Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 02:15:50 +0800
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
From: E Phillip Lim <alsona@PACIFIC.NET.SG>
Subject: Fwd: 'West does not treat Asia as an equal yet' (Prof. Tommy Koh)
West does not treat Asia as an equal yet
By Mary Kwang, The Straits Times Interactive,
29 June 1999
BEIJING -- Western intellectuals react negatively
when Asians profess their belief in Asian values
because the West has yet to accept Asia as an
equal, Professor Tommy Koh said at a human-rights
seminar which opened here yesterday. Prof Koh, who
is executive director of the Asia-Europe
Foundation (Asef) as well as Singapore's
Ambassador-at-large, was a keynote speaker at the
Second Informal Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Seminar
on Human Rights.
Speaking on differences between Asian and European
values, he said: "The West has dominated Asia for
the best part of the last 200 years. Most people
in the West,... especially its intellectuals,
continue to regard Asia and Asians as inferior."
A second reason for the West not accepting Asian
values was that Asia could pose a threat to
Western intellectual hegemony.
In the non-Western world, only East Asia had the
potential to achieve parity with the West in the
economic, cultural, intellectual and moral
spheres, he said.
Prof Koh, without citing names, said that a third
reason for the West's adverse reaction was that
some East Asian political leaders had given Asian
values a bad name by seeking to justify abuses of
power and inequities of their societies in the
name of Asian values.
Corruption, collusion and nepotism had nothing to
do with Asian values, he said.
"They have everything to do with bad Asian values
but nothing to do with good Asian values... There
are good Asian values and bad Asian values, just
as there are good Western values and bad Western
Citing a survey carried out in 1994 by American
David Hitchcock of the Centre for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington, who had
interviewed over 100 people in major Asian cities,
the professor said the study found Asians stressed
the importance of an orderly society whereas
Americans emphasised the importance of personal
freedom and individual rights.
Asians said that respect for learning and self-
discipline were important whereas Americans
emphasised the importance of success, personal
achievement and helping others.
Although there had been no comparative study on
Asian and European values, Prof Koh said he
assumed European values were closer to American
He called for a global consensus on what was good
and evil and what was right and wrong.
Mr Wang Guangya, China's Assistant Foreign
Minister, a seminar participant, said the
professor represented the Asian voice.
He said: "His remarks were fair. For example,
corruption and nepotism exist in the world,
probably more seriously in Asia."
A source said the professor's address led to a
lively debate during a closed-door workshop
yesterday. The seminar, which ends today, aims to
widen and deepen the human-rights dialogue between
Asia and Europe and focuses on three areas --
differences in Asian and European values, the
right to education and minority rights.
The event is co-financed by China, France, Sweden,
and Asef and is the second in a series of four
The first took place in Sweden in 1997. The third
will be held in France and the fourth in
Copyright =A9 1999 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All