Building of Political Democracy in China


Preface    I.    II.    III.     IV.    V.    VI.    VII.    VIII.    IX.    X.   Conclusion

VII. Respecting and Safeguarding Human Rights

In March 2004, an Amendment to the Constitution was adopted by the Second Session of the Tenth National People's Congress, which included the statement "the State respects and safeguards human rights" in the Constitution, thus ushering in a new chapter in the progress of China's human rights undertakings.

Respecting and safeguarding human rights, ensuring that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedom according to law, represents an intrinsic requirement for the development of socialist democracy. Socialist democracy means that all power of the state belongs to the people and people enjoy in real terms the civil rights prescribed in the Constitution and law. China's socialist democracy is a kind of democracy built on the basis that citizens' rights are guaranteed and constantly developed.

As a committed representative of the Chinese people's fundamental interests, the CPC has always taken as its basic task the maintenance of national sovereignty and independence, as well as the safeguarding and development of the various rights of the people, and regards the rights to subsistence and development as the paramount human rights. The CPC adheres to taking development as the task of first importance, implements the scientific concept of putting the people first and seeking an overall, coordinated and sustainable development, and strives to promote economic development and social progress to satisfy the people's multiple needs and realize their all-round development.

The Chinese Constitution comprehensively stipulates the citizens' basic rights and freedoms. Based on the Constitution, China has enacted a series of laws on the protection of human rights, and set up a relatively comprehensive legal system for the protection of human rights. On the basis of achievements made over the 50-plus years of economic and social development, the Chinese people are now enjoying human rights more comprehensive and fuller than they have ever enjoyed in the past.

-- The people's rights to subsistence and development are guaranteed. The CPC focuses on economic construction and has made tremendous efforts to realize the people's rights to subsistence and development. After more than 50 years of hard work, two great historical leaps have been accomplished in people's life -- from being poverty-stricken to having enough food and clothing, and then to reaching the moderately well-off stage. China has successfully solved the problem of feeding 22 percent of the world's population with less than 10 percent of the world's arable land. From 1979 to 2004, China's economy kept growing rapidly. Its GDP soared from US$147.3 billion to US$1,650 billion, exceeding US$1,200 per person. The annual per-capita income of urban residents rose 5.5 times in real terms, and that of rural residents, 5.9 times. The average housing space per person increased from 6.7 sq m to 25 sq m in urban areas, and from 8.1 sq m to 28 sq m in rural areas. The rural poverty-stricken population went down from 250 million to 26.1 million. The Chinese people's overall health level has surpassed the average of countries with a moderate level of income, leading most developing countries in this aspect. The people's average life expectancy was raised from 35 years before the founding of New China in 1949 to nearly 72 years in 2004. The mortality rate of pregnant women and women in childbirth decreased from 1,500 per 100,000 before 1949 to 48.3 per 100,000 in 2004; and the infant mortality rate also dropped -- from 200 per 1,000 before 1949 to 21.5 per 1,000 in 2004. In recent years, the Chinese government has promulgated and implemented a series of regulations and measures, such as the National Plan for the Construction of an Information System for Public Health Monitoring and the National Plan for the Construction of a System for Medical Rescue and Treatment in Public Health Emergencies, thus greatly strengthening the protection of citizens' rights to health and life.

-- Citizens' civil and political rights are guaranteed. China's Constitution and law protect citizens' rights to freedom of religion, speech and press, and of association. Citizens' rights to property, reputation, personal name, honor, personal dignity and personal safety as well as the right to keep one's property from encroachment are also acknowledged and protected. China has set up and improved an open information system and other related systems to ensure that the citizens enjoy full democratic rights to information, supervision and participation in public affairs. The state encourages proactively the development of the press and publishing undertakings. In 2004, 25.77 billion copies of national and provincial newspapers, 2.69 billion copies of periodicals of various kinds, and 6.44 billion copies of books were published. In recent years, the Internet has developed with a great momentum in China, and by June 30, 2005, the amount of Internet users had exceeded 100 million, including 53 million broad-band users. The state respects and protects citizens' freedom in religious belief, and guarantees that the legitimate rights and interests of religious adherents and religious groups, and venues for religious activities are not violated. According to incomplete statistics, there are now over 100 million religious adherents, about 300,000 members of the clergy, and more than 100,000 venues for religious activities in China. The state has formulated the Regulations on Social Organization Registration and Management, the Provisional Regulations for the Registration and Administration of Private Non-Enterprise Units and the Regulations for the Management of Foundations to guarantee that citizens have the legal freedom to form associations. By the end of 2004, there were over 289,000 NGOs of various types in China, including 153,000 social organizations, 135,000 private non-enterprise units and nearly 900 foundations.

