Unalienable rights are at the core of who we are as Americans. We abhor violations of these rights, whenever and wherever they are encountered.
That’s why I always speak out on behalf of the people of Iran, of Venezuela, of China, and people of all other nationalities who do not have the benefit that we have. They deserve their God-given freedoms just as much as we do.
International institutions have moved away from these core tenets as well. One reason – excuse me. One research group found that between the United Nations and the Council of Europe, there are a combined 64 human rights-related agreements and 1,377 provisions.
This is an imperfect analogy, but the 13th ice cream cone isn’t as good the first one was. (Laughter.) And with respect to unalienable rights, we need to know that more, per se, is not always better. We have to protect those things that are at the core, at the center, that are foundational. Because when rights proliferate, we risk losing focus on those core unalienable rights, the ones that we would give everything for. And many of our brothers and sisters have done just that.
And frankly, there is far too little agreement anymore on what an unalienable right truly is. Just because a treaty or a law or some writing says it’s a right, it doesn’t make it an unalienable right. Remember where these rights came from.
This confusion – this confusion has opened the door for countless countries that don’t share our respect for human rights to use corrupt understandings of this notion to achieve their evil ends.
Let me give you just one example. Over the past two years in Xinjiang, China – it’s a province in the western part of China – China has tried to brainwash coming on one million Uighur Muslims in internment camps. It’s tried to get them to renounce their culture and their faith.
The Chinese Communist Party claims that the camps are meant to educate and to save people that have been influenced by religious extremism, and thus they make the claim that they’re trying to protect those individuals’ human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, last year the UN Human Rights Council, at Beijing’s urging, adopted a resolution that called for nations “to work together to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights.”
It emphasized “genuine dialogue and cooperation…based on…mutual respect.”
This was, sadly, coded language for repressive regimes to establish a code of silence about their massive human rights violations, those that rival the worst human rights violations from our past century.
Only one country – only one country – on the Human Rights Council voted against China’s resolution. Proudly, that was the United States of America.
Clearly, we must reclaim this tradition. We must reclaim the tradition of unalienable rights from deliberate misunderstanding and, indeed, from cynical abuse.
It’s a task that’s complex and difficult and time-consuming. And I do not claim to have all the answers. But we got to get it right.
Edited by staff
Abstract from the following remarks by the Sectary of State Michael Pompeo: