VII. The Correct Choice for Human
Rights Protection

In the practice of carrying out family planning programme, whilst persistently proceeding from its reality and taking into full account and observing principles and regulations concerning population and family planning formulated by international institutions and organizations, the Chinese government has gradually set up guiding principles, policies, measures and methods that reflect the basic interests and various rights and interests of the people, and has continuously improved these as the actual situations change, so as to better safeguard the right to subsistence and development of the Chinese nation.

It has been China's consistent stand and principle in international exchange and cooperation to fully respect the sovereignty of all nations, and not to interfere with the internal affairs of other nations. The "Programme of Action" adopted by the International Conference on Population and Development by that conference in Cairo, 1994, pointed out: "The formulation and implementation of population-related policies is the responsibility of each country and should take into account the economic, social and environmental diversity of conditions in each country, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of its people, as well as the shared but differentiated responsibilities of all the world's people for a common future." Only by proceeding from the reality of the country, independently setting up its population policy and target, as well as plans and measures to realize this target, can the population problem of each country be effectively solved. Positive results of solving population problem through international cooperation can only be achieved under the premise of respecting the sovereignty of each country, and by adopting the attitude of mutual understanding and the seeking of common ground while preserving differences. As the national situation, the degree and pattern of social and economic development, cultural habits and values, and the specific characteristics of the population problem in each country differ, there will be differences in the plan and dynamics of problem solving in each country, which is a normal phenomenon. Not only has China never imposed its ways and ideas of solving its own population problem on anyone else, but it has, instead, always understood and welcomed all good-intentioned criticism and useful suggestions from outside. However, some people, distorting or disregarding the basic facts, have made improper comments on China's family planning programme, criticizing it as a "violation of human rights," and denouncing it as "inhumane." They have even tried to impose their values and ideas on China, using the excuse of "protecting human rights" to put pressure on China and to interfere in China's internal affairs. This is totally unacceptable. Any such practice of interfering in China's internal affairs has not only deviated from the basic principle set up in the field of population by the international community, but it has also violated the established principles of international law, which will neither help promote a healthy development of China's family planning programme nor the stability of the world's population.

China has always held that concepts of human rights are a product of historical development, closely related to social, political and economic conditions, as well as the individual nation's particular history, culture and concepts. The realization and optimization of human rights is a historical process. A citizen's right of choice in reproduction is also part of this process.

The great changes in the world population situation in the mid-twentieth century, the rapid world population growth and the severe consequence ensuing have aroused increasing attention from the international community and various countries. The contradiction between population on one hand and survival and development on the other is especially sharp in developing countries with a fast population growth. Irrational international economic order, stagnant economic and social development, and the pressure of a large population have continually widened the gap between developed and developing countries in terms of welfare and living conditions, increasing rather than decreasing the number of those living below the poverty line. With recognition of the seriousness of the population problem and the urgent need to control population growth, people's understanding and attitudes towards reproduction and other associated rights have changed, responding to new historical conditions, becoming more comprehensive. The "World Population Plan of Action," approved at the International Population Conference held in Bucharest in 1974, states: "Individual reproductive behaviour and the needs and aspirations of society should be reconciled.... All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so; the responsibility of couples and individuals in the exercise of this right takes into account the needs of their living and future children, and their responsibilities towards the community." The "Recommendations on Further Implementing the World Population Plan of Action," approved at the 1984 International Population Conference held in Mexico City, again emphasized that "Any recognition of rights also implies responsibilities." Accordingly, when couples and individuals exercise their right to the choice of reproduction, they should "take into consideration their own situation, as well as the implications of their decisions or the balanced development of their children and of the community and society in which they live." The "Recommendations" point out that "governments can do more to assist people in making their reproductive decisions in a responsible way." The "Programme of Action" adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 once again points out that "these [reproductive] rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.... In the exercise of this right, they should take into account the needs of their living and future children and their responsibilities towards the community. The promotion of the responsible exercise of these rights for all people should be the fundamental basis for government- and community-supported policies and programmes in the area of reproductive health, including family planning."

Family planning in China is pursued in complete accordance with the relevant principles and human rights requirements designated by the international community. China's family planning policies and programmes combine citizens' rights and duties, joining the interests of the individual with those of society. These conform to the basic principles outlined at the various international population conferences and have been established on the basis of the relationship of interpersonal interests under socialism. Never in any country are rights and duties absolute, but rather, they are relative. There are no duties apart from rights, or rights apart from duties. When there is conflict between social needs and individual interests, a means has to be sought to mediate it. This is something that the government of every sovereign country is doing. As China has a large population, the Chinese government has to limit the number of births of its citizens. This is a duty incumbent on each citizen as it serves the purpose of making the whole society and whole nation prosperous, and it is not proceeding from the private interest of some individuals. This is wholly justifiable and entirely consistent with the moral concepts of Chinese society. To talk about citizens' rights and duties out of reality in an abstract and absolute way does not hold water either in China or in any other country. In a heavily populated developing country like China, if the reproductive freedom of couples and individuals are unduly emphasized at the expense of their responsibilities to their families, children and societal interests in matters of child bearing, indiscriminate reproduction and unlimited population growth will inevitably ensue. The interests of the majority of the people, including those of new-born infants, will be seriously harmed.

We should see that in China, especially in rural, backward and remote areas, there is a gap between the desire for childbirth of some couples of child-bearing age and the demand of the present family planning policy, and shortcomings of one kind or another are unavoidable in family planning work. However, as the family planning policy fundamentally conforms to the interests of the majority of the Chinese people and, during its actual implementation, the actual difficulties and reasonable demands of some people have been taken into consideration and the legal rights and interests of the citizens are strongly protected, the family planning policy has won understanding and recognition from the broad masses of the people. Through long period of practice, the Chinese people have realized more and more deeply from their practical interests that family planning is a cause that benefits the nation and the people, and they have increasingly come to understand and support this cause. After unremitting efforts, including drawing useful experience from other countries, the management level and service quality of China's family planning programme have continually been improved and the shortcomings and problems in its actual work has been remarkably reduced. We believe that all those who do not seek to hold prejudice will respect this basic fact.