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Human dignity is not contained in the text of the 1947 Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan). It was not until early 90s that “dignity” was enacted in constitutional amendments, not as “human dignity” but as “dignity of women.” “Human dignity” entered into Taiwan’s constitutional jurisprudence through the Constitutional Court’s 1996 interpretation by enlarging the “women’s dignity” clause to include “human dignity.” And a generation of German trained legal scholars who formed a strong academic community aided rapid and extensive reception of the Constitutional Court’s interpretive move. In the following two decades, the Court has consolidated dignity as a fundamental constitutional value and has used it to serve four functions. The first is to add weight to the existing basic rights. The second is to ground unenumerated rights, such as right to privacy, right to reputation, and right of personality. The third is to entail inviolable core of basic rights not subject to balancing. The fourth is to balance constitutional duty and right. I also note that, after 2003, human dignity has increasingly been associated with the values of self-realization and self-fulfilment.
This first part of this chapter examines what is meant by the term ‘human rights’ and the role of this concept in twenty-first century public law. The concept of human rights is intended to protect those civil, political, social and economic interests vital to maintaining human autonomy. Human rights law, in its modern guise, came to the forefront of public thought across Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, an era which produced the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The institutions established by the ECHR and the rights enumerated therein continue to evolve, providing the basis for some of the UK’s commitments in international law. The ECHR regime is designed to provide a framework not only for protecting human rights but, where necessary, for balancing competing rights against each other and against other important societal interests. The concept of human rights therefore provides a basis both for enumerating the most fundamental interests enjoyed by individuals within the UK and for restraining the actions of public authorities which conflict with those interests.
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