-- People's economic, social and cultural rights are guaranteed. There are comprehensive stipulations in the Chinese Constitution, laws and regulations on citizens' rights to labor, rest, gender equality, equal pay for equal work for men and women, intellectual property, social security, receiving material aid and education, marriage and divorce, as well as the right to engage and participate in scientific research, literature, art and other cultural activities. In recent years, the state has taken various measures to solve the problem of employment and re-employment, stepped up efforts in the establishment of a social security system, increased support to education, science and technology, culture, public health and other social undertakings, and striven to ensure that citizens' economic, social and cultural rights are guaranteed. By the end of 2004, the numbers of urban people taking out policies of basic pension insurance, unemployment insurance, medical insurance and industrial injury insurance had reached 164 million, 106 million, 124 million and 68.45 million, respectively, 8.47 million, 2.11 million, 15.02 million and 22.70 million more respectively than at the end of the previous year. In the rural areas, 55 million people had participated in social old-age pension system, and the number is increasing rapidly. A total of 22.05 million urban residents in China were issued minimum living allowances by the government. China has generally achieved the goal of basic nine-year compulsory education and elimination of illiteracy among young and middle-aged people. In 2004, the central treasury appropriated various special-purpose funds, totaling over 10 billion yuan, for compulsory education in rural areas, an increase of 70 percent over the previous year. There are over 20 million students in institutions of higher learning in China, bringing the gross enrolment ratio for higher education to 19 percent. By the end of 2004, China had 282 radio stations and 314 TV stations, and the overall population coverage rates of radio and TV broadcasting had reached 94.1 percent and 95.3 percent, respectively. The government has made continuous efforts to strengthen the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of migrant workers from rural areas, and formulated the Provisional Measures for the Management of Payment of Wages to Migrant Construction Workers from Rural Areas in 2004, which provided for an overall clearing-up and settlement of defaults on payment of project fees as well as wages of migrant construction workers from rural areas.

-- The legitimate rights and interests of the special groups of people, such as women, the aged and minors, and the underprivileged groups, such as the disabled, are guaranteed. China has enacted the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women, the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged, the Law on the Protection of Minors and the Law on the Protection of the Disabled to provide special stipulations for the protection of special social groups, such as women, the aged and minors, and the underprivileged groups, such as the disabled. Women's right to participate in the management of state affairs is protected in China. Among the deputies to the Fourth NPC in 1975 to the Tenth NPC in 2003, women made up more than 20 percent of the total. At present, the scope of employment, pay for work and educational level for women are basically the same as for men. As China is becoming an aging society, aged people receive special care from the government and society. In 2004, basic pensions issued to retirees from enterprises throughout the country totaled 303.1 billion yuan, including 52.2 billion yuan in subsidies from the central treasury. There are 376 million people below the age of 18 in China, more than a quarter of the total population. The Chinese government formulated the "Outline Plan for the Development of Chinese Children in the 1990s" in 1992 and the "Outline for the Development of Chinese Children, 2001-2010" in 2001, to promote the development of children in the aspects of health, education, legal protection and environment. There are 60 million disabled people in China, almost the population of an average medium-sized country. In 2004, the employment rate of the disabled reached 80 percent, and over 3.3 million disabled people overcame their disabilities to varying degrees.

-- The rights of the ethnic minorities are guaranteed. In China, people of all ethnic minorities, like citizens of the Han ethnic group, enjoy all equal civil rights specified in the Constitution and laws, and participate in the management of state and local affairs on an equal basis. Meanwhile, their rights are offered special protection by the law and related policies. In accordance with the Constitution and the Election Law, every ethnic minority group is represented by appropriate numbers of deputies, in the highest organ of the state power, the NPC, and there should be at least one deputy for an ethnic group with a very small population. Starting from the First NPC, the proportion of deputies of ethnic minorities in the total number of deputies has remained around 14 percent, much higher than their population proportion of about 8 percent in the nation's total population. All ethnic minorities living in compact communities or in a scattered manner are represented in the local people's congress at all levels, and a deputy of an ethnic minority group can speak for a smaller number of people than the required number represented by a deputy to the local people's congress. People of all ethnic minority groups are eligible to hold any position in any state organs and government departments. Each ethnic group has the freedom to use and develop its own spoken and written languages. The state respects and protects the folk ways, customs and freedom of religious belief of ethnic minority groups.

The Chinese government pays serious attention to the positive role played by international conventions on human rights in promoting human rights. To date, China has joined 21 international conventions on human rights, and has adopted a series of measures to fulfill its obligations as specified in those conventions. In October 1997, the Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was approved by the Standing Committee of the NPC in February 2001. The Chinese government submitted its first report on the implementation of the Covenant to the United Nations in 2003 as scheduled, and accepted the consideration and examination of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations in April 2005. The Chinese government also signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October 1998. At present, the Chinese government departments concerned are pressing on with their research and preparations, and when conditions are ripe, the State Council will submit a request to the Standing Committee of the NPC for examination and approval.