[Documents menu] Documents menu
Message-ID: <>
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 values."

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 values.

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 seminars.

The first took place in Sweden in 1997. The third will be held in France and the fourth in Indonesia.

Copyright =A9 1999 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

[World History Archives]     [Gateway to World History]     [Images from World History]     [Hartford Web Publishing]