Inclusion of human rights in Constitution marks a milestone in human rights progress in China: expert 03-14-2004 17:26

A proposed amendment to the Constitution was adopted Mar.14 by the Second Session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC), which stipulates clearly that "the state respects and safeguards human rights."

According to experts on human rights, this is the first time that the concept of "human rights" has been included in the Constitution -- a major event in the development of China's democratic constitutionalism and political civilization, and an important milestone in human rights progress in China.

The inclusion of human rights in the Constitution meant a major breakthrough in socialist human rights development, said Dong Yunhu, vice-president and secretary-general of the China Human Rights Research Society.

For a fairly long period after the founding of the People's Republic of China, China never included the human rights concept in the Constitution and law, human rights being considered taboo in ideological and theoretical research. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), with Jiang Zemin at the core, began to reconsider the human rights issue by summarizing the practice of the human rights development in contemporary China and the rest of the world. From the international struggle perspective, the CPC Central Committee made it clear, for the first time ever, that socialist China should grasp the banner of human rights in her hands.

On November 1, 1991, a White Paper titled "Human Rights in China" was issued by the Information Office of the State Council. This was the first time that the status of the human rights concept in China's socialist political development had been positively confirmed in the form of an official document.

When the 15th National Congress of the CPC was convened in September 1997, the human rights concept was for the first time included in the major report to the Congress, promoting human rights from a major theme in international publicity work to a major subject in domestic construction under the leadership of the Party.

By adding "the state respects and safeguards human rights" to the Constitution, the present amendment has promoted "human rights" from a political concept to a legal one for the first time, and the main body in respecting and safeguarding human rights has been upgraded from the Party and government to the state, said Dong.

Therefore, respecting and safeguarding human rights have been raised from the will of the Party and government to that of the people and state, from the political concept and value of the Party and government in assuming power and running administration to the political concept and value of the state in construction and development efforts, and from a provision of the Party and government's policy to a principle of the state's fundamental law, Dong said.

Adding to the contents of the Constitution the principle that "the state respects and safeguards human rights" in the amendment to the Constitution is the first such step China has taken since it began the pursuit of constitutionalism, and is the latest development in contemporary China's endeavor for democratic constitutionalism, according to the expert.

Dong said, first, setting up the principle of human rights has further improved the country's democratic constitutionalism; second, stressing the value and concept of human rights has given new definition to the Constitution's stipulations concerning citizens' rights; third, the improved prescriptions of the principle of citizens' rights guarantee have reinforced the human rights essence of the Constitution.

Editor:Wang  Source:Xinhua News Agency

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