A human rights debate on physical security, political liberty, and the Confucian tradition

Benedict S. B. Chan, Hong Kong Baptist University

Abstract

There are many East and West debates on human rights. One of them is whether all civil and political rights are human rights. On one hand, scholars generally agree that rights to physical security are human rights. On the other hand, some scholars argue that rights to political liberty are only Western rights but not human rights because political liberty conflicts with some East Asian cultural factors, especially the Confucian tradition. I argue that physical security also conflicts with some parts of the Confucian tradition, but rights to physical security are still human rights because physical security is a minimal value. I then argue that political liberty, similar to physical security, is also a minimal value. Therefore, similar to rights to physical security, rights to political liberty are also human rights, even though political liberty also conflicts with some parts of the Confucian tradition.