The Communist Party of China and
Human Rights Protection
– A 100-Year Quest
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China
First Edition 2021
I. For People’s Liberation and Wellbeing
II. The Principle of Respecting and Protecting Human Rights Embedded in Governance
III.Ensuring the People’s Position as Masters of the Country
IV. Making Comprehensive Progress in Human Rights
V. Protecting the Basic Rights of Citizens in Accordance with the Law
VI. Advancing Human Rights Around the World
VII.Adding Diversity to the Concept of Human Rights
The year 2021 marks the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Over the past century, the CPC has invested a huge effort in human rights protection, adding significantly to global human rights progress.
A hundred years ago, the CPC came into being – its mission to salvage the country and save the Chinese people at a perilous time of domestic upheaval and foreign aggression. This was an epoch-changing moment. Under the leadership of the CPC, the Chinese people embarked on a new journey towards prosperity, national rejuvenation, and wellbeing.
Over this period of one hundred years, the CPC has united and led the people in toppling the “three mountains” of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, creating the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and completing the New Democratic Revolution and the Socialist Revolution. The political and institutional foundations were thereby laid down to ensure the rights and freedoms of the people. Through successes and setbacks, China has pioneered reform and opening up, set the goal of socialist modernization, and ushered in a new era of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Chinese nation has stood up, become better off, and grown in strength. Now, it is embarking on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects.
For a hundred years, the CPC has always put people first, applying the principle of universality of human rights in the context of the national conditions. It regards the rights to subsistence and development as the primary and basic human rights, and believes that living a life of contentment is the ultimate human right. It promotes the well-rounded development of the individual, and strives to give every person a stronger sense of gain, happiness and security. Its success in pioneering human rights in a socialist country is unique and readily apparent.
For a hundred years, the CPC has committed itself to peaceful development and common progress. China is firm in its international stance – to safeguard world peace and seek progress through cooperation, ensuring human rights with the benefits deriving from development. It has been an active participant in matters of international human rights, providing a Chinese contribution to global human rights governance and progress, and working with other countries to forge a global community of shared future.
I. For People’s Liberation and Wellbeing
1. Human Rights Trampled after the Mid-19th Century
The Chinese nation is a great nation boasting a civilization spanning five millennia. China once led the world in composite national strength over a long period of time. But beginning in the middle and latter half of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), and especially after the Opium War in 1840, China plunged into stagnation due to a corrupt, incompetent government and ever growing Western aggression. It was eventually reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal state where the people were enslaved and suffered immeasurably.
Beginning in 1840, the Western imperialist powers, through war and other aggressive means, forced the Chinese government into hundreds of unequal treaties, regulations and conventions, grabbing territory, demanding reparations and privileges, and engaging in a process of colonization and plunder throughout China. Western invasion and colonization shackled the Chinese people, trampling on their dignity and putting their very lives in jeopardy.
It was a tragedy for the country and the people. Oppressed by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, the Chinese people suffered from hunger and poverty and the nation from backwardness and subjugation.
The subsistence crisis raged in all directions. The economy was in a shambles. Low agricultural productivity, land annexation, harsh taxes and levies, natural disasters, and frequent wars turned large numbers of small farmers and peasants into farm laborers for hire or homeless poor. Industry and commerce developed to a certain extent, but was small in scale, low in productivity and unbalanced in structure. Manipulated by foreign and domestic bureaucrat capital, it was impossible to sustain the nation or the people. Under a shattered economy, the people were destitute and struggled to survive. It is estimated that 80 percent of the population was constantly haunted by dire hunger or inadequate food supply, and that tens or even hundreds of thousands of people starved to death every year.
China was also tortured by diseases and hindered by the lack of education among its people. Epidemics such as plague, smallpox and cholera swept across the country and recurred every year, taking a heavy toll on the populace due to the lack of health services. The average life expectancy in old China was only 35 years. When the PRC was founded in 1949, 80 percent of the 540 million population were illiterate, less than 20 percent of school-age children were in elementary schools, and there were only 117,000 students receiving higher education. Commenting on the miseries of the people, Mao Zedong said, “The poverty and lack of freedom among the Chinese people are on a scale seldom found.” With the people struggling for survival, it was impossible to talk about any other rights.
2. National Salvation on the Shoulders of the CPC
With the nation under threat and the people in pain, many people of lofty ideals and insight devoted themselves to the cause of national salvation – leading peasant uprisings, creating initiatives to learn from the West, attempting reformist experiments, and launching a bourgeois revolution. But none of these freed the Chinese from oppression and slavery. The mission of national independence and the liberation of the people fell to the CPC.
In July 1921, the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China announced the founding of the Party, heralding a new stage in the Chinese revolution. It reversed the tragic fate of the Chinese people and laid down the foundations for them to enjoy their basic rights. The first Marxists in China, including Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao and Mao Zedong, already understood the close connection between liberation, independence and the people’s interests. They knew well that only through revolution could the proletariat and the working people establish and maintain their rights, and that only through revolution could China get back on its feet and its people emerge from poverty and humiliation.
The CPC was a party of the proletariat from the very beginning. Through its programs, proposals, and declarations, it made its mission clear and its stance known – to save the nation and secure human rights for its people. The original aspiration and the mission of the Party is to seek happiness for the people of China and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is also the root of its stance on human rights. The CPC, with its people-centered position, has won the support of the Chinese people, making it the spine of the Chinese revolution.
3. Human Rights Protection During the New Democratic Revolution
In the New Democratic Revolution to liberate and free the people and make them masters of the country, the CPC always applied Marxist human rights theory to the Chinese context, pioneering a path of human rights predicated on the universality of human rights and one that is distinctively Chinese.
In the Great Revolution (1924-1927), the CPC took on improving people’s lives and protecting their right to subsistence as key objectives. In the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-1937), the CPC-led Chinese Soviet Government promulgated the Land Law, giving the peasants political rights as well as land to till, so that they could make a living. In the full-scale phase of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), the Party formulated a series of regulations and measures for human rights protection, and enacted tax and interest reduction policies in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region. In the War of Liberation (1945-1949), the Party emphasized protection of human rights and ensuring basic livelihoods for the people, formulated the Outline of the Land Law of China and carried out land reform among 100 million people in the liberated areas, distributing land among peasants and putting an end to feudal production relations. It organized production campaigns to ensure self-sufficiency, encouraged privately-owned industrial and commercial businesses, and provided social relief, all to ensure the people’s wellbeing.
Making the people masters of the country was a primary goal in ensuring human rights during the New Democratic Revolution. Universal suffrage was implemented in the CPC-led Central Soviet Area and the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region, and the long-oppressed people finally had the right to participate in politics and have their voice heard. During the War Against Japanese Aggression, the base areas established democratic governments with CPC members, progressive non-CPC figures, and centrists each occupying one third of the official posts. These policies and systems greatly encouraged the people to take part in revolution and political administration.
The legitimate rights and interests of women were protected. Following the guidelines of the CPC Central Committee on women’s liberation and marriage reform, and the marriage laws and regulations enacted and applied to all the soviet areas, arranged and mercenary marriage was abolished, and keeping maids or concubines was forbidden. Monogamy was established along with freedom of marriage, and postnuptial property was regarded as community property. For the first time, women gained the freedom of their person and economic equality in marriage. With rising social status, women became more active in revolution and in the workplace.
Culture, education, and health services flourished in the CPC-led areas. In the Outline of the Constitution of the Chinese Soviet Republic promulgated in the Central Soviet Area, it was stipulated that the working masses enjoyed equal right to education. Schools were built and training sessions organized to help improve people’s educational levels. In the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region the government set up night schools and newspaper reading groups to eliminate illiteracy, opened elementary and middle schools despite the difficult conditions, and founded the Lu Xun School of the Arts, the Yan’an Academy of Natural Sciences, and other institutions of higher education and research.
The Chinese Soviet Republic formed an epidemic prevention and control committee at the central level, and health departments (offices) were set up at the district, county and provincial levels. Hospitals were built for workers and peasants, as well as clinics for the poor and public health centers. The cohort of health workers was strengthened and mass campaigns were rolled out to prevent and control epidemics. All this significantly improved people’s health.
4. Human Rights Protection in the PRC
The founding of the PRC in 1949 ushered in a new era for people’s rights. It put an end to the exploitation, oppression and slavery that had shackled the Chinese nation for a century, and signified the beginning of substantial progress in human rights in a socialist country under the leadership of the CPC.
