RE: Canadian prof in China infuriates censors (Globe and Mail, December 30)
As a student in Fudan University's Philosophy Department's History of Ancient Chinese Thought program, I read a lot of Confucianism and the contemporary commentaries on those writings. There was much debate in China in the early-20th century about whether certain passages in Mencius and in Mozi could be rightly interpreted to suggest latent support by the ancients for liberal democratic institutions and the rights discourse. My Canadian interpretation of the classical Chinese texts supports this idea too. My reasoning is simply that human rights doctrine has at its core respect for human dignity and because dignity is the central Confucian value, modern Confucians should oppose authoritarianism. Political democracy is defined by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a key entitlement of all citizens of every country. At the very least there is nothing in the Confucian classics that suggests that Confucius would not be a supporter of democracy and human rights were he alive today. But there are lots of reasons to suggest that Confucius would not apply for membership in the Chinese Communist Party.