…”But China is doing more than just building itself a ‘hard’ infrastructure of roads and buildings. It is also in the process of building a ‘soft’ infrastructure. A pillar of which is a modern legal system based on the rule of law.
“It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the rule of law in a modern society. It is a profoundly inclusive concept. One that subordinates all social, economic, political, and individual behaviour to an agreed set of codes and regulations. To have meaning, these rules must not be the exclusive preserve of a privileged few. They must be the common property of all citizens. They must be clear to everyone, taught to everyone and applied to everyone in a uniform way.
“No one can be above the law. And no one can be forgotten by the law or denied its protection. And to be applied impartially, the rule of law means that there should be a clear separation of the prosecutor from the person who will ultimately pass judgement.
“Of course, the rule of law is about more than just a dry set of rules. The rules themselves reflect fundamental values of right conduct.
“The Canadian experience, and that of countries around the world, is that these values, and the rights that make them specific, are universal. They are endowed equally to all people, everywhere. Not on the basis of any special power or privilege, but purely and simply because they have been given the gift of life.
“That is why we call them human rights. And they not only protect individuals from abuse. They empower them to contribute fully and creatively to building a stronger society.
“Canada believes that frank discussion among nations about human rights can foster wider respect for and entrenchment of those rights. That while circumstances and experiences may vary from nation to nation, we all share a sense of what is just, what is right.
“True friends are never shy about exchanging views on important issues.
“And so, as a friend, I must tell you that Canadians are concerned when they hear reports from China of interference in the right of free expression. Or that people are imprisoned and badly treated for observing their spiritual beliefs. These reports transgress our most deeply-held convictions…”
Looking for more?
Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.