Lu Guangjin – China Daily
The founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 laid the institutional foundation for the protection of Chinese citizens’ basic rights. The country’s Constitution, adopted in 1954, established the principles of people’s democracy, socialism and the system of people’s congresses, institutionally guaranteed that all State rights belong to the people, and stipulated the basic rights and obligations of citizens.
And after the People’s Republic resumed its lawful seat in the United Nations in 1971, China began participating in global human rights affairs.
Since the launch of reform, the Communist Party of China has focused on economic construction to improve people’s livelihoods and living standards, so they can enjoy their basic rights. On the other hand, thanks to opening-up, China has learned from other countries’ human rights practices and taken part in international human rights affairs.
In building socialism with Chinese characteristics, the Party, apart from working for the happiness of the people, has deepened its understanding of human rights and put forward new ideas and strategies for protecting human rights.
In 1991, the Chinese government published a white paper titled “China’s Human Rights Situation”, which emphasized that “the right to subsistence is the primary human right that the Chinese people have been striving for a long time”, and for people of developing countries, “the right to development should be given priority”. Which reflects China’s basic attitude toward human rights.
In 2004, the country’s Constitution was amended to include “the state respects and protects human rights”. And in 2007, the Party’s Constitution was amended at the 17th National Congress of the CPC to include “respecting and protecting human rights”.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has developed the concept of human rights in the new era. Xi’s expositions on human rights contain a logical system of human rights discourse.
First, Xi has stressed that “there is no best protection for human rights, only better protection”, and “the CPC and the Chinese government have always been committed to respecting and protecting human rights”.
Second, he has said “China adheres to the principle of universality of human rights in combination with China’s actual conditions, and has blazed a path of human rights development suited to its national conditions”, and “there is no universally applicable path of human rights development”.
Third, Xi has emphasized that China “pursues a people-centered concept of human rights”, that “the right to subsistence and development is the primary basic human right”, and that “people’s happy life is the greatest human right”.
Fourth, he has stressed that China “promotes the economic, political, social, cultural and environmental rights of all the people in a coordinated manner, strives to safeguard social equity and justice, and promotes well-rounded human development”.
Fifth, Xi has also said that China is committed to “promoting development through cooperation and promoting human rights through development”, “promoting a more just, equitable and inclusive global governance of human rights, jointly building a community with a shared future for mankind and creating a better future for the world”.
Xi’s remarks summarize human rights practices in not only China but also the world at large.
China’s achievements in human rights are unparalleled. For example, over the past four decades, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty, contributing over 70 percent to global poverty reduction. China is also the first developing country to meet the poverty reduction target of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
As for China’s Human Development Index, it jumped from 0.501 in 1990 to 0.758 in 2018, an increase of nearly 51.1 percent, making China the only country to move from a “low level” to a “high level of human development” since 1990 when the UN Development Programme first measured the global HDI.
The Chinese government protects citizens’ rights to equal participation and equal development, and ensures they enjoy extensive rights and freedoms. China has also advanced the rule of law, strengthening the legal protection for human rights.
China has contributed to the global human rights cause, too. With a population of 1.4 billion and being the world’s largest developing country, China makes a big contribution to the global human rights cause by just promoting human rights in the country. China has also ratified or acceded to 26 international human rights instruments, including six core UN human rights treaties, and fulfills its due obligations.
Besides, China had been a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights from 1982 to 2006 when the commission was replaced by the UN Human Rights Council-and since 2006, it has been elected five times to the council.
By upholding the human rights cause, China has shattered the myth that human rights can be protected only under the capitalist system, not in a socialist society. It has also put forward a series of new ideas on human rights development and new measures for human rights protection. And it believes that since different countries have different histories, cultures, and political systems, their human rights development paths should also be different.
In summary, economic development holds the key to solving most of the human rights-related problems in China. That’s why the CPC has always given top priority to development in order to improve people’s lives and livelihoods, better protect human rights and, in the long run, realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The author is secretary-general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.