China moves to constitutionalize private property protection 03-08-2004 16:06

Chinese legislators began on Monday to consider whether to specify the inviolability of private property in the nation's Constitution, and the draft constitutional amendment, if approved, would become what is widely described as "a historic progress."

Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), briefed lawmakers on the draft constitutional amendment at the on-going national legislature's annual session in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday afternoon.

The draft amendment suggests "legal private property is not to be encroached upon" and adds "the state should give compensation" to the current stipulation that "the state has the right to expropriate urban and rural land."

"It is a substantive breakthrough in the history of the People's Republic of China and that reminds me of the past old days when we were proud of being penniless and devoting all possessions to the country," said Xia Bing, a lawyer who serves a Shanghai-based private law house.

In the first 30 years after New China was founded in 1949, the predominant agricultural country had been engaged in a continuous campaign to turn its war-shattered economy into what the top leaders hoped to be superior to the world powers.

The drive was frequently pestered by uncertainties such as natural disasters and political movements such as the devastating "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976). The people worked hard in cropland and factories year in year out, and their struggle did not bring in a fairly comfortable life featured by well furnished private houses and cars.

"Being poor meant being revolutionary and clean in heart, and it was a shame to rake profits and dream of a luxurious life at that time," recalls 60-year-old Zhang Yuying, a factory retiree in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

"Khaki clothes, very often with a patch on the shoulder or knee or both, might be the most precious private belongings of most ordinary families," he says.

Tremendous improvements in the people's daily life did not take place until the Chinese economy began to take off fueled by the reform and open-up policy adopted in the late 1970s. In 2003, China's per-capita GDP reached 1,000 US dollars, which is internationally accepted as a mark of a medium-developed country.

Major cities such as Shanghai even reported a much bigger figure of more than 5,000 US dollars.

With swelling wallets, an increasing number of Chinese citizens have purchased or are planning to buy houses and cars, both regarded as necessities of a modern life.

Concurrent with the economic boom is a change in the people鈥檚

thinking, from the concept that "It's shame to be rich" to a brand new motto that "It's a pride to get rich through hard work in a lawful way."

To usher in a nationwide endeavor to "build a well-off society in an all-round way," the Chinese government has taken a more scientific and realistic approach to handling ideological issues, boosting economic development and constructing a full-fledged legal framework.

"Stipulations that hamper China's reform and development should be changed but amendments are focused on the most essential ones to maintain the stability of the Constitution," said senior lawmaker Yang Jingyu.

The draft constitutional amendment submitted by NPC Standing Committee to the NPC session on Monday has drawn wide attention since the proposal was put forward by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2003.

It will be the first time in the history of New China that lawfully-obtained capital goods and invisible capital such as intellectual property rights are put under the protection of the Constitution, as is the same case with living materials and properties such as estate and bank deposits.

Editor:Wang  Source:Xinhua News Agency

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