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Focus on the Human Rights Thought of the Communist Party of China in the New Era — Learning from General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Congratulatory Letters on Human Rights
July 12,2019   By:
Focus on the Human Rights Thought of the Communist Party of China in the New Era
 
— Learning from General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Congratulatory Letters on Human Rights
 
LI Junru*
 
As socialism with Chinese characteristics enters a new era, so do have human rights in China. General Secretary of Communist Party of China Central Committee Xi Jinping, for has sent a congratulatory letter to the 2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights for four consecutive years from 2015 to 2018, and he addressed the Interna-tional Seminar on the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development of the First South-South Human Rights Forum, and the Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This not only fully reflects the unprecedented importance attached by Xi to human rights, but also the profound thoughts of the CPC on human rights. It is of great textual significance for us to study these four congratulatory letters to fully understand the human rights thought of the CPC in the new era.
 
I. Human Rights is a Grand Cause Led by the CPC
 
As far as the CPC concerned, human rights are not just an idea, let alone a slogan. They are a cause with which to realize the fundamental purpose of “serving the people wholeheartedly” and the historical mission of “realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. What the Party does is for the grand cause of human rights. Xi’s congratulatory letters convey vital information on human rights to the people of the world.
 
The reason why we consider the human rights cause of the Party as a grand one lies primarily in the fact that it is the great mission of the CPC to seek well-being for the Chinese people and to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. “The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government always respect and ensure human rights.” “The Chinese people are striving for the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, which will guarantee Chinese people’s human rights at a higher level and promote their comprehensive development”, Xi said in his congratulatory letter to the 2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights. On December 7, 2017, in his congratulatory letter to he First South-South Human Rights Forum, Xi told us, “Following a people-centered development philosophy, the CPC and the Chinese government have all along placed people’s interests above all else, and worked hard to meet people’s desire for a better life and improve respect for and protection of the fundamental rights of the Chinese people. The 19th CPC National Congress convened not long ago outlined an ambitious blueprint for China’s development, which will give a strong boost to human rights development in China and make new and even greater contribution to the progress of mankind.”
 
The reason why we call the human rights cause of the CPC a grand one, is that it is the great cause that the CPC has been devoted to pursuing for nearly a hundred years. “From the day of its birth, the CPC has set the goal of seeking well-being for the people and development for mankind. Nearly 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, especially since the reform and opening up 40 years ago, the Chinese nation has made a great leap, from standing up, becoming prosperous, to getting stronger. In brief, China’s development means that the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese people are increasingly improving.” This statement, made by Xi in his congratulatory letter to the Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights delivered on December 10, 2018, summarizes the his-tory of the CPC endeavor for human rights in the past century and its historic achieve-ments in a highly condensed and concise manner.
 
The reason why we regard this cause as a grand one is also that the CPC is not only committed to the realization of the human rights of the Chinese people, but also enthusiastically supports the human rights of people worldwide, especially in developing countries. “The international community should actively advance human rights in the world,” said Xi in his congratulatory letter to the 2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights. In his congratulatory letter to the First South-South Human Rights Forum Xi said, “It is the lofty ideal of mankind that everyone enjoys human rights to the full. Since modern times, people in the developing world have fought long and hard for national liberation and independence, for freedom and equality, for dignity and happi-ness, and for peace and development. By doing so, they have also contributed significantly to the progress of human rights in the world. Today, as delegates from different parts of the world gather in Beijing for the first South-South Human Rights Forum to discuss the promotion of human rights in developing countries and the world, I wish to extend warm congratulations on the convening of this forum!”
 
II. The Profoundness of the Human Rights Thought of the CPC Stems from the Chinese People’s Historical Practice of Hard Struggle for Human Rights
 
The principle of “respecting and safeguarding human rights” has been enshrined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, these are the authoritative fundamental laws of the country and the Party, and the also embody China’s progress in human rights. The reason why the Communist Party of China was able to make such historic improvement and make such a significant political decision is that its human rights awareness stems from the history of suffering and the long-term practice of the Chinese people.
 
On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, the 2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights, with the theme of “Peace and Development: Victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and the Progression of Human Rights”, opened on September 16, 2015. In his congratulatory letter to the forum, Xi stated, “Seventy years ago, in order to safeguard the peace, justice and dignity of mankind, all countries and people loving peace and freedom in the world won the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War after tenacious struggle at the cost of the loss of tens of millions of lives. During the war, the Chinese people resisted the Japanese militarists’ brutal aggression for 14 years, making huge sacrifices and remarkable contributions to the victory in the World Anti-Fascist War. The Chinese people, having gone through much suffering in modern times, know very well the great significance of human value, ba-sic human rights and human dignity to social development and progress and especially cherish the hard-won peaceful development environment, and will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and steadfastly advance the human rights cause in both China and the world.”
 
