Wang Chen: China registers historic progress in human rights
www.chinaview.cn 2008-12-09 10:32:45   Print

    BEIJING, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, accepted an exclusive interview by the Human Rights journal, during which he gave a positive appraisal of the position and role of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, expounded China's basic views on human rights and achievements in human rights development and visualized the prospects of human rights development in China and the world as a whole.

    The full text of Q&A is as follows:

    Q. Dec. 10 this year marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. How do you view and evaluate this document?

    A. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted at the UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948 is the UN's first document devoted to the human rights issue. It is truly a worldwide declaration of human rights that came into being on the basis of summing up the historical experience and absorbing and infusing the cultural spirit of the East and the West. Over the past 60 years, it has played an important role in awakening the people of the world to their pursuit for human rights, directing and promoting the development of international human rights theories and practice. It is still of great guiding significance for the development of the human rights cause in the world.

    First of all, the UDHR for the first time in history put forward the universal concept of "human rights," confirming that "everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind," and making the economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights two paralleled and inalienable components of human rights, thus breaking the narrow, traditional conception of human rights of the West and enriching and developing the contents of human rights.

    Then, the UDHR served as a source of encouragement to the people of colonies and appendage countries in their great movement for state independence and national liberation, thus making indelible contributions to destroying the colonial system that had been ruling mankind for centuries and to promoting world peace, human rights and justice.

    The UDHR has also had a far-reaching influence in the spread of the human rights principles and in the institution of human rights laws in the world. As a result, the UN has adopted dozens of international human rights documents including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. All the continents have also adopted many regional documents. The majority of the countries throughout the world have, in various ways, included respecting and protecting human rights in their Constitutions or related laws.     

    Q. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. Over the past 30 years, China has made tremendous progress in its economic and social development and its international status has risen significantly. What changes do you think have taken place with regard to human rights?

    A. The past three decades have witnessed historic changes in all aspects of the society in China. But the most profound changes that have taken place should be those in the people and their concepts, their living standards and their dignity and values. Over the past 30 years, the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government have persevered in reform and opening up in its economic and social development in an all-round manner and integrated the universality of human rights with the concrete national conditions and have made unremitting efforts to promote and protect human rights, thus blazing a new trail for human rights development that has distinct Chinese characteristics, thus resulting in a synchronized and coordinated development in the human rights cause and the political, economic, social and cultural development. It is not exaggerating to say that China has made historic progress in human rights and that China's human rights conditions are in the best historical period.

    --- Respecting and protecting human rights has received attention never seen before and has become an important principle of the CPC and the Chinese government in governing the country. Since China's reform and opening up, the most prominent progress China has made in human rights is to have freed itself from the bondage of the "leftist" thinking that regarded human rights as the slogan of the bourgeoisie and established the important position of human rights in the social and political life. Since the 16th CPC National Congress, in particular, the CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as General Secretary has advanced the "people first" scientific development theory and the important strategic thinking of constructing a socialist harmonious society, which have made respect for and protection of human rights an important component part. Since 2004, "respecting and protecting human rights" has been written into the Constitution, the 11th five-year development program and the Constitution of the CPC. All this has shown that human rights development has become a major theme in social construction and development and an important principle of the CPC and the Chinese government in governing the country and maintaining friendly relations with neighbors. The unprecedented attention given to human rights has provided powerful political and legal guarantee for human rights development both in theory and practice.

    --- The rights to subsistence and development have received protection never seen before. The 30 years of reform and opening up have witnessed vigorous economic and social development, with the economy growing at an average annual rate of over 9 percent. The living standards of the 1.3 billion Chinese people have improved greatly, realizing the historic leap from poverty to adequate food and clothing and from adequate food and clothing to a well-off level. By the end of 2007, the per capita GDP had risen to 18,700 yuan from 379 yuan in 1978, increasing by nearly 50-fold. The disposable income of urban residents had risen to 13,786 yuan from 343 yuan and that of rural residents had risen to 4,140 yuan from 134 yuan, increasing about 40-fold and 31-fold, respectively. The per capita living space had risen to 27 square meters from 6.7 square meters in the urban areas and to 30.7 square meters from 8.1 square meters in the rural areas. The urban and rural Engel's Coefficient had dropped to 36.3 percent and 43.1 percent from 56.6 percent and 67.71 percent, respectively. Transport, telecommunications, culture, education and recreation, medical service and health care, family service, tourism and sightseeing and other development and enjoyment consumption had increased steadily. The number of people in poverty was reduced to 14.79 million from 1978's 250 million. At present, the life expectancy of Chinese has risen to 73 years from 68 years in 1978, attaining the level of medium developed countries.

    --- Civil and political rights have been brought under real protection. Since reform and opening up, China has constantly strengthened its efforts to rule the country by law, build a country of the rule of law and improve democracy. The rights of person and political rights of the citizens have been extended and effectively protected on the orbit of democracy and law. At present, there are 229 effective laws in force in addition to the about 600 effective administrative decrees of the State Council and more than 7,000 local laws. These, with the Constitution as the core, go to form a socialist legal system distinct in Chinese characters. All aspects of social activities have laws to go by and all rights of the citizens have been brought under the secure protection of law. In the meanwhile, China is actively and steadily pushing forward its political restructuring aimed at increasing the orderly political participation by citizens, making administrative affairs transparent, intensifying the oversight and checks and balances of power and protecting citizens' political rights by law. In the rural areas, in particular, grassroots democracy covering elections, policy decision making, management and oversight has been developing apace, enabling hundreds of millions of peasants to enjoy the right of direct election.

    --- Economic, social and cultural rights improved incessantly. Since reform and opening up, the Chinese government has adopted various measures to deal with unemployment and re-employment and set up a social security system and strengthened support to education, science and technology, culture and public health and other social undertakings, striving to ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of the citizens on a solid footing. In 2006, the government scrapped the agricultural tax and agricultural specialty product tax, ending the history of peasants delivering tax for farming the land which had lasted for more than 2,600 years. At present, China has basically popularized the nine-year compulsory education and illiteracy has been eliminated among 99 percent of the young and middle-aged population. China has already edged into the ranks of countries with a fairly high level of education. From 1978 to 2007, the number of students at tertiary schools increased by nearly 22 times from 867,000 to 18.85 million. The number of public cultural services and facilities has increased considerably. The public cultural service system covering both urban and rural areas has taken shape. The cultural activities of the people have been enriched. The new rural cooperative medical service that started in 2002 has now covered 730 million peasants or 85.7 percent of the rural population, contributing greatly to the improvement of the health of the rural people.

    --- Exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries in the area of human rights expanded. Since reform and opening up, China has, closely following the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, taken an active part in the UN's work on human rights and in drawing up legal documents in this regard, making its due contributions to enriching the concept of international human rights and promoting the development of international human rights activities. China has approved and joined related human rights treaties and conventions. Up to the present, China is a signatory party to 25 international human rights conventions and treaties and has adopted effective measures to perform its obligations and timely submitted reports on its performance to accept the review by the UN treaty organizations. China has always advocated for dialogue, cooperation and exchange on the basis of equality and mutual respect in order to make the international human rights cause develop healthily. So far, China has conducted more than 70 human rights dialogues and exchanges with other countries, which helped enhance mutual understanding. China has made positive efforts to promote human rights development in each other's countries.

Editor: Bi
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