The Political Economy and Culture of Human Rights in East Asia

26 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2011

See all articles by Michael C. Davis

Michael C. Davis

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

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Date Written: October 20, 2010


East Asian experience has long featured prominently among contemporary debates concerning human rights and development. The authoritarian East Asian challenge to human rights has set human rights in opposition to Asian cultural values and related East Asian developmental needs. While several East Asian countries have defied these claims and established constitutional democracies with liberal human rights protections, several others, including China and other post-communist countries in Southeast Asia, have continued to press these Asian values and developmental arguments to justify authoritarianism and severe limits on human rights. At a time when various UN reports relate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to human rights and good governance, several newly industrialized countries in East Asia have led the world in economic development. This chapter will argue that full realization of the promise of these achievements ultimately depends on constitutional reform that embraces democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Keywords: constitutionalism, East Asia, Asian values

Suggested Citation

Davis, Michael C., The Political Economy and Culture of Human Rights in East Asia (October 20, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Michael C. Davis (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

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