In other words, the human rights thoughts of the CPC did not just fall from the sky nor is innate in the mind or obtained from books. Rather, they were formed from the over 170 years of Chinese people’s suffering since the Opium War, especially from the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese and the World Anti-Fascist War. That is why Xi Jinping employed such expressions as “know very well” and “cherish more” to show our understanding of human rights. The profoundness of the human rights thought of the CPC, therefore, stems right from the historical practice of the Chinese people’s arduous struggle for human rights.
 
III. The CPC has Led the Chinese People to Successfully Pave a Path for Human Rights Development Compatible to China’s National Conditions
 
Our path determines our future. One of the successful experiences of the CPC is, no matter, whether leading revolutions, development or conducting the great practice of reform and opening-up, it is committed to finding and paving the right path compatible with China’s national conditions. This is also the case with human rights.
 
After studying General Secretary Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter on human rights, we can notice that the major conclusion “China has found a path of human rights with Chinese characteristics” is the highlight in this letter. In the congratulatory letter to the 2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights, Xi said, “For a long time, China, by connecting the universality principle of human rights with China’s reality, has constantly advanced social and economic development, improved people’s welfare, pro-moted social fairness and justice, strengthened the legal guarantees of human rights and strived for the comprehensive and coordinated development of economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. This has significantly elevated the guarantee level of people’s existence and development rights and paved a path for human rights development compatible to China’s national conditions.” In the congrat-ulatory letter to the International Symposium on the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development, Xi also stated, “For years, China has put the people first during its development, increasing their benefits, ensuring the people are their own masters and supporting development in an all-round way. These are both the starting points and the goals of development. China has effectively safeguarded the people’s right to development and carved out a human rights development path with Chinese characteristics.” In the congratulatory letter to the Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, again, Xi pointed out that China adheres to combining the universal principle of human rights with the contemporary reality, leading the way along a human rights development road suited to China’s own national conditions, advocating a people-centered idea of human rights, deeming the rights to subsistence and development to be the primary basic human rights, coordinating and enhancing the economic, political, social, cultural, environ-mental rights of all people, making efforts to safeguard social fairness and justice, and promoting the all-round development of people.
 
What is the human rights development path with Chinese characteristics? Xi’s congratulatory letter on human rights pointed out a clear direction for us to further study and understand the essentials of this path.
 
This path integrates the universal principle of human rights with China’s reality. The CPC has never denied that human rights are universal principles of human society that people must follow. Xi Jinping said, “It is a common objective of the human society for people to fully enjoy human rights.” He also stated that the Universal Dec-laration of Human Rights is a document of great significance in the history of human civilization, exerting a profound influence on the development of world human rights. In the meantime, he stressed, “human rights must and can only be promoted in light of specific national conditions and people’s needs”, and China has always adhered to the principle of “keeping to the path of human rights development compatible to national conditions”. This is the basic experience of China and also the basic principles of the human rights development path with Chinese characteristics.
 
This path adheres to the people-centered development thought. Human rights, as the rights pertaining to being human, are not abstract, but concrete rights. They are not simply the rights of the minority, but those of all the people. They are not employed to punish others in the name of protecting human rights, but to enable all the people to enjoy happiness. The CPC has always upheld the people-centered concept of human rights, promoting people’s well-being, ensuring that the people are the masters of the country, and supporting their all-round development, which are both the starting points and the goals of development. To this end, efforts should be made to enhance the comprehensive, coordinated development of economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights, safeguard social fairness and justice, and strength-en legal protection for human rights.
 
This path prioritizes people’s rights to subsistence and development. In Xi’s con-gratulatory letter to the International Symposium on the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development, he pointed out, “Development is an eternal theme for the human race. The UN Declaration affirms that the right to development is an inalienable human right. As the world’s largest developing country of over 1.3 billion people, China regards development as the key to solving all problems and the primary task for the Communist Party of China in governing and rejuvenating the country. China insists on a combination of the principle of human rights’ universality and the nation’s actual conditions, and insists that the rights to live and development are primary basic human rights.” The characteristic of “basic human rights” lies in its “basic nature”. They are not only the fundamental rights for the survival of real people and the backbone of their lives and dignity, but also for coordinating and promoting the economic, political, social, cultural and environmental rights of all the people, striving to safeguard social fairness and justice, and promoting the all-round development of human beings.
 