Since 1949, human rights in China have undergone three stages of development.
Stage 1: Beginning in 1949, the Chinese people committed themselves to socialist revolution and economic development under CPC leadership, establishing the basic systems of socialism, completing the most extensive and profound process of social change in Chinese history, and promulgating the first socialist constitution. All these laid the political and institutional foundation for human rights in China.
From a political perspective, the system of people’s democracy was established and consolidated, with democracy of the people and socialism as the basic principles. With the implementation of the system of people’s congresses, it was guaranteed that all rights of the state belonged to the people.
From an economic perspective, the completion of the land reform triggered a burst of great creativity among the people. Socialist transformation was completed in agriculture, individual craft industries, and capitalist industry and commerce, and the basic socialist system was formed to ensure equal access to economic development and the sharing of economic gains.
From a social perspective, the Marriage Law was promulgated, stipulating the free choice of spouses, the principle of monogamy, equal rights for men and women, and the protection of the lawful rights and interests of women and children. Efforts were made to promote education and health services, and medical and preventive care networks were established at every local level – village, township, county, city and province. Labor insurance was created and social relief was provided. The government stood firmly against ethnic oppression and discrimination, upheld equality among all ethnic groups, and introduced regional ethnic autonomy. In developing the legal framework, important laws were formulated and promulgated in line with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China to protect citizens’ basic rights.
Stage 2: Beginning in 1978, when reform and opening up was introduced, the CPC led the Chinese people on a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, unleashing an immense wave of social development and productivity. Thanks to tremendous progress in human rights the people enjoyed better protection of their rights to subsistence and development and other basic rights. Reform and opening up is a great revolution on the part of the Chinese people under CPC leadership. The Party pursues development as its top priority in governance and as the key to solving the problems of China; it strives to promote social productivity and improve human rights protection through development. During this stage the people enjoyed better lives and grew more active economically and socially. Under CPC leadership, China upheld the rule of law in all areas, and included in the Constitution as an important principle of national governance respect for and protection of human rights. Human rights progress was included in national development strategies and plans, the mechanisms for ensuring human rights in the context of China’s realities were improved, and the system for ensuring human rights with Chinese characteristics began to take shape.
Stage 3: Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. China has completed the mission of eradicating absolute poverty as scheduled under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core. Decisive success has been achieved in the final stage of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and human rights protection has been brought to new heights. Upholding people-centered development, the CPC is grounding its efforts in the new development stage, applying the new development philosophy, and creating a new framework of development. Focusing on high-quality development, it endeavors to meet the fundamental goal of satisfying the people’s growing desire for a better life. Implementing the Five-sphere Integrated Plan[ This refers to China’s overall plan for building socialism with Chinese characteristics, that is, to promote coordinated progress in the economic, political, cultural, social and eco-environmental fields.
] and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy[ This refers to China’s strategic plan for building socialism with Chinese characteristics, that is, to make comprehensive moves to complete a moderately prosperous society in all respects, to further reform, to advance the rule of law, and to strengthen Party self-governance.
], the Party has made sure that the people enjoy a greater sense of gain, happiness and security. As the Belt and Road Initiative builds momentum, the concept of a global community of shared future has been widely recognized.
II. The Principle of Respecting and Protecting Human Rights Embedded in Governance
1. In the Constitution as a Guiding Principle
As the fundamental law of a country, the Constitution is a written guarantee of the rights of citizens. Under the leadership of the CPC, China has established a Chinese socialist legal system with the Constitution at the core, thus laying a solid legal foundation for ensuring human rights.
In September 1954, the First Session of the First National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted the Constitution of the PRC, which declared that all power in the country belongs to the people. It provided a wide range of rights and freedom that citizens enjoy in political, economic, social, cultural, personal and other respects. In December 1982, the Fifth Session of the Fifth NPC adopted the current Constitution of the PRC, in which “The Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens” was moved forward and made second only to Chapter I, “General Principles”. This adjustment highlighted the importance of citizens’ rights. Meanwhile, this Constitution also expanded the range of rights under protection. Later, the NPC adopted five amendments to the Constitution in 1988, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2018, to better protect human rights. These involved the basic economic system, distribution system, protection of citizens’ private property, and the social security system.
The amendment adopted at the Second Session of the 10th NPC, held in March 2004, added the line “The state respects and safeguards human rights” into the Constitution. Since then, respecting and protecting human rights has been a basic principle of the system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics and a binding rule of conduct and a legal obligation of all state organs, armed forces, political parties, social organizations, enterprises and public institutions. No laws, regulations, rules and normative documents can be in conflict with the principle, and accountability must be enforced on all acts that violate it.
The CPC leads the people in fully and strictly enforcing the Constitution and takes the lead in fulfilling the constitutional responsibility of respecting and protecting human rights. This has been achieved through improving laws, regulations and institutional systems and developing various undertakings of the state. China has established mechanisms best suited to its political systems and national conditions for enforcing the Constitution and the oversight thereof. It has set up the NPC Constitution and Law Committee to carry out constitutional review, so as to better uphold the authority of the Constitution and ensure that the provisions of the Constitution are observed.
2. In State Governance as a Philosophy
Serving the people wholeheartedly is the fundamental purpose of the CPC. The Party adheres to a people-centered philosophy of development, exercises power for the people, and ensures that development is for the people and by the people and that its benefits are shared by the people. It embodies the principle of respecting and protecting human rights in its governance and self-improvement.
At the 15th CPC National Congress held in 1997, the report to the congress included for the first time the following expression: “ensuring that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedom endowed by law, and respecting and guaranteeing human rights”. The 16th CPC National Congress held in 2002 reiterated that “human rights are respected and guaranteed”, and included the following words in the goals of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects: “The political, economic and cultural rights and interests of the people will be respected and guaranteed in real earnest” and “promoting the all-round development of people”. The report to the 17th CPC National Congress held in 2007 read that “We must respect and guarantee human rights, and ensure the equal right to participation and development for all members of society in accordance with the law”, and “It [the CPC] respects and safeguards human rights” was formally added into the CPC Constitution.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, to further reform on all fronts and accelerate the modernization of China’s governance system and capacity, the CPC has attached greater importance to improving the systems and mechanisms for respecting and protecting human rights. At the 18th CPC National Congress, the principle that “human rights should be fully respected and protected” was included in the report to the congress and listed as one of the key strategic goals of building a moderately prosperous society and furthering reform and opening up in an all- round way. In 2014, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee adopted the Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Advancing the Rule of Law. The resolution emphasized the need to “provide stronger judicial protection of human rights” and to “strengthen awareness throughout the whole of society about the need to respect and safeguard human rights”. It stipulated ways to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected by the law: enhancing judicial protection of human rights and legislation in key areas, protecting citizens’ rights in accordance with the law, establishing a legal system featuring equal rights, equal opportunities and fair rules for all, ensuring the inviolability of citizens’ rights including personal rights, property rights and basic political rights, and making sure that citizens enjoy rights in economic, cultural, social and all other respects. The Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in 2015 made it clear that “human rights should be fully protected” is a major goal of promoting the rule of law during the entire 13th Five-year Plan period.
In 2017, the report to the 19th CPC National Congress stated: “the principal contradiction facing Chinese society in the new era is that between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. We must therefore continue commitment to our people-centered philosophy of development, and work to promote well-rounded human development and common prosperity for everyone.”
The report drew a blueprint for future progress in China’s human rights: From 2020 to 2035, on the basis of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the rights of the people to participate and to develop as equals will be adequately protected; from 2035 to the middle of the 21st century, building on having achieved basic modernization, we will develop China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful; common prosperity for everyone will be largely achieved; the Chinese people will enjoy happier, safer, and healthier lives; we will strengthen legal protection for human rights to ensure that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms as prescribed by law.
In 2019, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee pointed out that improving the wellbeing of the people and promoting well-rounded human development are essential to the Party’s commitment to serving the public good and exercising power in the interests of the people. In 2020, the proposal of the CPC Central Committee on formulating the 14th Five-year Plan for economic and social development and the long-range objectives through the year 2035 was adopted at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee. The proposal set higher goals for China’s development, which include promoting well-rounded human development and all-round social advancement and promoting comprehensive progress in human rights.
3. In National Development Plans for Its Realization
From 1953 to 2021, China has formulated 14 plans for national economic and social development, providing for the country’s development in economic, social, cultural, environmental and other respects.
