III. Civil Rights and Political Rights
of Citizens Effectively Safeguarded
Since the founding of the People's Republic, China has made great progress in its efforts to build its democratic and legal systems, and people's civil rights and political rights are maintained and guaranteed according to law.
China's Constitution clearly states that "All power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people." The organs through which the people exercise state power are the NPC and local people's congresses. Deputies to the people's congresses at all levels are elected, and are responsible to and accept supervision from the people. In China, except for those who have been deprived of their political rights, all citizens aged 18 or above, irrespective of ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence, have the right to vote and stand for election. At present, 99.97 percent of China's citizens aged 18 or above enjoy the right to vote and stand for election. According to statistics, the voting rate all over the country has maintained a level of over 90 percent. Every region, ethnic group, social stratum, organization and group has its proportion of representatives in the people's congresses at all levels. Of the 2,979 deputies elected to the Ninth NPC in 1998, 18.9 percent were workers and peasants, 21.08 percent were intellectuals, 33.17 percent were cadres, 15.44 percent were representatives of various democratic parties and non-party patriots, 9 percent were representatives of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), 1.17 percent were representatives from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and 1.24 percent were returned overseas Chinese.
As the highest organ of state power, the NPC is responsible for drawing up state laws, deciding on important state affairs and electing the members of state administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs, and supervising them. China runs state affairs according to law. Since the introduction of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world in the late 1970s, the NPC and its Standing Committee have enacted more than 360 laws and legal decisions, and the local people's congresses at different levels have drawn up more than 7,000 local regulations. The NPC and its Standing Committee hear and examine and discuss the work reports of the State Council and its departments as well as the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, and examine the implementation of laws and legal decisions. The special committees of the NPC also conduct various types of examinations of law enforcement work. In addition, the Standing Committee of the NPC receives petitions from citizens, supervises the work of judicial organs and safeguards citizens' legal rights according to law.
The system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the CPC is an important part of China's democratic political system. As parties friendly to the CPC, the eight non-Communist parties participate in government and political affairs, engaging in consultations concerning state policies and leadership candidates, management of national affairs, and the drawing up and implementation of state policies, laws and regulations. On key state issues, the CPC--the party in power--always consults the other parties, solicits their suggestions and negotiates with them. At the Ninth NPC, representatives from the non-Communist parties and non-party personages accounted for 30 percent and 21.9 percent of the Standing Committee and permanent special committees of the NPC, respectively. At present, in the departments of the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, members of the non-Communist parties and non-party personages occupy some senior positions. At the same time, in the country's 31 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government and 15 cities at sub-provincial level, members of the non-Communist parties and non-party personages hold the posts of deputy governor of a province or deputy mayor or assistant to the governor of a province or to a mayor.
The people's political consultative conferences at different levels consist of members of all political parties and people's organizations, and non-party personages, with a widespread representation. The members of the National Committee of the Ninth CPPC come from 34 circles, among them, the non-Communist parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and non-party personages, accounting for 59.5 percent of the CPPCC National Committee members and 63.4 percent of the CPPCC National Committee's Standing Committee members. The political consultative organizations play an important role in the state's political life by means of political consultation, democratic supervision and participation in the administration and discussion of state affairs. Since 1990, more than 100 consultation meetings and forums have been held between the Central Committee of the CPC, the State Council and the central committees of the non-Communist parties and non-party personages. Between 1992 and 1998, the central committees of the eight democratic parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce put forward more than 100 important suggestions concerning reform and opening up, economic construction, democratic and legal system building, anti-corruption efforts and the promotion of clean government to the Central Committee of the CPC, the State Council and relevant departments. Many of these suggestions have been adopted by the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council.
Democracy at the grass-roots level is an important means for ensuring that citizens directly exercise their democratic rights. By directly electing members of villagers' committees and deciding upon major affairs of their villages through democratic discussions, the rural masses fully exercise their rights of democratic election, democratic policy-making, democratic management and democratic supervision. Since 1988, rural areas throughout China have already carried out three or four elections of new villagers' committees. Most of the villagers' committees have established villagers' congresses and representative conferences and the system of making public village affairs. Since the promulgation of the new Organic Law on Villagers' Committees in 1999, nearly half of the provinces, municipalities directly under the Central Government and autonomous regions have published their own laws and regulations on the election of villagers' committees. The election of villagers' committees has been increasingly standardized, and villagers' right to nominate candidates is respected. The election procedure, which guarantees the rights of voters, has been gradually regularized. The procedure involves the methods by which villagers select formal candidates through preliminary elections, formal candidates run for the election on an equal footing, voters choose from among a large number of candidates, candidates make speeches, voters mark their ballots in specially-designated rooms, ballots are counted openly, and the election results are announced on the spot. Statistics show that in provinces where elections of members for a new term of office on the villagers' committees were completed in 1999, the proportion of peasants taking part in the elections reached more than 90 percent in most cases and more than 85 percent in other cases.
China guarantees, according to law, that citizens enjoy extensive basic freedoms and rights. The Constitution clearly states that citizens enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, of demonstration and of religious belief. Freedom of the person and personal dignity, and the residences of citizens are inviolable. Freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens are protected by law. The state has made vigorous efforts to develop press and publications undertakings, creating favorable conditions for citizens to enjoy freedom of speech and the press. Statistics show that 1998 witnessed the publishing of 30.04 billion copies of newspapers of 1,053 titles, 2.54 billion copies of magazines of 7,999 titles and 7.24 billion copies of books of more than 130,000 titles. There were 294 radio stations, 560 cable and wireless TV stations at the central and provincial levels, 1,287 broadcasting and TV stations at the county level and 75 educational TV stations. The national TV network covered over 89 percent of the population, with an audience of more than one billion. By June 1999, some 1.46 million computers in China had been connected with the Internet, with the Internet users totaling four million. In China, all social organizations that meet the regulations of the Constitution and other laws and are formed through necessary registration procedures are protected by the state. By the end of 1998, China had a total of 165,600 social organizations. These organizations and their activities are subject to the protection of the Constitution and other laws.
