61 years of Human Rights according to Stéphane Hessel

By Nicolas Schols
Nicolas Schols
Nicolas Schols
December 30, 2009 Updated: May 17, 2010

On December 10th, 1948,  three years after the establishment of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in Paris. On the occasion of the 61st birthday of the Declaration, The Epoch Times talked with Stéphane Hessel, a former French Ambassador who participated in drafting the text of the document, which he says is unique in its nature as it is "the only [diplomatic] document that carries the adjective 'universal' in its name".

Referring to a joint statement made on December 10th by the EU and the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Mr. Hessel said he felt it was a great privilege to be present in Brussels on the day that the United Nations and the European Union, two important parts of our world, decided they should work together for the promotion of human rights.

The worldwide adoption of the Declaration has been a slow process. Decade after decade, more countries signed and ratified the text, which aimed at setting a program to guarantee some fundamental freedoms and rights for all people of all nationalities.

For the whole world to effectively observe and respect human rights, however, there still seems to be a lot of work on the road ahead. Mr. Hessel  noted that, regarding the evolution of the human rights situation in the world, one country that is particular of enormous importance, is China. The UN has been watching its evolution with great interest and concern.

“We recognize that much has been achieved in the field of economy, and perhaps even the wellbeing of the vast population, but there is still lack of respect and tolerance for religions,” Mr. Hessel said. “We are all hopeful that China is going to go its path, to find its values, to recuperate some of the basic values that makes Chinese civilization so important… We know that China has to go through all sorts of problems and difficulties, and we are confident that the Chinese people will achieve the democracy and the respect of human rights that [they] deserve."   

When asked about the relevance of a Spanish court's indictment of five top Chinese officials for their involvement in the persecution of Falun Gong, Mr. Hessel said that, though limited by diplomatic restrictions, the raising of international courts constitute a “great progress” during the last 15 years in the international commitment to human rights.

Mr. Hessel concluded to say that the day the people of China would embrace the Chinese government as their own government, would perhaps be the moment when the great values of China, [the values of traditional] Chinese culture, will become part of the Chinese government.