In accordance with the proposal adopted at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee, the Fourth Session of the 13th NPC held in March 2021 deliberated and adopted the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 of the PRC. The outline set forth specific objectives, tasks, policies and measures for China’s development in economic, political, cultural, social, ecological and other fields in the next five years and 15 years. In the outline, it was emphasized that we must pursue people-centered development, adopt a new vision for development, and ensure the principal status of the people; we must move steadily toward common prosperity, safeguard the fundamental interests of the people, and unleash their enthusiasm, initiative and creativity; we must promote social equity and justice, improve the wellbeing of the people, and realize the people’s aspiration for a better life. This approach to development embodies the principle of respecting and protecting human rights.
Protecting people’s economic, social and cultural rights, especially their rights to employment, basic living, social security, health, education, culture, environment, property and other services, is essential to the rights of all to life and development. The state makes constant progress in protecting citizens’ basic rights by formulating outlines and plans for the development of various undertakings. In the past 10 years alone, the Chinese government formulated dozens of policy documents concerning people’s rights to subsistence and development in many fields. These include the Outline of Development-Driven Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas (2011-2020), the Outline of Healthy China 2030, the Outline of National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Education Reform and Development (2010-2020), the Outline of the Development of Human Resources and Social Security Undertakings During the 13th Five-Year Plan Period, the Outline of China’s Environmental Protection, the Program for Developing Ethnic Minority Areas and Ethnic Groups with Small Populations During the 13th Five-Year Plan Period, the Program for the Development of Women in China (2011-2020), the Program for the Development of Children in China (2011-2020), the Plan for the Development of China’s Old-Age Programs and Elderly-Care System, the Outline for the Development of People with Disabilities During the 13th Five-Year Plan Period, and the Rural Revitalization Strategic Plan (2018-2022). China also worked out a series of institutions and measures to protect citizens’ civil and political rights, particularly citizens’ personal rights, their rights to fair trial, freedom of religion, the rights to be informed, to be engaged and to be heard, and the right to oversee.
China actively responds to the initiatives of the international community. Since 2009, it has worked out three national human rights action plans, which is quite unusual among countries of the world. Currently, the work has begun to produce the fourth – the National Human Rights Action Plan (2021-2025). China has integrated its national human rights action plans with its national development plans.
III. Ensuring the People’s Position as Masters of the Country
Since the founding of the PRC in 1949, the CPC has established systems that respect China’s actual conditions and ensure the people’s principal status as masters of the country. The main ones are people’s congresses, which form the fundamental political system of China, CPC-led multiparty cooperation and political consultation, regional ethnic autonomy, and grassroots self-governance. These systems have laid a firm institutional foundation for protecting the fundamental interests of the people.
1. Ensuring Human Rights Through the Fundamental Political System
The system of people’s congresses is China’s fundamental political system. The essence of the system is to ensure that all power in the country belongs to the people and that the people participate in the management of state affairs and exercise power as masters of the country through the people’s congresses.
The system of people’s congresses ensures the rights of the people as the masters of the country. First, the National People’s Congress (NPC) is the highest state organ of power. The NPC and the local people’s congresses at all levels are created through democratic election; they are responsible to the people and subject to their oversight. The right to vote and stand for election is a basic right. Constituencies and organizations have the power to elect deputies and to remove them from office in accordance with procedures prescribed by law.
Second, in strict accordance with the principle of democratic centralism, people’s congresses and their standing committees exercise state power, decide on matters collectively, and represent the will and the fundamental interests of the people. Each NPC and local people’s congress has a term of five years. An NPC session is held once every year, while each local people’s congress convenes at least once every year.
Third, state power is exercised through people’s congresses. All administrative, supervisory, judicial and prosecuting organs of the state are created by the people’s congresses, answer to them, and are subject to their oversight.
Fourth, the NPC and its Standing Committee exercise the legislative power of the state. Amendments to the Constitution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of NPC deputies, while laws and other bills shall be adopted by a majority vote of NPC deputies or of members of the NPC Standing Committee.
As of April 2021, there are more than 2.6 million deputies to people’s congresses at all levels. The deputies are broadly representative of all ethnic groups, sectors, social strata and political parties. Among them are a considerable number of deputies who are workers or peasants. Among the deputies to the 13th NPC, workers and peasants account for 15.7 percent. To ensure that state power is truly in the hands of the people, deputies must represent the interests and will of the people when performing their duties. Deputies are entitled to submit, examine and vote on bills and proposals. The statements and votes of deputies at meetings of people’s congresses are protected by the law.
The system of people’s congresses is a unique political structure created by the people of China. It embodies the nature of the PRC as a socialist country and ensures that the Chinese people are the masters of the country. Through this system, the peoples of all ethnic groups hold the destiny of China and the nation firmly in their own hands.
2. Ensuring Human Rights Through the Political Party System
The political party system of China involves multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC. It is different from the two-party or multiparty systems of Western countries and the one-party systems of some other countries. In China, in addition to the governing CPC, there are eight other political parties. These are not opposition parties. They maintain good relations with the CPC, accepting the latter’s leadership and cooperating fully with it; they are participants in governance under the framework of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This framework of multiparty cooperation and participation under CPC leadership and governance is the defining feature of China’s political party system. This system is a new model that has grown out of the soil of China. It was established and developed by the CPC, other political parties and prominent individuals without party affiliation (non-affiliates) over the long period of China’s revolution, economic development and reform. It was a historical necessity; it represents great ingenuity; it possesses enormous strengths.
The CPC encourages the free airing of views. Through multiparty cooperation and political consultation it is committed to developing socialist democracy and advancing extensive, multilevel and institutionalized consultative democracy. In participating in governance, the main duties of the other political parties and the non-affiliates are assuming government office, and participating in consultations over major policies and candidates for key leadership positions, the management of state affairs, and the formulation and implementation of state policies, laws and regulations. Before decision-making on major issues concerning the country’s stability and the people’s wellbeing and during its implementation, the CPC carries out direct consultation with the other political parties and the non-affiliates and holds extensive consultations with people from all sectors of society at the sessions of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, central committees of the other political parties and non-affiliates have submitted more than 730 proposals to the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. From the First Session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee held in March 2018 to April 2021, the CPPCC National Committee received 23,048 proposals. Many of these have been adopted, playing an important role in building consensus and helping to modernize the country.
The CPC-led multiparty cooperation and political consultation system has realized unity between governance and participation in governance, leadership and cooperation, and consultation and oversight. It embodies the essential requirement of socialist democracy. It is conducive to protecting the interests of all social groups in China and ensuring that their expectations are met; it is conducive to making the voice of the people heard, reflecting their wishes, and improving their wellbeing. This structure ensures that people’s rightful claims are honored through a procedure guaranteeing the supremacy of the people
3. Ensuring Human Rights Through the System of Regional Ethnic Autonomy
China is a unified multiethnic state. Heightening a sense of identity of the Chinese nation, always maintaining the integrity and unification of the country, and all ethnic groups working jointly for common prosperity and development are the goals of the CPC’s ethnic policies. The system of regional ethnic autonomy means that areas with large ethnic minority populations shall practice regional autonomy, establish autonomous organs, and exercise the power of self-government under the unified leadership of the state. This basic political system is clearly specified in the country’s Constitution and its Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy.
Territorial integrity and national unification are preconditions for regional ethnic autonomy. They combine unification with autonomy and ethnic factors with regional factors, and are perfectly suited to China’s realities. China’s regional ethnic autonomy is autonomy under the unified leadership of the state. All ethnic autonomous areas are inseparable parts of the country, and all autonomous organs of these areas are local governments subject to the unified leadership of the central government.
Regional ethnic autonomy provides institutional and policy guarantees to ensure that ethnic minority citizens enjoy rights to equality and freedom and to economic, social and cultural services. On all standing committees of people’s congresses of the 155 ethnic autonomous areas, there are citizens from the ethnic groups exercising autonomy assuming the office of chair or vice chair; all governors, prefectural commissioners, heads of counties, or banners of ethnic autonomous areas are citizens from the ethnic groups exercising autonomy. China considers the characteristics and needs of all ethnic minorities, and assists all ethnic minority areas in accelerating their economic and cultural development.
4. Ensuring Human Rights Through the Institutions of Grassroots Democracy
The institutions of grassroots democracy are crucial to protecting the immediate interests of the people. Grassroots democracy operates in multiple forms, including self-governance through villagers committees in rural areas, self-governance through urban residents committees, and self-governance in enterprises and public institutions through workers congresses. Through these organizations, the people participate extensively and directly in the management of social affairs. The Constitution, the Organic Law of the Villagers Committees, the Organic Law of the Urban Residents Committees, the Trade Union Law and other laws and regulations contain provisions on the system of democratic self-governance at the grassroots level, providing a legal basis and institutional guarantee.
