Beyond “Asian Values”: Rethinking rights (2012)

Working Paper #5

Yvonne Tew (Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge)

This paper assesses the supposed dichotomies between Western and Asian perspectives on human rights and shows how such tensions are often false and should be rejected. Despite the deep flaws inherent in the “Asian values” approach, however, its ideology remains a powerful internal framework that continues to influence the political and judicial elite in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore. This is chiefly due to the lack of any competing theory regarding the conceptualization of human rights in the Asian context. The paper points out the gap in the jurisprudence in this area and concludes with some general observations on how to advance a model of rights protection to fill this lacuna.