The Relative Universality of Human Rights: Theory and Practice

Human Rights, No. 2, March 2013

5 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2015

See all articles by Fan Jizeng

Fan Jizeng

Sichuan University - Law School

Date Written: March 22, 2013


In this short essay which I published in a Chinese-based English Journal specific on human rights study, I intend to focus my research on how to consolidate the human rights concept in cross-cultural context. In the UN Declaration of Human Rights, rights were defined as entitled to all the human beings inherent to their human nature where is regarded as the authoritative universal definition of human rights. However, those non-western liberalism this concept negatively in the sense that it has ignored the impact of those the Third World States' tradition on the formation of human rights concept as well as the rights could not be defined only as the liberalism-oriented, but rights also contain the positive meanings including that enhancing state role to participate social construction. Consequently, the concept of universal rights are not limited to liberal rights, but also extend to social rights and groups rights. This conclusion seems no more than a cliche that already claimed within International human rights documents. My purpose was to restate it for Chinese scholar community that who always treat the universality as a imposed result by the US or as a ideology opposed to Marxism in China context with the purpose to argue that universal rights within UN legal document has covered all categories of rights, as well as these rights are interconnected. Consequently, universality of rights in discourse would be unfair to be seen as a western value, instead of the overlapping consensus of international community politically.

Universal is not equal to the word identical. Universal standard is the minimum standard provided by the international document where the states could enjoy much marginal space to implement international human rights norms within the framework of domestic legal system. In fact, localization of international human rights standard should be encouraged by the International Community and could be proved as an effective measure for realizing UN standard. Therefore, I propose a new term that universality, without being equal to identity, but have to focus on the local context where local circumstance would be taken into account for realizing common standards.

Keywords: human rights theory, human rights practice, relative universality, localization of human right

Suggested Citation

Jizeng, Fan, The Relative Universality of Human Rights: Theory and Practice (March 22, 2013). Human Rights, No. 2, March 2013, Available at SSRN:

Fan Jizeng (Contact Author)

Sichuan University - Law School ( email )

Chengdu, Sichuan

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