Through grassroots urban and rural organizations for self-governance, the people directly exercise their rights to democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight and manage their own affairs by involving the local residents in educating and serving the community and exercising public scrutiny. Urban and rural residents have elected almost 2.8 million members of the grassroots committees. The systems of committee meetings and congresses are improving, and the channels for urban and rural residents to participate in democratic decision-making are widening. Localities conduct discussions and consultations in flexible and diverse forms such as councils, hearings and others. All rural villages and urban communities have formulated their codes of conduct and the self-regulation of urban and rural residents has become more rule-based. Oversight committees have been universally established; the work to make community affairs more transparent is expanding; democratic appraisal and economic responsibility audit are carried out as a norm.
Across the country, 28 provinces and equivalent administrative units have formulated 35 local regulations concerning democratic management of enterprises. A preliminary institutional framework has been formed, with workers congresses as the basic element. The framework features open access to enterprise affairs, employees serving as board directors and board supervisors, and negotiation of collective contracts on an equal footing, supplemented by employees committees for democratic management and employees democratic councils.
IV. Making Comprehensive Progress in Human Rights
The CPC upholds the rights to subsistence and development as the primary and basic human rights, and works hard to ensure and improve people’s wellbeing through development. The Party makes every effort to achieve comprehensive progress in human rights and ensure the well-rounded development of all the people.
1. Ensuring the Right to Subsistence
After a long period of unremitting work, the Chinese people have attained liberation, secured adequate food and clothing, become better off and achieved moderate prosperity in all respects step by step, and they are now heading towards a higher level of common prosperity.
Poverty is the greatest obstacle to human rights. China has engaged in a huge program of poverty reduction focusing on development-driven poverty alleviation in rural areas. Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, the central Party leadership with Xi Jinping at the core has made specific plans and set clear goals and tasks for winning the battle against poverty. Resources across the Party and the whole country have been pooled for this battle. After eight years of continuous struggle, at the end of 2020 China achieved the goal of eliminating absolute poverty as scheduled. All the 99 million rural poor living below the current poverty line were raised from poverty, as were all the 832 counties and 128,000 villages classified as poor. Overall regional poverty no longer exists. China’s achievements in this field have written a new chapter in the history of human rights, and created a miracle in the global human rights effort. China is 10 years ahead in its plan to realize the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China’s contribution represents more than 70 percent of the global poverty reduction effort, and has significantly reduced the world’s impoverished population.
Living standards have improved. In 1952, China’s GDP was RMB67.9 billion and its per capita GDP was RMB119. In 1978, the GDP figure was RMB367.9 billion and the per capita figure was RMB385. In 2020, GDP reached RMB101.6 trillion, and per capita GDP was RMB72,000, more than the threshold of US$10,000 for the second year. In 1956, per capita disposable income of Chinese citizens was RMB98 and per capita consumer spending was RMB88. In 1978, the figures were RMB171 and RMB151. In 2020, per capita disposable income stood at RMB32,189, and per capita consumer spending was RMB21,210.
The rights to life and health are better protected. Treating health services as a matter of public welfare, the CPC has continued to drive deeper reform of the medical and health care system. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the Central Committee has followed two guidelines: “People’s health is a strategic priority for development”, and “Without a healthy population, we will be unable to achieve moderate prosperity”. Based on such understanding, the leadership took a major decision to carry out the Healthy China initiative. In 2019, the life expectancy of Chinese citizens rose to 77.3 years, compared with 35 years in 1949; the maternal and perinatal mortality rate dropped to 17.8 per 100,000; and the infant mortality rate to 5.6 per 1,000. Main health indicators were generally higher than the average level of middle- and high-income countries. The protection of women and children’s rights to life and health has been extended considerably. In this area, China is recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the 10 fast-track countries to MDGs 4 and 5a.
At the start of 2020, a Covid-19 epidemic spread in outbreaks all around the world. This is a global pandemic with the largest impact that humanity has encountered in a century, a serious crisis and a daunting challenge for the international community. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core, China has put the people’s interests and their lives and health first – nothing is more precious than people’s lives.
Launching the largest medical assistance operation since the founding of the PRC, China mobilized all its medical resources to support the efforts in Wuhan and other locations in Hubei Province. From January 24, Chinese New Year’s Eve, to March 8, it rallied 346 national medical teams, consisting of 42,600 medical workers and more than 900 public health professionals to the immediate aid of Hubei, especially the city of Wuhan. Nineteen provinces and equivalent administrative units assisted 16 other prefectures/cities in Hubei in the form of paired assistance. Employing proactive, science-based, and flexible ways of treatment, the medical workers did everything possible to treat each and every patient, from an infant only 30 hours old to a centenarian. The goal was to save every single victim whatever the cost. The Chinese government provided free treatment for patients. Government funds for Covid-19 control were made available in advance to ensure that they could receive timely treatment and local authorities could proceed smoothly with measures for medical treatment and epidemic control. The individual cost for treating some Covid-19 patients in critical conditions reached hundreds of thousands of yuan, and in some extreme cases even exceeded RMB1 million, all covered by the state.
The current round of Covid-19 vaccination is free to all. With informed and voluntary consent of the recipients, the vaccines and vaccination costs are borne by the medical and health care insurance fund with subsidies from the state budget.
2. Ensuring Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights
Employment is pivotal to people’s wellbeing. The CPC prioritizes employment in economic and social development. It carries out a pro-employment strategy and pursues a more proactive employment policy. In 2020, to compensate for the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic, the CPC Central Committee coordinated epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development. Employment topped the list of measures to stabilize the six fronts (employment, finance, foreign trade, inbound investment, domestic investment, and market expectations), and to guarantee the six priorities (jobs, daily living needs, food and energy, industrial and supply chains, the interests of market players, and the smooth functioning of grassroots government). A series of policies and measures were launched to reduce the burden on businesses, and stabilize and expand employment. As a result, the urban unemployment rate at the end of 2020 stood at 5.2 percent; 11.9 million new urban jobs were created, 2.9 million more than the forecast of 9 million.
China has put in place the world’s largest social security system, including pensions, medical and health care, and social assistance, expanding coverage and improving protection. In 2020, the basic medical insurance scheme covered 1.36 billion people, and a total of 44.3 million urban and rural residents received subsistence allowances. By April 2021, a little over 1 billion people had subscribed to basic old-age insurance across the country. In 2016, China pioneered a long-term nursing insurance system and launched real-time settlement of patient’s medical expenses for treatment incurred outside the administrative area of insurance registration.
Living conditions continue to improve. At the start of reform and opening up the per capita floor space of urban residents was only 6.7 sq m and rural residents 8.1 sq m. In 2019, the corresponding figures were 39.8 sq m and 48.9 sq m. Construction projects have been launched to provide affordable housing to urban residents, providing better housing to 200 million poor, and dilapidated rural dwellings have been renovated.
Travel facilities are also improving. At the end of 2020, China’s road network totaled 5.2 million km in length, 64 times of the figure in 1949 when the PRC was founded. China’s figure of 161,000 km of expressways is the highest in the world. The rural road network reached 4.4 million km, and 99.4 percent of administrative villages had bus services, realizing the dream of the rural people to have easy access to public transport. Urban passenger transport services such as buses, trams, and rail transit have developed rapidly. New business models such as online car-hailing, online bicycle rental, and time-share leasing continue to emerge. At the end of 2020, the rail network extended 146,000 km, including 38,000 km of high-speed rail. The country had 241 civil aviation airports.
The right to education is guaranteed. Investment in education has grown substantially; conditions and standards in schools have greatly improved; rural education has been strengthened, and major strides have been made in ensuring equal access to education. Free compulsory education is available across the country. In 2020, the completion rate of the free nine-year compulsory education was 95.2 percent; in this metric China has reached the average of high-income countries. China’s gross enrollment rate in senior secondary education was 91.2 percent, higher than the average of upper-middle-income countries. Vocational education has developed rapidly, and higher education is transitioning from mass access to universal access. In 2020, about 9.7 million undergraduate students and 1.1 million postgraduates enrolled in colleges and universities.
