On "Playing for Human Rights"
"An interpretation of the Olympic Charter according to which human rights would be a political topic not to be discussed in the Olympic venues is alien to us. Human rights are a universal and inalienable topic, enshrined in international human rights documents that China has also signed onto, transcending international as well as domestic politics, and all cultures, religions and civilizations.
To speak of the conditions of human rights therefore cannot be in violation of the Olympic Charter. To speak of human rights is not politics; only authoritarian and totalitarian regimes try to make it so. To speak of human rights is a duty" (stress added).
Anyone who thinks that human rights are not political, that they inhere in our status as human beings, and do not presuppose monitoring and enforcement by political agencies (states , international organizations, and NGOs) needs to read Hannah Arendt's essay "The Perplexities of the Rights of Man" from her The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Simply put, Arendt rightly claims that we have rights only and as long as there is some state willing and able to enforce them. Absent such a state - an entity against whom claims for protection can be lodged - human rights in the abstract simply evaporate.
Arendt reminds us that speaking out about human rights and the ways they are protected or abrogated, means speaking to states, to government officials. We use rights (and other principles) to make claims on political entities (states) and the agents who occupy them. The sort of moralism to which the authors of this little manifesto resort is simply wrongheaded because it neglects to stay focused on the audience to whom we address claims of "human rights." It neglects, in other words, to stay focused on politics.
Finally, and more broadly, if we follow the lead of Havel and the others here, we are going to cede the terrain of politics to those who depict in purely "realist" terms. That will only further disable us from rising up and using the language of rights or consent or consequences to press claims on the politicians and their lackeys.