The Empire of Human Rights

For many Asians, the West's insistence on human rights and democracy smacks of the kind of unwelcome interference that Western imperialists – and the Christian missionaries who followed them – practiced in the East for too long. But supposedly "Western" values have Asian analogs, while supposedly "Asian" values have often failed Asia's people.

NEW YORK – Why are French, British, and American warships, but not Chinese or Malaysian warships, sitting near the Burmese coast loaded with food and other necessities for the victims of Cyclone Nargis? Why has the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) been so slow and weak in its response to a natural calamity that ravaged one of its own members?

The French junior Human Rights Minister, Rama Yade, declared that the United Nations’ principle of the “responsibility to protect” should be applied to Burma, forcibly if necessary. And the Malaysian opposition leader Lim Kit Siang has said that Asian countries’ inaction “reflects dismally on all ASEAN leaders and governments. They can definitely do more.”

So, are Europeans and Americans simply more compassionate than Asians?

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