Socialist cultural undertakings in China are flourishing in every respect. A public cultural service system covering both urban and rural areas is in place, and an increasing number of public cultural facilities are open to the public without charge. In 2019, China had 44,073 public cultural centers, including 33,530 township cultural facilities; the centers hosted 8,094 literary and artistic groups; and the township facilities hosted 441,800 amateur art groups. There were 3.7 million sports venues nationwide covering an area of 3.1 billion sq m, or a per capita area of 2.2 sq m. This represented a significant increase in public sports venues including stadiums, fitness centers, sports parks (or parks with sports facilities), and open fitness facilities.
China upholds the basic national policy of environmental protection, and follows the path of sustainable development, believing that a good eco-environment is the most inclusive form of public wellbeing. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the central leadership has adopted the philosophy of green development: “Clear waters and green mountains are invaluable assets.” It has incorporated eco-environmental progress into the Five-sphere Integrated Plan of building socialism with Chinese characteristics together with economic, political, cultural and social progress, and pursues green and low-carbon development with priority given to the eco-environment.
Satellite images show that from 2000 to 2017, China contributed a quarter of the world’s newly forested land, ranking first among all countries. According to preliminary calculations, China’s carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 were 48.4 percent lower than that in 2005, over-delivering on its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 40-45 percent. In 2020, clean energy consumption accounted for 24.3 percent of total energy consumption, a rise of 17.7 percentage points from 1978. The average concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in cities at or above the prefecture level fell by 28.8 percent compared with 2015; and the proportion of excellent and good quality surface water (I-III) grew to 83.4 percent while that of inferior Class V surface water dropped to 0.6 percent.
3. Coordinating Protection of Civil and Political Rights
Personal rights protection has been strengthened in China. The Constitution states that “the personal freedom of citizens of the PRC shall not be violated.” The Legislation Law stipulates that matters involving criminal offences and penalties, compulsory measures and penalties involving deprivation of a citizen’s political rights or restriction of personal freedom, and the justice system must be governed by laws developed by the National People‘s Congress (NPC) and its Standing Committee. The Criminal Law sets the principles of legality, equality before the law, and punishment fitting the crime. It punishes criminal acts that violate citizens’ rights to life, health, freedom, etc., as provided for by the law. The Criminal Procedure Law states in the General Provisions that respecting and protecting human rights is one of the objectives of this law, and defines the principles of presumption of innocence and exclusionary rule to protect the human rights of criminal suspects, defendants and criminals. The Civil Code states that a natural person’s right to life, life safety and dignity are protected by law and free from infringement by any organization or individual. The Law on Administrative Penalty, the Administrative Compulsion Law and other administrative laws protect the personal rights of citizens by regulating administrative power. China has successively abolished the systems of re-education through labor and of detention education to better protect the personal freedom of its citizens.
The right to vote is guaranteed by law. The right to vote and to stand for election is a basic political right of citizens defined in the Constitution: All citizens who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status, or length of residence, except persons deprived of political rights in accordance with the law. The principles of universality, equality, combination of direct and indirect elections, competitive election and secret ballot are applied to ensure equal right to vote for everyone in accordance with the law. The election system ensures that both rural and urban areas are represented by people’s congress deputies in proportion to their population, and that all regions, ethnic groups, and sectors of society have a certain proportion of deputies.
People’s rights to know, to be involved, to express views, and to supervise the exercise of power are better protected. A mechanism through which public opinion is consulted in drafting laws has been established and improved. By April 2021, the state legislatures had solicited public opinion on 230 draft laws. A total of 425,762 comments were received for the draft Civil Code alone, collecting 1,021,834 pieces of opinion.
Administrative work of the government has been made more transparent. Following the principle that public disclosure is the rule rather than the exception, a list of well-defined powers, a list of responsibilities and a negative list for governments at different levels have been introduced across the country. The power list for governments at provincial, city and county levels has been published nationwide.
The mechanism in which decisions are made in accordance with the law has been improved, with a focus on the effectiveness of public participation and the quality of expert discussion, so as to protect the citizens’ right to participate in administrative decision-making.
The public complaints reporting system has been steadily improved to ensure problems are handled in a lawful and timely manner, and people’s legitimate rights and interests are protected. The national public complaints information system links the public complaints and proposals departments of all the provincial-level administrative units on the Chinese mainland, and 42 departments of the CPC Central Committee and ministries of the central government. This system makes it easier for people to report information, or raise suggestions, complaints, or requests.
A system to solicit proposals from the public has been set up. China provides smooth channels through which people express their opinions, and offers innovative means of public supervision. It has put in place convenient and effective online platforms for citizens to offer their views and advice, express their demands, and participate in social management in an orderly manner, making such platforms an important channel for realizing whole-process democracy.
Citizens and social organizations have the right to supervise state organs and public functionaries. The NPC Standing Committee performs its constitutional and legal duty of supervision. The system for recording and reviewing regulations, rules and other normative documents has been improved, and a national platform has been set up to this end.
Freedom of religious belief is guaranteed. Based on the realities of the country and the conditions applying to its religions, China follows the policies of separation of government from religion and of freedom of religious belief, maintains religious harmony, builds active and healthy religious relations, and respects and protects the citizens’ right to follow or not to follow any religion. The government protects normal religious activities, and manages religious affairs involving national and public interests but does not interfere in the internal affairs of religions. It supports all religions in upholding the principle of independence and self-management, and in carrying out external exchanges on the basis of independence, equality, friendship, and mutual respect. In China, believers and non-believers respect each other and live in harmony; they work together in China’s reform and opening up and socialist modernization for the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
4. Protecting the Rights of Special Groups in All Respects
China maintains that all ethnic groups are equal. It ensures that people of all ethnic groups have equal rights to administer state affairs in accordance with the law. China protects the rights of ethnic minority groups through the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, the Electoral Law for the National People’s Congress and Local People’s Congresses, the Education Law, the Law on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language, the Employment Promotion Law, and other relevant laws and regulations.
All 55 ethnic minority groups have deputies at the NPC and members in the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The 13th NPC has 438 deputies from ethnic minority groups, accounting for 14.7 percent of the total, and the 13th CPPCC National Committee has 247 members from ethnic minority groups, making up 11.5 percent of the total.
China has invested a significant effort in ethnic minority education. It works to ensure their right to education by running boarding schools in farming and pastoral areas, opening preparatory courses and special classes for ethnic minorities at colleges and schools, and prioritizing ethnic minority areas in developing higher education. Nine-year compulsory education (elementary and junior high schools) is universal in ethnic minority areas. In Tibet Autonomous Region and south Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, students are exempt from charges for education for a total of 15 years from preschool to senior high school.
With the exception of the Hui, who have used Han Chinese historically, and the Manchu and She peoples who now generally use Han Chinese, the other 52 ethnic minorities have their own spoken languages, and over 20 groups use nearly 30 written scripts. The Chinese government protects by law the legitimate use of the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities in the areas of administration and judicature, press and publishing, radio, film and television, and culture and education.
China has put in place a legal system of more than 100 laws and regulations that comprehensively protects the rights and interests of women and children. It has enacted three guidelines on women’s development and three on children’s development, coordinating protection of women and children with economic and social development.
China promulgated a special law to prevent and stop domestic violence and protect the legal rights of family members.
The Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law have been amended many times to strengthen the protection of minors. Robust action has been taken against criminal acts against minors, and the system of special protection for minors involved in crimes has been improved. In April 2021, there were more than 1,800 juvenile courts, and more than 1,500 juvenile prosecuting organs with more than 4,400 prosecutors.
Respecting the elderly is a traditional virtue of the Chinese culture. The Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly has been formulated and amended a number of times, while regional regulations were made in 31 provinces and equivalent administrative units to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the elderly. In November 2019, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Medium and Long-term Plan for Proactive National Response to Population Aging, strengthening the top-level framework for protecting the rights and interests of the elderly.
All provincial-level administrative units on the Chinese mainland have adopted the subsidy system for elderly people experiencing economic difficulties or suffering from disabilities. China is building a health service system for the elderly. In March 2021, China had more than 330,000 institutions and facilities with 8.2 million beds to provide services to the elderly. 14.8 million senior citizens received subsistence allowances; 3.8 million received assistance and support for people in extreme difficulty; 32.9 million received advanced age subsidies, nursing subsidies, and other old-age subsidies.
Protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has been strengthened. By April 2021, China had more than 90 laws and more than 50 administrative regulations on protection of the rights and interests of this group. China has established a subsidy system to provide living expenses for disabled persons in need and to pay the nursing costs of persons with severe disabilities. By 2020, this system had benefited 12.1 million of the former and 14.7 million of the latter.
