laws and do things based upon the needs of the people. All taxation should be reasonable, fair, just and legitimate. And it is tax authority’s responsibility to bear the burden of proof and investigation. The ultimate goal of taxation is for taxpayers to pay taxes willingly and the government to collect legitimate taxes. World citizens have come to understand the importance of human rights protection. People may not be fully aware of the laws and regulations. But they will judge the reasonableness and robustness of taxation from whether they are fairly treated or not.
The purpose of law is to serve the people, ensure security and safety, and safeguard civilian’s rights. The codes and articles of regulation are utilized to create a society governed by the rule of law where people enjoy real democracy, liberty and human rights protection. Therefore the governance of a nation should be centered upon the people and based upon the rule of law. People should respect the principles and spirit of the human rights protection in the constitution and everyone is entitled to fair treatment in the court of law. Only with the principle of government for the people and under the rule of law will people live happily and the nation enjoy prosperity.
In order to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights established the European Court of Human Rights in 1959. Any person who feels his or her rights have been violated under the Convention by a state party can take case to the Court. The court rulings are legally binding. Member states are expected to follow the rulings and implement the suggestions from the Court. The European Committee will sanction non-compliant states. I was invited to attend the 8th International Conference of Chief Justices of the World in 2007. Conference participants discussed the many aspects of the practice and realization of human rights in different countries. His Honorable Justice Vincent De Gaetano, chief justice of Malta, shared how the European Court of Human Rights operates to protect human rights and emphasized the point for a judge to be a good judge is to understand the law and to have a good grasp of human nature. The law was made to protect people’s best interests. The European Court of Human Rights has set an example for other nations and regions to follow. I advocate for a similar organization be established in Asia to protect the interests and rights of Asian people.
What do world citizens want in this changing environment? Some people just need a drink of water, or a mouthful of food. Some aspire for a peaceful land with no wars or diseases. Some just hope to survive. Still others are wishing for the sea level to stop rising. Some are hoping for economic recovery while others longing for a government governed for the people and ruled by law.
On the International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2009, I published a thesis entitled “Natural Rights based on the People and the Rule of Law” to discuss the status of human rights protection and practices in Asian countries. The thesis received great responses from around the world and has been published in more than 30 nations including China, Japan, Taiwan, France, America, Germany, UK, Australia, Dominica, Canada, Holland, and many more. The wide publication and citation of the thesis demonstrate people’s aspirations for government managing affairs with policies centered upon the people and ruled by law.
All Things Follow the Laws of Nature. The Origin of Heaven, Earth and Human Beings are One. World Citizens Help Themselves and God Helps Those Who Help Themselves To Turn Things Around.
We are all world citizens and it is our responsibilities and obligations to safeguard a healthy living environment for future generations. I have witnessed the needs of the people and would like to stand up and serve the people. I would like to dedicate my understanding and actions to humanity with a heart of caring and loving people. Through constant communication with heads of states and international friends, we have cemented the consensus to create a new era of human rights with a focus on love and peace. I have many experiences in promoting human rights education through cultural exchanges of love and peace and in past years have met with UN Secretary Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Since the Declaration of Human Rights for World Citizens in 2002, I have collected 2 million endorsement signatures from 158 countries in a campaign running until 2004. Following the 2 million signers, I pushed forward with the global on-line endorsement campaign of the Declarations for Human Rights of World Citizens and Peace and have successfully collected 1.2 million endorsements from 189 nations around the world. The website has been visited more than 3.2 million times, an empirical representation of the success of the campaign. Because of the support and responses from heads of State, world leaders and elites, we anticipate that many reforms in the areas of respect, law, taxation and environment will be addressed and the world will be changed for the better. God helps those who help themselves. We will always be given the opportunity to do what’s right and good for mankind.
Without a heart of respect for nature, people will not be able to understand the principle of “All things follow the Laws of Nature. The origin of heaven, earth and human beings are one.” Only people with true understanding of balanced yin and yang philosophy will be able to see the wisdom necessary to overcome crisis. The World Health Organization has expanded the definition of health from physical terms such as the absence of diseases or disabilities to include mental and social dimensions. This implies that everyone, as a civilized, responsible and healthy citizen, should understand his/her responsibilities and try to make great endeavors for the benefit of himself/herself, society, the nation and the world. Such decisions are made in a split second of time. The good and the bad are also differentiated in that same split second.
The idiom “Man’s determination will conquer nature” should not be used to encourage reckless human behaviors. Nature has delivered important messages of peaceful co-existence between mankind and nature through land subsidence, earthquakes, inundations by the sea, landslides, abnormal climate patterns and extinction of species. The relationship between mankind and nature should be peaceful co-existence, not competition or confrontation. It’s a pity that human beings do not take cues from nature’s messages, and instead assumes this as a natural consequence of development. People have grown accustomed to take for granted the abundant natural resources of the earth and have engaged in wide scale exploitation. As a result, for centuries the functioning of nature has been impacted and nature has lost its rhythm and protection. Nature has responded to the people’s ignorance in ways that only now we can all understand.
We can recognize our God-given human rights by using a heart of compassion, mercy, tolerance, forgiveness, courage, justice and wisdom, all of which are endowed by God. In order for the universal values of human rights to prevail on earth, where people live with dignity, meanings and values, we should all exercise the heart of justice and strive for the benefit of humanity. By implementing these values, a world of peace, happiness, stability and prosperity will emerge. Let’s work hand-in-hand to safeguard the earth. And may mankind be blessed. Having mankind’s conscientiousness in line with the law of nature is very important. As preached by many religious leaders, the day of reckoning will come and we should prepare for it.
Mankind is going to march forward into a new world with courage. There are still opportunities to make a turnaround in 2010. All we need to do is to stand up, exercise respect and conscientiousness, and stop the abuse of natural rights. We hope that the natural environment will no longer be in jeopardy because of human actions; cognizant that a life saved is a progress made. When we all share the similar thinking and act the same together, the merciful God will leave with us a chance of opportunity. I truly wish that people throughout the world will understand the following warning：
Floods throughout the world are no longer rare anymore. When the earth is overloaded, then it will change at any time. When those who are endowed with the authority to decide others’ existence and choose to lead with love and mercy, then everything will go smoothly. If they instead regulate rules with a mind as narrow as an ant’s belly, then these actions will be against the will of heaven and the drive for power, greed and treasure will swallow the prosperity of the country. The change of human heart causes devastated deserters. Corrupted human hearts spoil the development of nations and this is hard to be forecasted by horary. The existence of the environment will be destroyed and leave nothing, human beings will not even be able to find a place to stand. If we reflect on ourselves in this moment, we will gain some opportunities as the mercy heaven still bestow blessings upon us.