Privacy, Human Rights, and Confucianism: Limitations and Beyond

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstractpeer-review


In this big data era, our information may easily be found on the internet and revealed to others without our consent. How to handle and balance the conflict between privacy and surveillance is a topic that everyone should think about. One way to deal with the moral issues of privacy and technology is by the rights talk. Although privacy is mentioned in international documents as a kind of civil and political rights, privacy rights are usually not considered as traditional human rights and it is open for debate whether moral human rights to privacy exist. While the debates are still ongoing in the West, this paper focuses on how to use Confucianism to contribute to the discussions on human rights and privacy, and what is the limitations of such a Confucian approach. Some Confucian notions like the concept of privacy, especially ‘Szu” (Private) and “Yin”
(Hide), will be discussed. Another focus is the Confucian debate on the concept of dignity and human rights. There is a debate about whether the Confucian notion “Tian Jue” (Nobility of Heaven) is similar to the concept of dignity. I argue that if we hold a minimal and pluralistic framework of human rights, then it is possible to embed some Confucian notions into the debate of human rights to privacy. Yet this approach has limitations. It is open for different Confucian interpretations, and it does not imply the traditional senses of human rights. To make this approach useful, we need to go beyond traditional ways to discuss Confucianism and human rights. I use some practical privacy issues in the Covid-19 pandemic to illustrate my arguments.


Competition4th Annual Conference of East Asian Society for Scientific Study of Religion
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