China provides 12-year free education for disabled students with financial difficulties; 15-year free education for such students has been realized in Beijing, Liaoning, Jiangsu, Tibet, Xinjiang and some other provinces and equivalent administrative units. The government provides vocational training and employment services for persons with disabilities. By 2020, 6.3 million people with disabilities had received vocational skills training.
China gives strong support to creating an accessible environment, and developing the industry of assistive appliances for rehabilitation. It has established and implemented a rehabilitation and assistance system for children with disabilities, and made constant efforts to improve social care services for low-income people with severe disabilities. It is moving faster to develop community rehabilitation services for mental disorders, and to build mental health welfare institutions.
V. Protecting the Basic Rights of Citizens in Accordance with the Law
The CPC has integrated law-based governance with human rights protection, promoting both throughout the whole process of socialist rule of law. In advancing law-based governance, sound legislation has created a legal system to protect human rights, strict law enforcement has fostered a good law-based environment for human rights protection, and judicial justice has provided an effective channel for judicial remedy in the field of human rights. A sound system of intra-Party regulation has been formed based mainly on the Party Constitution and supplemented by other intra-Party rules, which is most effective in fighting corruption and safeguarding people’s interests.
1. Improving the Legal System to Protect People’s Basic Rights
Under the leadership of the CPC and based on the Constitution, a Chinese socialist system of laws has taken shape, providing a relatively complete legal system to protect human rights. As of April 2021, there were 277 laws in force in China, including the Constitution and related laws, civil and commercial law, administrative law, economic law, social law, criminal law and procedural law related to litigation and non-litigation. The Civil Code plays an important role in equal protection of people’s rights and advancing the cause of human rights in such areas as life and health, property, people’s wellbeing and human dignity. The Law on Promotion of Basic Medical and Health Care, the Food Safety Law, the Law on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases and the Law on Physical Culture and Sports include provisions to protect citizens’ rights to life and health. The Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law provide the principles of legality, presumption of innocence, and exclusion of evidence obtained by illegal means, explicitly banning forced confessions. The Legislation Law, the Administrative Compulsion Law and the Law on Administrative Penalties follow the principle of strictly confining any compulsory measures and penalties involving personal freedom within the precise scope of the relevant laws. The Electoral Law, the Labor Law and the Education Law have incorporated into the protection system the citizens’ rights to vote, to be elected, to work and to access education.
2. Applying Rule of Law in Governance to Safeguard the Basic Rights of the People
China has made efforts to strengthen law-based governance and build a government that is open, impartial, clean, efficient and honest, with properly defined functions, statutory powers and responsibilities, and strict law enforcement. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have released the Implementation Outline for Building a Law-based Government (2015-2020) and the Plan on Developing the Rule of Law in China (2020-2025) and other documents, putting forward measures and ideas for government functions, administrative institutions, administrative decisions, administrative law enforcement, and thinking in terms of the rule of law, thus effectively ensuring that people enjoy their basic rights.
Administrative power is constrained within the perimeter of the law. China has established a principle under which administrative bodies must not take any action that is not mandated by law. It has completed reform of the administrative structure, and prohibited any exercise of power not provided for by law, or any illegal use of power. The state has issued regulations on enacting normative documents and supervising and managing the implementation of such documents, and regulations on major administrative decision-making processes. It is prescribed that all government departments should employ legal advisers and government lawyers. China has improved its procedural standards for administrative law enforcement, and established a system of benchmarks for administrative discretion. It has developed systems to conduct investigations and collect evidence in administrative law enforcement, to keep any parties concerned informed, to manage the revenues from fines and confiscation, and to connect administrative law enforcement with criminal justice. The state has established public notification of administrative law enforcement, a recording system throughout the whole process of law enforcement, and a legal review of major law enforcement decisions. It has expanded the scope of hearings, and defined the effectiveness of hearing procedures. It has promoted non-mandatory law enforcement, carried out humane and flexible law enforcement, and established the principle of no punishment for a first offense that is trivial and has no serious consequences.
China has strengthened the supervision of administrative enforcement of the law in all respects and improved the remedial process. China uses IT application in the management and on-site recording of case-handling procedures, and has strengthened real-time supervision over law enforcement activities. It has established a performance appraisal system with the focus on law enforcement, and put in place a sound administrative review system that is impartial, efficient and convenient and works in the interest of the people. The state has developed platforms to provide information and online supervision concerning administrative law enforcement, ensuring that enforcement personnel are professional and follow standardized rules in their work, and law enforcement management is systematic, and applying IT in the procedure. It has strengthened accountability mechanisms and effectively regulated administrative acts.
In its effort to build a service-oriented government, China has continued to deepen reform, accelerate the transformation of government functions, ensure an environment of fair competition by legal means, and strengthen oversight and service provision. It has phased out licensing of matters not covered by the Law on Administrative Licensing, and replaced the provision of documentary evidence with an undertaking that relevant conditions have been met, for applications concerning individual matters and operating permits required for businesses, with strengthened oversight during and after the process. Government departments have published a full list of their services, established a government service evaluation system, and streamlined work processes to create a quality and efficient service environment. The central government has promoted online public services, advanced a national online platform for government services, and improved the standards, efficacy and connectivity of the service platforms of different regions and departments, ensuring that everyone has equitable and convenient access to basic public services.
3. Improving the Judiciary to Protect the Basic Rights of Citizens
By deepening reform of the judiciary, China has improved the allocation of judicial powers and responsibilities to ensure independent and impartial exercise of judicial power and the power of prosecutors. It has reformed the category-based management of judicial personnel and job security for the judicial profession. The state has carried out unified management of personnel, funds and property in people’s courts and procuratorates under the provincial level, and set up trans-regional people’s courts and people’s procuratorates. Courts to handle intellectual property and financial cases, and online courts have been established in some provinces and equivalent administrative units.
To implement judicial accountability in all respects, China has carried out comprehensive and integrated reform of the judicial system. The state has made clear the powers and responsibilities of judges and prosecutors, improved the disciplinary mechanisms, and strengthened checks and oversight. The people’s courts have improved the list of judicial power and responsibilities, and strictly implemented the accountability system for unlawful judicial decisions, ensuring that those who hear cases pass judgments and take accountability for the cases they have adjudicated. The people’s procuratorates have developed a performance measurement system and evaluation mechanisms for prosecutors, focusing on the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of their case handling, to ensure that those who handle a case and make a ruling assume full responsibility for it. China has strictly implemented regulations to prevent interference in the justice system.
China has strictly implemented a case docketing and registration system across the board to fully protect citizens’ right to take legal action. The judiciary has continued to combine harsh punishment and leniency in handling criminal cases, and apply appropriate penalties in accordance with the law. It has improved criminal proceedings and standardized the system of showing leniency to suspects and defendants who confess to their crimes. China has improved a fast-track sentencing procedure for criminal cases and further separated the handling of simple and complex cases to punish those found guilty promptly in accordance with the law and to protect human rights. In 2020, 87 percent of the criminal cases were treated with leniency after the accused pled guilty. China has amended the Civil Procedure Law and improved the system of civil evidence to provide solutions to disputes more effectively. Separation of simple and complex civil cases has been piloted in 305 courts in 20 cities in 15 provinces. The state has strengthened judicial protection of public interest, and improved the system by which prosecuting bodies can bring public interest lawsuits to court. It has amended the Administrative Procedure Law, strengthened the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of any individual subjected to an administrative action, and issued regulations stipulating that the individual in charge of an administrative agency should appear in court if a lawsuit is filed against the agency.
Judicial activities are becoming more open to increase judicial transparency. China has improved the information-releasing platforms on judicial procedures, trials, written judgments, and the execution of judgments. It keeps improving the service of China Procuratorial Network and China Procuratorial Hearing Network. As of April 2021, China Judgments Online had published over 119 million judgments, attracting 60.7 billion visits. About 12.7 million court trials had been broadcast live. China has strengthened supervision over judicial activities, criminal proceedings and civil administrative proceedings, and carried out supervision over public interest litigation. It has implemented the Law on People’s Jurors, improved the system of people’s jurors, and deepened reform of the system of people’s supervisors.
