Protecting human rights: China's priority in 21st century

The better protection of human rights will be one of the priorities of China in the 21st Century, a senior government official said Monday.

The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) had showed greater concern for human rights and so had the government, said Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan Monday.

The draft amendment to the Constitution, scheduled to be discussed at the annual session of the Chinese legislature here this month, includes the CPC-proposed item "to respect and guarantee human rights".

The new Chinese leadership also promoted a human-centered scientific concept of development featuring humanistic governance and comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development of the economy and society.

"The series of policies put forward by the new Chinese leadership since last year are of significant to improve human rights protection in China," said Zhou Jue, president of the China Society for Human Rights (CSHR) at the second session of its second national council held Monday in Beijing.

It was noticeable that the Party and the government pledged to promote citizens' participation in political life and better implement the Constitution, Zhou said.

China had adopted the open elections for village committees in rural areas and promoted the votes for community committees in cities. Voting for heads of townships and counties was on trial in a few areas.

The government had carried out helpful measures to protect the rights of minorities such as the floating population, migrant workers, AIDS/HIV-positive and needy people, he added.

Premier Wen Jiabao visited and shook hands with AIDS patients in Beijing on Dec. 1 last year, the first such action from the government. The administration also promised to offer free medicine to needy AIDS/HIV-positive people.

"China's perspective on human rights is different from the Westsince the two have different cultures and face different economic and social problems," said Zhu Muzhi, a senior expert and honorarypresident of the CSHR. "It is not confrontation, but dialogue thatwill narrow the differences."

The Chinese enjoyed better human rights than ever before, but there were problems, said Prof. Chen Zhishang, of Beijing University and a member of CSHR.

The gap between the rich and the poor and between cities and the countryside was expanding and the country should seek new waysto protect the rights of the poor and the rural population, Chen said.

The CSHR, founded in 1993, is the only national academic society for human rights in China with a total membership of 163.

Observers believe that the amendment not only sums up China's human rights efforts in legal terms but also makes it a fundamental rule for government departments to respect and protect human rights.

Apart from the human right protection practices and theoretical research, China has conducted dialogues with countries including the United States and the European Union over the years.

"Everywhere in the world people want human rights," said Zhu Muzhi, the society's honorary president. "But due to the different national conditions, their views and requirements for it vary."

On Zhu's list of differences are the attitudes toward the rights to life and development, the view about democracy and the relationship between sovereignty and human rights.

These differences over the understanding of human rights have been one of the major discords between China and a number of Western countries.

Also Monday, China issued the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2003 in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003 issued by the US last Wednesday.

Released by the Information Office of the State Council, the Chinese report listed a multitude of cases to show that serious violations of human rights exist on the homeland of the United States.

"As in any previous year, the United States once again acted as 'the world human rights police' by distorting and censuring in the 'reports' the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions across the world, including China. And just as usual, the United States once again 'omitted' its own long-standing malpractices and problems of human rights in the 'reports'. Therefore, we have to, as before, help the United States keep its human rights record," said China's own report.

The report reviewed the human rights record of the United States in 2003 from six perspectives: Life, Freedom and Safety; Political Rights and Freedom; Living Conditions of US Laborers; Racial Discrimination; Conditions of Women, Children and Elderly People; and Infringement upon Human Rights of Other Nations.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Information Office of the State Council has issued human rights record of the United States to answer the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued annually by the State Department of the United States.

By People's Daily Online

People's Daily Online ---