Remarkable human rights progress in China
March 19,2019   By:CGTN
Editor's note: Zhang Wei is the co-director of the Institute for Human Rights of the China University of Political Science and Law. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
March 19, 2019 -- Over the past 70 years, the development of China has brought remarkable human rights progress for all people living on this land. Several valuable lessons can be learned through this phase of Chinese history.
For four consecutive years from 2015 to 2018, President Xi Jinping sent congratulatory letters to the “2015 Beijing Forum on Human Rights,” “International Seminar on the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of UN Declaration on the Right to development,” the first “South-South Human Rights Forum” and “Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” In the congratulatory letters, he highlighted the importance of human rights and demonstrated the drive and determination of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government to respect and protect human rights, reflecting the unprecedented emphasis on human rights.
Careful safeguard of human rights by the NPC  
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the National People's Congress (NPC) and the NPC Standing Committee have further implemented the constitution's provisions on respecting and safeguarding human rights, and constantly strengthened and improved legislation on safeguarding human rights.
Laws and regulations to protect civil and political rights have been improved. For example, the Criminal Procedure Law puts "respect and protect human rights" into its general rules, which clearly stipulates the principle of presumption of innocence and the rule of excluding illegal evidence.
The legal norms guaranteeing economic, social and cultural rights have also been strengthened. China has formulated the General Principles of the Civil Law to protect citizens' personal rights and property rights. Through these pieces of legislation, the right to property, basic political rights and freedoms, labor rights, education rights, social security rights have been effectively protected and guaranteed.
Fast improvement of judicial protection of rights
 In 2014, China adopted the Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Several Major Issues Concerning the Comprehensive Promotion of Law-based Governance, which clearly put forward specific tasks involved in “strengthening judicial safeguards for human rights.”
For example, the Supreme People's Court has set up six circuit courts to provide easy judicial access. The admission bar for litigation has been comprehensively lowered. The reform of the trial-centered criminal procedure system has been actively carried out.
Three procedural rules concerning pretrial conferences, exclusion of illegal evidence and court investigations have been put into practice. Through these reforms, judicial fairness and justice are safeguarded and citizens' rights are effectively protected. Crime suspects, defendants and criminals are treated in a more civilized manner, punishments are meted out in a more standardized way, and the personal dignity, safety, and legal property of detainees are all well protected, as are their rights of appeal, accusation and impeachment.
Well-drafted National Human Rights Action Plan  
China issued the first National Human Rights Action Plan in 2009. Up to now, three National Human Rights Action Plans have been developed. In particular, the last National Plan even synchronized with the Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development.
This new change fully reflects that the Chinese Government responded positively to the “Human Rights Mainstreaming” proposal by the United Nations. In the National Human Rights Action Plan, each and every involved ministry is required to present its goals which can be measured in the middle and final terms. The drafting processes have effectively promoted the human rights awareness among central government officials.
Mutually beneficial international cooperation 
China has actively participated in global human rights cooperation and has put forward a series of initiatives to promote the construction of a fair, just, reasonable and effective international human rights system. For example, the China-proposed resolution titled "Promoting Mutually Beneficial Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights" was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018.
Besides, China has actively participated in bilateral and multilateral exchanges and cooperation on human rights. Since 2013, China has enhanced understanding and shared experiences by holding more than 50 human rights dialogues with over 20 countries. The China Society for Human Rights Studies alone hosted three annual “Beijing Forums on Human Rights” and three China-EU human rights seminars.
Education is the key to all developments in China. As one of the state policies, the Chinese government pays constant attention to the development and adopted a series of policies and measures to strengthen the provision of educational resources, in particular, in remote, rural and ethnic-minority areas. China has fully achieved nine-year free compulsory education, with 15 years of free education in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region. With the ever-growing awareness of the importance of education, China will be stepping into a rule-of-law society based on human rights values in the near future. 
By: Zhang Wei
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