II. Civil and Political Rights
While paying great attention to the people's right to existence and development, China has also laid stress on ensuring that its citizens enjoy various civil and political rights according to law and that socialist democratic politics be practised and developed. That is an important reason why China's economy has developed rapidly.
All power in China belongs to the people. This is the nucleus and basic principle of China's state system and also the essence of socialist democracy in China. The National People's Congress and people's congresses at various levels are the organs whereby the people exercise state power.
Deputies to people's congresses at various levels total 3.65 million and are all democratically elected. China's Constitution stipulates that all citizens of the People's Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of nationality, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status, or length of residence, except persons deprived of their political rights according to law. In line with China's conditions, deputies to the people's congresses of counties and townships are elected directly by the people, and deputies to the NPC and people's congresses of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government are elected by people's congresses at a lower level. By the end of 1993, elections for the new session had taken place in accordance with the law in 2,897 counties (including cities without districts and districts directly under the cities) and 48,172 townships, ethnic-group townships and towns. According to statistics, people having the right to vote and to stand for election accounted for 99.97 percent of the number of citizens 18 years old or above, and the number of registered voters accounted for 99.3 percent of the total population aged 18 or above. Elections in China are not controlled by money, and candidates trusted by the people are elected after free consultation and discussion and by secret ballot. Multicandidate elections are practised in China. Voters showed high political enthusiasm and the voting rate reached 93.58 percent throughout the country.
Deputies to the National People's Congress and people's congresses at various levels are persons who have made contributions to the state and society or have served the people in an outstanding way. As they come from various ethnic groups and circles in the country, they are representatives of the broad masses of people. Of the 2,978 deputies elected in 1993 to the Eighth National People's Congress, 11.15 percent were workers, 9.4 percent peasants, 21.8 percent intellectuals, and 19.21 percent personages from democratic parties and non-party personages. Women accounted for 21.03 percent of the total deputies, and ethnic minority deputies accounted for 14.7 percent. Thus, all 56 ethnic groups in the country have their own representatives.
Deputies to the people's congresses, representing people of every profession and social stratum, exercise state power and are responsible to the people and supervised by the people. Voters or electoral units have the right to recall their deputies. Any citizen or unit may demand the recall of deputies who break the law, violate discipline or seriously neglect their duty. This is totally different from some Western countries, where elected parliament members are not supervised by the people and voters do not have the right to recall them. In February 1995 the NPC Standing Committee amended the Electoral Law for National People's Congress and People's Congresses at Local Levels and the Organic Law of the Local People's Congresses and Local People's Governments, thereby further perfecting the electoral and recall systems for people's deputies. This is an important guarantee for the people and deputies to the people's congresses to earnestly exercise democratic power, be masters of the country and run the state.
As the supreme organ of state power, the National People's Congress has the power to make decisions on state policies and principles, enact basic statutes and elect and supervise state administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs. The National People's Congress meets once a year to listen to and examine the work reports submitted by the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate and to examine and approve plans for the national economy and social development as well as the yearly state budget. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress meets once every two months, supervises the enforcement of the Constitution, enacts and amends statutes, listens to and examines the work reports from various departments, and appoints and removes state functionaries. Three yearly sessions of the Eighth NPC have been held, and the state principles, policies and plans decided and statutes adopted by the sessions have embodied the people's will and interests, thus arousing their enthusiasm and ensuring the sustained fast development of the national economy and social progress.
People's congresses at various levels and their standing committees have paid great attention to ensuring the rights of the deputies. State organs and relevant departments at various levels have to make direct replies within a prescribed time to the deputies with regard to their opinions and suggestions formally put forward at the sessions. During the Second Session of the Eighth National People's Congress, held in 1994, 2,401 suggestions and opinions were put forward, and about 17.9 percent of the problems raised by the deputies have been solved completely or basically, and 48.2 percent are being solved or under consideration. The National People's Congress hears opinions and receives demands directly from visiting people or through letters. During the Third Session of the Eighth National People's Congress, held in 1995, 41,630 letters from the masses and 202 visitors were received. The NPC Secretariat handled the letters and received the visitors, and urged relevant departments and local governments to solve urgent problems, and address cases in which people had been wronged, misjudged or framed. Thus the rights and interests of the people have been safeguarded and close relations have been established between the people and state organs.
Multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is an important component of China's people's democratic system with the people as masters of the country. The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is a united front organization, made up of delegates from the Communist Party and the democratic parties and personages from non-party and mass organizations. At present, China has 480,000 members of political consultative conferences at various levels, among whom 2,099 are CPPCC National Committee members. Among the Eighth CPPCC National Committee members, 839 are Communist Party members, accounting for 39.97 percent, 642 are members of democratic parties, accounting for 30.59 percent, and 618 are non-party democrats, accounting for 29.44 percent. There are 293 women members, accounting for 13.96 percent, and 243 members are from ethnic groups, accounting for 11.58 percent. The CPPCC members come from all walks of life, including experienced political activists, well-known figures from various walks of life, and experts and scholars in various fields. Using their rich experience, knowledge and influence, they join CPPCC organizations on behalf of various circles, take part in state and social affairs, and participate in the consultation, discussion and democratic supervision of important state decisions. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council set great store by the opinions and suggestions made by these members and many of these have been accepted. After investigation and research they made many important proposals during the Eighth CPPCC National Conference. In particular, the Suggestions on Strengthening Macro Regulation and Bringing Down Anflation, which was accepted by the State Council, has played an active part in strengthening macro-regulation with effective measures and ensuring the sustained, rapid and healthy development of the national economy.