The state protects the freedom of religious belief and the normal religious activities of citizens. No state organ, social organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, a religion, nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. Incomplete statistics show that China now has more than 100 million religious believers and 85,000 venues for religious activities that have been registered, with some 300,000 professional religious personnel. There are more than 3,000 national and local religious organizations and 74 religious colleges. Various religions publish their scriptures, and religious books and journals. Of them, 20 million copies of the Bible have been printed. Chinese religious organizations have established contacts with religious organizations and personnel in more than 70 countries and regions. Both the NPC and CPPCC include people who have religious beliefs and who come from various social groups and organizations. More than 17,000 religious personnel have been elected deputies to the people's congresses and members of the people's political consultative conferences at various levels.
Public security and judicial organs crack down on crimes according to law, and protect citizens' legitimate rights and interests from being infringed. According to statistics, in 1998, however, they handled 5.4 million first instance cases, including 480,000 criminal cases, 3.37 million civil cases, 1.45 million cases of economic disputes and nearly 100,000 administrative cases. The public security and judicial organs cracked down on serious crimes related to murder, explosion, poisoning, robbery, large-scale theft, rape, kidnapping, gangs, and guns, effectively protecting the safety of people's lives and property. Meanwhile, the legitimate rights of criminal suspects and the accused were protected according to law. Since 1983, people's courts have pronounced more than 40,000 people not guilty according to law because of lack of evidence of crimes.
Over the past few years, in a bid to strictly enforce laws and strengthen the protection of human rights during the judicial process, people's courts have carried out an in-depth reform of adjudication methods. Efforts have been made according to law to promote public adjudication in an all-round way, and strengthen the supervision of adjudication by society and public opinion so as to ensure judicial fairness. Except for those unsuitable for public hearing as prescribed by the law, all first instance cases are now subject to public trial. The rate of open court sessions for second instance cases has also been raised gradually. Judgments in all cases, whether subject to public hearing or not, are announced openly. While court sessions are opened for case hearing, evidence, cross-examination, attestation and debate have been conducted on the spot, thus increasing the rate of judgment announcements in court. Procuratorial organs have intensified the supervision of law enforcement by redressing according to law the problems of failure to observe the law, weak law enforcement and miscarriages of justice. In 1998, the procuratorial organs demanded that public security organs give reasons as to why 9,335 cases had not been filed, of which 5,207 cases were finally designated to be placed on file. They put forward suggestions for correcting the extended detention of 70,992 people, and raised for correction 9,964 cases which involved violation of the law during investigation. They approved the arrest of 582,120 of the 689,025 suspects transferred by public security and state security organs for examination and approval of arrest, and issued additional warrants for the arrest of 6,957 people and the prosecution of 3,904 people. They filed public charges against 557,929 of the 668,425 suspects transferred for approval of prosecution, and decided not to arrest 93,218 people and not to prosecute 11,225 people. They challenged 3,791 criminal judgments they deemed wrong, and raised 1,211 cases for correction, which involved violations of the law in the trial procedure. They also raised 9,672 cases for correction, which involved violations of the law by related departments for approving the reduction of a sentence term, release on parole, and temporary serving of sentences outside the prison. Prison authorities insist on administering prisons according to law. They have devoted great efforts to carrying out the practice of making public prison affairs to inmates, raising the transparency of law enforcement and conscientiously guaranteeing the legitimate rights of convicts. Statistics show that in 1998, some 361,000 convicts were given reductions of sentence or released on parole, accounting for 25 percent of the total imprisoned population.
The establishment and development of the lawyer and legal aid systems are playing an increasingly important role in protecting the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, and maintaining the correct enforcement of the law. Currently, China has nearly 9,000 law offices, and the number of licensed lawyers exceeds 100,000. Between 1979 and 1999, lawyers in China pleaded for the accused in three million criminal cases. In 1998 alone, they pleaded for the accused or acted as attorneys in 296,668 criminal cases. As a result, the legitimate rights and interests of the suspects and accused were effectively safeguarded. Since the Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice and the China Legal Aid Foundation were established in 1996 and 1997, respectively, more than 800 legal aid institutions have been set up. This enables an increasing number of poor citizens to benefit from legal services free or at a reduced charge, according to law. Incomplete statistics indicate that in 1997, legal aid institutions at various levels and personnel engaged in legal services handled some 50,000 cases requiring legal aid, and provided legal advice to more than 400,000 people. According to 1998 statistics, such institutions and personnel in 20 provinces and municipalities handled more than 60,000 cases requesting legal aid, and offered legal advice to 800,000 people. And another survey shows that in the first half of 1999, more than 40,000 such cases were handled in 24 provinces.
Citizens have the right to criticize and make suggestions to government institutions and their staff members. They also have the right to complain, bring lawsuits against or report law-breaking activities and dereliction of duty on the part of government officials. To guarantee these rights of citizens, government institutions at all levels have set up offices receiving petitions and personal visits. And the people's procuratorial organs and administrative supervisory systems at central to local levels have established offence-reporting organs. The news media have also strengthened supervision of cases involving dereliction of duty, abuse of power and infringement of citizens' legitimate rights and interests by government functionaries. Those who have suffered losses due to the infringement of citizens' rights by state organs or government functionaries, have the right to compensation according to law. China specially formulated the Administrative Procedure Law in 1991 and the State Compensation Law in 1995. To date, nearly 440,000 administrative cases and 2,566 state compensation cases have been handled by people's courts, effectively safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens.