The Guiding Principles of the Cause of Human Rights in China in a New Era
May 11,2018   By:The Guiding Principles of the Cause of Human Rights in China in a New Era

The Guiding Principles of the Cause of Human Rights in China in a New Era

QI Yanping*
The report of the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress is a doc- ument with an important historical position and unique historic contribution in the history of the People’s Republic of China and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The report can be roughly divided into two parts: general principles and sub- stantial content. The general principles comprise four issues, which are judgment of the current situation, the historical mission, basic strategy and the objective of the struggle. The substantial content comprises nine issues, which are building a modern economic system, developing democratic politics, a vibrant culture, improving peo- ple’s livelihoods, building a beautiful China, working toward the modernization of national defense, the reunification of the country, building a community with a shared future for mankind and the strict discipline of the party. From whichever field or as- pect, we must thoroughly study and comprehend the report of the 19th CPC National Congress. We should regard it as an organic whole and understand its spiritual core and system construction profoundly, comprehensively and accurately. We can neither merely focus on some isolated, decentralized or individual expressions, nor analyze and explore its core message from just a few words.

The cause of human rights, just like causes relating to national welfare and peo- ple’s livelihoods such as politics, economics, culture, society and diplomacy, is not isolated and one-sided. The above-mentioned causes, including the cause of human rights, are all related to one another, impact on one another and are integrated with one another. They are preconditions, foundations and guarantees alike. Therefore, the report of the 19th CPC National Congress is not only an important political document to make an overall analysis and judgment for the current political, economic, cultural, social and diplomatic situation, in addition to other situations, and to put forward the overall goals and the development vision in the new era, but also an important human rights document which puts the consciousness, philosophy, and spirit of respecting, safeguarding and promoting human rights into all contents.

Ⅰ.  Important Principle of Respecting and Protecting Human Rights in the Governance and Administration of the Country Runs Through the Report of the 19th  National Congress

The report of the 19th CPC National Congress clearly defined its theme in the opening chapter, which included a series of important conclusions including “to de- termine the victory of building a well-off society in an all-round way,” “to realize  the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and “forever put people’s expectations for a better life as the goal of the struggle.” It is a great dream of human society that every- one can fully enjoy human rights. And “the respect and protection of the state to hu- man rights” is an important principle and clear constitutional norm for our party and government in its governance of the country. From this it can be seen that the true re- spect and full protection of the human rights of each individual are integral parts of the grand blueprint, that is, the realization of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Precisely because of this, we believe that every part of the re- port of the 19th CPC National Congress is in fact closely related to the cause of human rights in China. The major judgments of the transformation of major social contradic- tions in our country, the comprehensive elaboration of the basic strategy for adhering to and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, the precise and scientific design of the overall goals and the development vision in the new era in the general principles of the report of the 19th CPC National Congress and the interpretation and detailed elaboration of each part in the substantial content of the report can be regard- ed as different areas and orientations focused on the further advancement and new development of the cause of human rights in China in the new era. In the report of the 19th CPC National Congress, the discussion and emphasis on the legal concept of “the supremacy of the Constitution and laws, and everyone’s equality before the law” naturally embodied an important principle — “the respect and protection of the state for human rights” — which is already clarified by the Constitution of our country. The ruling party and government have all along been deeply aware of the significance of human values, basic human rights and human dignity for the development and prog- ress of society. Therefore, the CPC and the government have always adhered to peo- ple-based and people-centered principles, keeping the people in mind, and putting the realization of people’s wishes, the satisfaction of people’s needs, the safeguarding of people’s interests and the promotion of the well-being and all-round development of the people as fundamental starting points and end results of all work; the Party and the government have always upheld and developed the people’s democracy, safeguarded social equity and justice, protected people’s right to equal participation and develop- ment and made achievements in reform and development to deliver greater benefits to the entire population more equitably.

Ⅱ. The Report of the 19th CPC National Congress Embodies the Ba- sic Concept of the Interdependence and Coordinated Development of Human Rights

The report of the 19th CPC National Congress makes a major political judgment that “socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. The major social contradictions in our country have turned into a contradiction between the people’s ever-growing expectations of a better life and unbalanced and inadequate develop- ment.” People’s needs in terms of achieving a better life have become more and more extensive. Not only do they have higher requirements for their material and cultural lives, but also possess growing expectations in terms of livelihood, the rule of law, fairness, justice, security and the environment. Therefore, the substantial content  of nine parts in the report of the 19th CPC National Congress are actually a series of ac- tions and concrete measures proposed in response to this major political judgment. These programs and measures are highly consistent with former policies in spirit, such as “to comprehensively promote the coordinated development of economic, social, cultural rights with civil and political rights,” “to integrate the universal principle of human rights into China’s reality,” “to guarantee the Chinese people’s human rights at a higher level and promote the all-round development of mankind,” etc.
Human rights are the product of history and need to be observed, investigated, studied, and developed as well as comprehensively planned and coordinated in a specific historical context. In a specific historical period, we need to seek and iden- tify the priority focuses for the development of the cause of human rights, so as to achieve breakthroughs in key areas with accurate precision, which will in turn bring about common progress in human rights and other related fields. This is a successful strategy that China is using to protect and promote human rights. In the 1990s, the development of China’s social productive forces was still relatively low, and the issue of subsistence was the major problem that people most deeply and most desperately wanted to be fundamentally solved. It is precisely because of this that the party and the government declared a situational awareness and historical judgment in the field of human rights that “the right to subsistence is the primary human right” in order to guide the steady and orderly development of various human rights causes. At the pres- ent stage, the problem of food and clothing for the broad masses of the people can be said to have been solved, and the degree of people’s yearning for a better life is also deepening. However, the problem of imbalanced and inadequate development still exists. Therefore, the Party and the government have made the basic judgment that the rights to subsistence and development are the primary human rights at the present stage. On the one hand, the state implements an accurate poverty alleviation strategy and is committed to solving the difficult problems of protecting the people’s right to subsistence in poverty-stricken and backward areas. On the other hand, the country actively creates conditions based on changes in basic social contradictions, dramati- cally improves protection in various aspects such as people’s livelihoods, the rule of law, fairness, justice, security and the environment, and promotes the further develop- ment of human rights at a higher level.