China strives to ensure that those accused of criminal offences receive a fair trial. China has promoted reform of the criminal litigation system centered on the court trial. It strictly follows the principles of legality, presumption of innocence, and evidence-based verdict, and excludes any evidence obtained by illegal means. It has improved the mechanism for witnesses to appear in court, and ensures that court trial plays the decisive role in the judicial process. China has fully guaranteed the rights of criminal suspects and defendants to defense and to legal aid. Pilot work has been advanced to ensure that a legal defense is provided in all criminal cases. The state protects defense lawyers’ right to meet their clients, to examine the case files, to investigate and obtain evidence, to conduct cross-examination, to debate and defend, and other rights related to court hearings. It has improved the mechanism for lawyers to perform their duties in accordance with the law, and formed a joint quick response system to ensure lawyers’ right to practice. China follows the principle of seeking truth from facts and corrects any mistakes found in judicial proceedings to prevent and address miscarriage of justice. China is very cautious about using the death penalty, and the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty has been reduced significantly.
China ensures the legitimate rights and interests of criminal suspects, defendants, prisoners, minor offenders under community correctional programs, people on drug rehabilitation and people released from jail after serving their sentence. China has put in place sound systems of commutation, parole and temporary execution of sentence outside prison, and continues to improve the mechanisms for promoting open, dynamic, transparent, and convenient law enforcement in prison, and to standardize law enforcement in prison. The government has promulgated the Community Correction Law and measures for its implementation, which has helped to institutionalize and standardize sentences of community services and made the system more professional. It has strengthened supervision, management and education of and assistance to those sentenced to community service, and a less restrictive social environment can help them reintegrate into society more smoothly. The state has promulgated the Narcotics Control Law and the Regulations on Drug Rehabilitation, ensured the legitimate rights and interests of persons in rehabilitation, and carried out law enforcement supervision in this regard. China has improved the institutions and mechanisms for social organizations to help educate the people released from jail after serving their sentence, ensured their access to social assistance, and provided employment assistance to them to facilitate their return to normal life.
China has improved the system of remedy for infringement of rights and judicial assistance. It has put in place a state compensation system. Compensation has increased over the years along with the economic and social development of the country. The daily compensation for violation of a citizen’s personal liberty has risen from RMB17.2 in 1995 to RMB373.1 in 2021. China has improved the state judicial assistance system. It has established judicial assistance committees, and improved the institutions for dovetailing judicial assistance with social assistance and legal aid to help victims of a crime who are unable to obtain sufficient compensation to extricate themselves from financial difficulties.
China strives to improve its public legal services. The state has stepped up efforts to develop a modern network covering both urban and rural areas that provides convenient and efficient public legal services to all. A sound legal aid system has been established and specifications for criminal, civil and administrative legal aid services have been issued to provide legal aid to more people. China encourages the development of the legal profession. As of April 2021, there were 529,000 lawyers throughout the country.
VI. Advancing Human Rights Around the World
The CPC is committed to bringing freedom and happiness to the Chinese people, and peace and progress to the whole of humanity. Its achievements prove that it is a peace-loving political party committed to progress, justice and human rights in the world.
1. Devoted to World Peace and Progress
Since the founding of the PRC in 1949, the CPC has taken world peace as its most serious concern, because it is critical to the future of humanity. China supported the efforts of developing countries to get rid of colonial domination, achieve national independence, and end racial segregation. In the 1950s, the CPC initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence:
• mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity
• mutual non-aggression
• non-interference in each other’s internal affairs
• equality and mutual benefit
• peaceful coexistence
In 1955, the Bandung Conference set these five principles as the basis for Asian and African countries to establish friendship, cooperation and good-neighborly relations. The Non-Aligned Movement that rose in the 1960s set these principles as its guideline. These principles were also accepted in a number of declarations adopted at the 1970 and 1974 UN general assemblies. The five principles have been an important foundation by which the CPC handles China’s foreign affairs, and have become a cornerstone of international law and international relations, widely recognized and observed by the international community.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the CPC made the judgment that peace and development are the themes of today’s world. Upholding peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, China has become a major force in promoting world peace and progress. Adhering to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, China is committed to upholding the UN-centered international system and the international law-based global order. To promote peaceful settlement of disputes, and safeguard world peace and regional security and stability, it advocates global governance based on extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and champions a new vision of security that is common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable.
China began to participate in UN peacekeeping operations in 1990, and dispatched peacekeeping police for the first time in 2000. It now ranks first among the permanent members of the UN Security Council in terms of the number of peacekeepers dispatched, and is the second largest fund contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping actions. China has sent more than 40,000 military personnel to participate in about 30 UN peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Lebanon, Cambodia, Libya, and other countries and regions.
China actively participates in international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, opposes arms races, and safeguards global strategic balance and stability. China has signed up more than 20 multilateral arms control, disarmament or non-proliferation treaties such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. As a UN Security Council permanent member, China is active in the political settlement of international and regional flashpoints, and in international cooperation on law enforcement and security. To combat terrorism, separatism, extremism, and drug-related crimes it has intensified cooperation under the framework of international and regional organizations, including the UN, the International Criminal Police Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Committed to poverty elimination and its own development, China also provides assistance, without any political conditions, to strengthen other developing countries’ capacity for development, improve and enrich the lives of their people, and promote their economic growth and social progress. China’s aid takes various forms, including complete projects, goods and materials, technological cooperation, cooperation on training human resources, medical teams and volunteers, humanitarian aid, and debt relief. Over the past seven decades, it has assisted 166 countries and international organizations, sent over 600,000 people on aid missions, and canceled matured government interest-free debts owed by heavily indebted poor countries and least-developed countries on seven occasions. It has provided medical assistance to 69 Asian, African, Latin American and Caribbean, and Oceanian countries, and helped more than 120 developing countries achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. Since 1998, in order to support mine-clearance in over 40 affected countries and help their rebuilding efforts, China has provided RMB100 million in the forms of donations, materials, training sessions and on-the-spot guidance, and trained more than 1,000 demining specialists.
China actively participates in the consultations on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It has implemented the agenda at home in all respects, and took the lead in publishing its national plan and progress report, delivering early results in a number of fields. China has assisted other developing countries to pursue the agenda within the south-south cooperation framework. By 2020, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Sub-Fund of the China-UN Peace and Development Trust Fund had launched 34 projects covering the economy, society and the environment in support of the agenda. The South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund launched by China in 2015 has carried out over 100 development cooperation projects concerning disaster relief, health, women and children, refugees and environmental protection in more than 50 countries in Asia, Africa, America and other continents.
2. Engaging in International Human Rights Undertakings
China has signed 26 international human rights instruments, including six core UN conventions. It fulfills its obligations prescribed in these human rights conventions, ensures that the formulation, legislation, and any amendments of its laws and policies are consistent with these conventions, and submits periodic reports to give feedback on the progress made and any difficulties and problems encountered in implementing them. China attends the reviews from the treaty bodies on its implementation. China has conducted constructive dialogue with the relevant treaty bodies and adopted their suggestions in accordance with the actual conditions in China. It has also undertaken three cycles of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review since 2009, with its reports being adopted, and it has given due attention and responsible feedback to all suggestions from other countries. Most countries have affirmed China’s achievements in this regard and its contribution to international human rights.
Since China recovered its legitimate seat in the UN in 1971, it has played an active role in international human rights issues. In 1982, China became an official member state of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and has maintained this position ever since. Since the UNHRC was established in 2006, it has been elected a council member five times, and about 20 Chinese experts served on the UN’s multilateral human rights organizations and special commissions.
China maintains constructive contacts with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), receiving eight visits by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to China, and inviting many of the OHCHR officials to visit China. By April 2021, China has invited 11 visits by nine UN representatives and groups:
• the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,
• the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,
• the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education,
• the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
• the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food,
• the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls,
• the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt,
• the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and
• the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.
China handles letters from the Special Procedures of the UNHRC with due attention, carrying out any necessary investigations and giving timely replies.
China is a contributor to international human rights standards:
• It has attended the meetings of the drafting groups of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, along with other important documents on human rights protection.
• As one of the major initiators, it took part in the drafting of the Declaration on the Right to Development.
• It urged other Asian countries to adopt the Bangkok Declaration on human rights in 1993, and participated in drafting the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action at the Second World Conference on Human Rights.
• It actively participates in the formulation of international rules on labor protection, humanitarianism and social responsibility.
• As one of the first signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, it participated in and effectively promoted the whole multilateral process of climate change issues, and made a positive contribution to the adoption of the Paris Agreement.