This path considers people’s well -being to be the greatest human right. In his congratulatory letter to the Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Dec-laration of Human Rights, Xi Jinping clearly pointed out, “That people are able to live happily is the greatest human right,” which is connected to but higher than “the basic human rights”. This conclusion has pioneering significance in the history of the development of human rights thoughts in the world. It is on the basis of such thought that the CPC promotes the pragmatic development of China’s human rights and benefits the people. In Xi’s congratulatory letter to the International Symposium on the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development, he stated, “Currently, as the Chinese people try hard to realize the Two Centenary Goals and the Chinese Dream of rejuvenation, they are living happier lives and have their rights better safeguarded. China will continue to make a greater contribution to human development and progress.”
 
This path dialectically takes human rights protection to be a dynamic instead of standing as the flawless. According to dialectical materialism, things are constantly evolving, and practice is constantly deepening. So does people’s understanding of laws. Whether people like it or not, human rights are developing and their understanding of it is deepening. From the Declaration of Human Rights rolled out during the French Revolution to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations after the Second World War, to the birth of human rights documents after the War one after another, a world history of human rights development has proved Xi’s understanding of the law, that “human rights protection is to be improving instead of standing as the flawless”. This recognition is of universal significance, and also an important ideological basis for the human rights path with Chinese characteristics in its formation and continuous development in practice.
 
To sum up, the path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics and the concept of human rights with Chinese characteristics expounded by Xi are important parts of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era, and a guide for us to progress the development of the human rights cause in China. We should make great efforts to learn, research and comprehend this significant achievement of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Building a community with a shared future for human beings with people all around the world.
 
The CPC is devoted to the well-being of the Chinese people, the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and the peace and development of mankind. Xi Jinping, in his congratulatory letter concerning human rights, emphasized with extremely clear language that the Chinese people are ready to work with people all over the world, including those in the developing countries, to promote development through cooperation, human rights through development, and to jointly build a community with a shared future for human beings.
 
First, the right to peace and development are the most needed human rights in the world today in jointly building a community with a shared future for human beings. On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, Xi Jinping pointed out, “the Beijing Forum on Human Rights this year has the theme Peace and Development: Victory in the World Anti-Fascist War and Human Rights Advancement,” which helps all parties deeply reflect on the guarantee of rights to peace and the development of mankind.” On behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people, he expressed his personal congratulations to the convening of this forum. The historical experience of the Chinese people in that period of history, and the China’s present show us that without the rights to peace and development no other human rights can be guaranteed.
 
Second, as developing countries account for over 80 percent of the global population, the building of a community with a shared future for human beings hinges upon them working together for global human rights progress. Developing countries should adhere to both the universality and particularity of human rights, constantly improve the level of human rights protection. And the international community should, in the spirit of justice, fairness, openness and inclusiveness, respect and reflect the will of the people in developing countries.
 
Third, we should, among different civilizations and countries, strengthen ex-changes and mutual learning, advance communication and cooperation on human rights, and promote better development of human rights in the joint effort for a com-munity with a shared future for human beings. Xi expressed that China hopes the international community will take the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a new starting point, strive to blaze a development path with fair, open, inclusive and innovative characteristics, so as to achieve the common development of all countries. At the same time, he said China would actively participate in global governance and endeavors to promote inclusive development and create conditions and opportunities for all countries, especially for the developing countries. Therefore, Xi called on hu-man rights researchers in China to keep pace with the times, remain upright and inno-vative, and make greater contributions to the diversity of human civilization and the improvement the development of human rights worldwide.
 
Finally, we must realize that the common values of mankind are a cornerstone in building such a community with a shared future for human beings. Xi, in his congratulatory letter to the Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, put forward the following remarks for the first time, “The Chinese people are ready to cooperate with people from other countries, to uphold the common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom for mankind, safeguard human dignity and rights, promote the establishment of a global governance of human rights which is more fair, reasonable and inclusive. All together, we could jointly build a community with a shared future for human beings and create a promis-ing future for the world.”
 
(Translated by LI Man)

* LI Junru ( 李君如 ), Vice president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies(CSHRS), former Vice president of the party School of the Central Committee of the C.p.C.
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