China's top legislature closed its annual session Sunday after endorsing landmark amendments to the Constitution, which highlight the protection of private property and enshrines human rights.
The amendments were adopted with an overwhelming 2,863 votes in favour, 10 against and 17 abstentions at the closing meeting of the Second Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC).
Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the 10th NPC, said at the meeting that the Constitution formed the core of China's legal system.
"We should use the endorsement of the amendments as an opportunity to publicize the Constitution among the whole society, especially for officials at all levels and government functionaries, to study it, keep it in mind, safeguard its authority and guarantee it is implemented validly," Wu said.
The amendments stipulate that citizens' lawful private property is inviolable, putting private assets on an equal footing with public property.
Under the amended Constitution, the country, for the public interest, may expropriate or requisition private property in accordance with law but must pay compensation.
Among other things, a clause stating the country respects and preserves human rights has been added to the first article of the chapter on basic rights and obligations of citizens.
The 1982 Constitution was previously amended in 1988, 1993 and 1999, also underscoring the growth of the non-public economy and market economy.
Adoption of the Constitutional amendments Sunday won thunderous applause from NPC deputies.
Wang Liming, an NPC deputy from Central China's Hubei Province, said the amendments are vital for the government to manage social and economic affairs in accordance with the law and to fully protect the interests and rights of the people.
"It is the first time that the country clarifies compensation for expropriation even for the sake of public interests. This will help fix a basic principle for future civil and commercial legislation," said Wang who is also a professor of civil law with Renmin University of China.
Li Wanzhi, an NPC deputy from Central China's Henan Province, said the amendments are a highly significant move to give further impetus to the burgeoning private sector.
"The status of entrepreneurs has been bolstered and now they can be more confident in developing their business," said Li.
Li also said the Constitution will firmly and equally stand behind private property of every citizen, regardless of their economic status.
"That's another significance of the amendment," he said.
Fan Zengsheng, an NPC deputy from the Taiwan delegation, said the amendments timely meet the requirement of overseas and domestic development.
"The newly added human rights protection clause is a common aspiration of the Chinese people," Fan said.
The Second Session of the 10th NPC Sunday also adopted a resolution concerning the Report on the Work of the Government delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao on March 5 when the session began.
Roughly 99 per cent of the NPC deputies voted for the government report, showing their satisfaction with the new leadership.
Fan said he was deeply impressed by the report which promises to protect the legal rights and interests of Taiwanese people in the Chinese mainland, thinking that it will greatly accelerate the reunification of the motherland.
Zhu Xujun, an NPC deputy from Central China's Henan Province, said a new system or method should be adopted to evaluate the work of officials as the central government has embraced a "scientific development concept," which will replace the traditional one which relies heavily on increase of gross domestic product (GDP).
Zhang Jiangyu, an environmental policy researcher with Tsinghua University, said he was upbeat about "the scientific approach of development," a hot topic at the 10-day NPC session.
"The approach should reign on the way to realizing modernization, whether it is economic development, environmental protection or enhancement of the nation's core competitiveness."
Lau Puiking, an NPC deputy from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said she voted for Wen's report because of its down-to-earth style.
The NPC deputies also passed resolutions on the reports on the Implementation of the 2003 Plan for National Economic and Social Development and on the Draft 2004 Plan for National Economic and Social Development, with an approval rate of 93 per cent of votes.
The reports on the Implementation of the Central and Local Budgets for 2003 and on the Draft Central and Local Budgets for 2004 won 88 per cent of the ballots.
The session also voted to adopt the resolutions concerning the Work Report of the NPC Standing Committee, with 96 per cent of the deputies in favour.
The work report of the Supreme People's Court was approved by 72 per cent of the NPC deputies while the work report of the Supreme People's Procuratorate was endorsed by 75 per cent of the votes.
Moreover, the decision by the NPC Standing Committee to accept resignations from Hua Fuzhou and Zhang Geng from the NPC Standing Committee was confirmed.
Hua was appointed vice-minister of labour and social securities while Zhang was named vice-procurator-general last year.