China supports the reform of international human rights organizations in a fair, rational and inclusive direction. In establishing the UNHRC, China advocated membership based on equitable geographical distribution, so as to increase the representation of developing countries. It proposes to reverse the present practice of politicizing human rights issues, do away with double standards, refrain from confrontation or minimize its impact, facilitate cooperation, and encourage the UNHRC to review human rights issues in a just, objective, non-selective and universal manner. China supports the UNHRC in establishing specialized mechanisms for securing safe drinking water, protecting cultural rights, and defending the rights of persons with disabilities. It advocates for special conferences on food security and global financial mechanisms, and promotes the international mechanisms for protecting human rights. China stands by the necessary reform of the human rights treaty bodies, seeing that they perform their duties within their mandate and engage in dialogue and cooperation with signatory states on the basis of mutual respect.
Since 1990, China has held dialogues and discussions on human rights with Western countries and international organizations such as the US, Australia, Canada, the UK, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, New Zealand and the EU, and held consultations with developing countries and international organizations including Russia, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Malaysia, Pakistan, Belarus, Cuba, and the African Union. The China Society for Human Rights Studies, China Foundation for Human Rights Development and other human rights NGOs in China have taken an active part in the UNHRC conferences and activities, organized teams to visit dozens of countries in Asia, North America, South America, Europe, Oceania and Africa. They have also invited government officials, experts and academics on human rights from various countries to visit China to enhance mutual understanding and trust. Through a series of international mechanisms like the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, the South-South Human Rights Forum, the China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights, and the Sino-American Dialogue on the Rule of Law and Human Rights, China has expanded its exchanges and cooperation with other countries on human rights, leading to greater mutual understanding in this respect.
3. Building a Global Community of Shared Future
Belt and Road cooperation is a major platform for building a global community of shared future. Upholding the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and pursuing open, green and clean cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative promotes policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity and targets high-standard, sustainable and people-centered goals. It is an initiative for common development and also for protecting human rights. According to a World Bank study[ The World Bank, Belt and Road Economics: Opportunities and Risks of Transport Corridors, 2019.
], the initiative could help lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million people out of moderate poverty. It could boost trade by 2.8 to 9.7 percent for the corridor economies, and by 1.7 to 6.2 percent for the world. Global real income could increase by 0.7 to 2.9 percent. In addition to a path towards peace, prosperity, opening up, innovation, and cultural exchanges, the Belt and Road is also a route to common development and full human rights for the whole of humanity.
China is also striving to create a just and rational global environmental governance system driven by cooperation and mutual benefit, and eventually to build a community of harmony between humanity and nature. China has established the China-EU High-Level Environment and Climate Dialogue, and continued south-south cooperation on climate change. It inaugurated the China-Africa Environmental Cooperation Center, and promoted the adoption of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Taking eco-environmental cooperation as a major element of Belt and Road cooperation, it has launched a series of green action initiatives, and adopted such measures as green infrastructure construction, green energy, green transport and green finance, so as to deliver solid benefits to all peoples of the countries participating in the Belt and Road. China has announced that it will try to make its carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and will strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. This strategic policy decision is based on its commitment to help build a global community of shared future and its internal need for sustainable development.
China has engaged itself actively in building a global community of health for all. By building hospitals, offering medicine and medical equipment, dispatching medical teams, training local healthcare workers, and carrying out exchanges and cooperation on disease prevention and control, it has helped recipient developing countries further improve their medical and healthcare provision, raise the standards of their disease prevention and control, and strengthen their capabilities in public health. By April 2021, it had dispatched 27,000 medical workers on aid missions abroad, who have treated 280 million patients.
China has been carrying out exchanges and cooperation with the international community since the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic. It has done all it can to provide assistance and support to international organizations and other countries, contributing ingenuity and strength to the global battle against the coronavirus. President Xi Jinping acted in person to promote international cooperation, calling for solidarity from all countries in the battle, and joint efforts in building a global community of health for all. By April 2021, China had donated USD50 million in cash to the World Health Organization (WHO), and sent 37 medical expert teams to 34 countries. It has already provided or is offering assistance to 151 countries and 14 international organizations, and has contributed to the UN Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. All these efforts support international epidemic prevention and control. At the same time, China has strengthened communication and exchanges with the WHO, conducted exchanges and cooperation with other countries on research in virus traceability, medicines, vaccines, and testing, shared scientific research data and information, and jointly studied prevention, control and treatment strategies.
VII. Adding Diversity to the Concept of Human Rights
For China, there are no ready models to copy in respecting, protecting and developing human rights. China must proceed from its prevailing realities and go its own way. Applying the principle of universality of human rights to China’s national conditions, the CPC has opened a new path of human rights protection, and added diversity to the concept of human rights with its own practices.
– Upholding CPC leadership and the socialist system in promoting human rights. We would not have socialism in China without the leadership of the CPC, nor could we protect the fundamental interests of the people without socialism as the basic system. The people as the masters of the country is the basic political principle of the CPC on human rights, realized by democracy, freedom, equality and other rights, which are also important core socialist values. By developing and protecting human rights, the CPC can strengthen its leadership and better develop socialism for long-term peace, stability, and prosperity.
– Promoting human rights through development. Development is the key to solving all China’s problems; it drives human rights progress in the country. Based on its prevailing realities, the CPC considers the rights to subsistence and development to be the primary rights; this is the secret of China’s progress in human rights. The right to subsistence comes before any other right, and the right to development is closely connected to the right to subsistence. The CPC believes that putting subsistence and development first and subsequently developing other rights is the only way to meet the people’s expectation that their rights will be protected.
– Taking a people-centered approach to human rights. The CPC comes from the people and has its roots in the people. It serves the people and seeks to improve their wellbeing. Putting people first and ensuring their principal status have always been the core of the CPC’s view on human rights. In his letter to the seminar on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, President Xi Jinping proposed that living a happy life is the primary human right, giving new meaning to China’s progress in human rights in the new era. His thought on human rights highlights the position of the people and the essentials of human rights development in China. There is no end to human rights development and human rights protection is an ongoing cause. Human rights in China should be judged only by the Chinese people, and gauged by their sense of gain, happiness and security.
– Aiming for people’s well-rounded development. Well-rounded development is a goal of the people in their pursuit of a strong, modern socialist country under the CPC leadership, and the ultimate goal of the cause of human rights in China. According to classical Marxist writers, the free development of each individual is the precondition for the free development of all people. Well-rounded development means all-round development for all people, including development of character, ability, knowledge, and rights. The CPC’s drive to advance human rights in the context of building Chinese socialism is designed to lay down the foundations for the free and well-rounded development of the people. The Party attaches equal attention to collective rights and individual rights; to the primary position of the rights to subsistence and development and to the coordinated development of civil rights, political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights; to the coordination of the economy, society, resources, and environmental protection, and to sustainable development for people’s wellbeing now and in future.
– Building a global community of shared future. Confronted by a scale of change unseen in a century, President Xi Jinping has proposed to build a global community of shared future that puts people first and prioritize people’s development. In response to the global call for peace, development, cooperation, and common progress, the proposal emphasizes inclusiveness, cooperation, openness, and sharing of benefits. It is intended to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity. It is in line with humanity’s aspiration for progress and contributes to the global advancement of human rights. The concept has been included in UN documents and has become an influential concept with a significant impact on today’s world.
From a small boat on the Nanhu Lake by southeastern China’s Jiaxing City, to a giant flagship leading China’s national rejuvenation, the CPC has a glorious century. Unruffled by constant change, it has remained committed to building a bright future for the Chinese nation. From revolution, economic development and reform into the new era, it has never forgotten its original aspiration and founding mission. It has achieved numerous successes throughout the land in the process of bringing happiness to the Chinese people and national rejuvenation to the Chinese nation. Its pursuit of world peace and progress, and a global community of shared future, opens a new chapter for human civilization.
The founding of a new China could not have happened without the CPC, nor could the progress that has been made in human rights protection. CPC leadership is the most fundamental guarantee that underpins every progress in and better protection of human rights in China.
Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core, China has won the battle against poverty, and achieved major strategic results in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The First Centenary Goal has been completed on schedule, and the CPC has fulfilled this historic commitment to the people. Now it is leading them towards the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation and the Second Centenary Goal – to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the century, soon after the centenary of the PRC (2049).
At that centenary, all rights of the Chinese people will be safeguarded at a higher level, and they will have a better sense of dignity, freedom and happiness. At that time, China will make a greater contribution to the protection of human rights, enabling the world to develop better and become more prosperous.