The main implication of this judgment — “the rights to subsistence and develop- ment are the primary human rights of the Chinese people at the present stage” — lies in the fact that, under the objective reality conditions that economic foundation, so- cial wealth and material resources are still very limited, protection demands for basic survival and development conditions need to be given priority. What needs special attention is that this does not mean that civil and political rights are relatively insignif- icant; on the contrary, China’s concept of coordinated development of human rights also naturally contains a series of contents such as requiring steady promotion in the protection of civil and political rights.

Ⅲ. The Report of the 19th National Congress Insists on the Organic Integration of Human Rights Protection and the Construction of the Rule of Law

The sixth part of the report of the 19th CPC National Congress in basic strategy further clarifies the overall goal of comprehensively governing the country according to the law, namely, building a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics and building a socialist country under the rule of law. Comprehensively governing the country according to the law is an essential requirement and an important guarantee for socialism with Chinese characteristics. In the sixth part, “Improving the System of Institutions through Which the People Run the Country and Developing Socialist Democracy,” the report once again emphasized adherence to the organic unity of the party’s leadership, the people’s democratic dictatorship and the rule of law. In addi- tion, the report also explicitly requests the expansion of the people’s orderly political participation, and ensures people’s participation in democratic elections, democratic consultations, democratic management and democratic supervision according to the law; so as to safeguard the unity, dignity and authority of the country’s legal system, strengthen the legal protection of human rights, and ensure that the people enjoy a wide range of rights and freedoms in accordance with the law. It emphasized the con- solidation of grass-roots political power, improved grass-roots democratic systems and protecting people’s right to information, participation, expression and supervision. The report also specifically proposed that in order to deepen the practice of govern- ing the country according to the law, the central government shall establish a leading group that fully administers the country according to the law, strengthens the unified leadership over the construction of the rule of law in China, enhances the implemen- tation and supervision of the Constitution, advance the review of constitutionality and safeguard constitutional authority. These above-mentioned serious and major politi- cal judgments organically link and unify the rule of law and the protection of human rights. In other words, respecting and safeguarding human rights is the basic starting point of the rule of law, while the rule of law is the fundamental way to protect human rights and promote the development of human rights. The essence of the rule of law is human rights, and the main path for the realization of human rights is the rule of law. Therefore, as long as the strategy of rule of law is fully implemented, the law-based government is fully established and judicial credibility continues to improve, human rights can be truly respected and effectively safeguarded.

Ⅳ. The Report of the 19th National Congress Coordinates the Over- all Situation of Domestic Human Rights Progress and International Human Rights Development

The report of the 19th National Congress points out: “The dreams of the Chinese people are closely connected with the dreams of the peoples of all countries,” and China’s development must not only benefit the Chinese people, but also benefit more and more people in all countries around the world. The world today is in a period of major development, great changes and major adjustments. Global multipolarization, economic globalization, social informatization and cultural diversification are deepening. The instability and uncertainty faced by the world are increasingly prominent. The polarization between the rich and the poor is becoming increasingly serious. Non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, cybersecurity, climate change and major infectious diseases are spreading. These issues are constantly challenging the survival and development of mankind. It is unthinkable to rely on individual people and individual countries to deal with and solve the above problems. This truly requires all mankind and all countries to go forward hand-in-hand for a shared future. It is pre- cisely based on deep insights and precise grasp of the general trend of development in the world today. In the report of 19th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping calls on all peoples once again to work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind and a clean and be autiful world with lasting peace, univer- sal security, common prosperity, openness and inclusiveness.
The important idea of building a community with a shared future for mankind provides the possibility of transcending the narrow concept of human rights in the West. At present, the post-war international political and legal order has encountered unprecedented challenges. The problem of inadaptability of the traditional human rights institutional system, human rights theory and the human rights development model has also become increasingly prominent. If the so-called Western cultural su- periority continues to be touted, human civilization will not be able to step out of its current predicament, and it will be even more difficult to achieve sustainable devel- opment. If the liberal democracy with Western centralism is promoted as the only po- litically correct institutional model, the cause of human rights will eventually lose its momentum and direction of progress.
The progress and development of the international cause of human rights requires re-thinking the systems and values of human civilization on the basis of a community with a shared future for mankind, and exploring its future direction and path on the ba- sis of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit. The human rights concepts with Chinese characteristics have enriched and developed the global human rights theory, and the human rights practice with Chinese characteristics has provided new programs and wisdom to the development of human rights undertakings in various countries around the world. This is undoubtedly conducive to promoting the healthy development of the cause of human rights around the world.

(Translated by LI Man)
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