During the first and second sessions of the Eighth CPPCC National Conference, 4,032 proposals were offered on state policies and principles and people's life; 3,940, or more than 97 percent, of the problems have been settled.
There are eight democratic parties in China. They are not parties in power, but they participate in government and political affairs. The Chinese Communist Party upholds the principle of long-term coexistence, mutual supervision, sincere treatment with each other and the sharing of weal or woe in its relations with China's other democratic parties. Consultations and exchanges of views precede important decisions made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Many members of the democratic parties hold leading posts in state organs, administrative and judicial departments. The present vice-president of the state and eight out of the nineteen vice-chairmen of the NPC Standing Committee are members of democratic parties. In 1994 the democratic parties submitted 28 important proposals which received the close attention of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Some of the proposals were accepted and others are under consideration.
In recent years China's democratic construction at the grass-roots level has achieved remarkable results. By the end of 1994 more than 100,000 urban neighborhood committees had been set up, and more than one million village committees had been elected by secret ballot in the countryside. These urban neighborhood committees and village committees are grass-roots mass self-government organizations. They handle public affairs and public welfare, mediate disputes among people, help safeguard the social order and transmit opinions, demands and suggestions to the people's governments. A system of village meetings, where important things are decided by the villagers, has been set up in half the village committees. The masses of urban and rural people are organized in line with democratic principles, and they practise self-management, self-education, self-service and direct democracy. This is an important progress in China's socialist democratic political system.
The Administrative Procedural Law, put into effect on October 1, 1990, is an important law ensuring people's civil rights. It stipulates that citizens, legal persons, and other organizations may start legal proceedings against administrative organs and their staff when their legal rights and interests are infringed upon by specific administrative actions of these organs and persons. People consider the Administrative Procedural Law as a "law for people to lodge a complaint against officials."
To ensure implementation of the Administrative Procedural Law, the State Council issued a Notice on Implementing the Administrative Procedural Law and required that all departments under the State Council and local people's governments at different levels actively cooperate with people's courts to strictly enforce laws. The State Council also promulgated the Administrative Reconsideration Regulations as a complementary law and regulations for the implementation of the Administrative Procedural Law. Study classes for the Administrative Procedural Law have been organized by many administrative organs.
In accordance with the stipulations of this law, the system of social organizations supporting citizens to file suit and ensuring that citizens can lodge appeals have been established. The social organizations are legal representatives when they are entrusted, and citizens can exercise their right to lodge appeals with the support of the social organizations.
For the convenience of citizens, the Supreme People's Court has stipulated that if litigants have financial difficulties, their litigation costs may be paid later or partially, or be exempted.
According to statistics, from January 1990 to December 1994 people's courts at various levels accepted 167,882 cases, including first and second trials as well as trials and supervision of administrative cases, involving more than 40 administrative realms, such as public security and the reallocation of land. The majority of these cases were related to basic civil rights and some of them involved rights of the person and property rights. Among the plaintiffs were peasants, workers, and intellectuals, and the defendants included departments of county and city governments and central and state organs. Since the implementation of the Administrative Procedural Law two-thirds of the cases have ended in a change of the original decision made by the administrative organs.
In order to help the citizens understand the law, gain knowledge of how to protect their legal rights and interests through legal procedure, and strengthen their concept of the legal system, various kinds of activities, such as performances, knowledge competitions and consultations by specialists, have been organized by relevant departments through TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.
In May 1994 the State Compensation Law was worked out. This law stipulates that if the legal rights and interests of citizens are infringed upon by state organs and their staff in exercising their functions and powers, the aggrieved persons have the right to get state compensation in accordance with the law. At present, compensation committees have been established in the intermediate people's courts and above, and they have started to accept compensation cases.
Freedom of speech, of the press, assembly, association, marching and demonstration is guaranteed. The development of the press and publishing has provided favorable conditions for ensuring citizens' freedom of speech and the press. Newspapers have increased in number, from 1,444 in 1990 to 2,202 in 1995 in China, and magazines have increased to 8,135 from 5,751. At the same time, radio stations have increased to 1,210 in 1995 from 635 in 1990, and TV stations to 980 from 509. At present, the number of cable TV stations has reached 1,200 and there are 54,084 ground satellite stations. People own 250 million TV sets and the population covered by television has risen to 88.3 percent today from 79.4 percent in 1990. Publishing houses increased to 514 in 1994 in China, an increase of 11 percent over 1990, and 103,836 book titles were published, an increase of 29.4 percent over 1990. China's media have over the years maintained close ties with the people and are geared to practical life, bringing their supervisory function into play. Through the media, the people freely express their opinions, put forward criticisms and suggestions, and discuss all kinds of questions related to the state and society. Many newspaper columns and radio and television programs are greatly welcomed by the people. The number of social organizations has also increased. By the end of April 1995, statistics showed that 1,737 national social organizations had been registered and established, an increase of 44.7 percent over 1990, and 200,000 social organizations at and above the county level, registered in departments of civil affairs, had been set up, an increase of 11.1 percent over 1990. These organizations decide on their own activities within the limits permitted by the Constitution and law. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions, All-China Women's Federation and All-China Youth Federation are the three largest mass organizations with branches all over the country. They keep close contact with and unite women, youth and workers and staff, participate in state and local political activities, coordinate social and public affairs and safeguard the legal rights and interests of women, youth and workers and staff. They play a great role and enjoy high social prestige in China.
Freedom of religious belief in China is guaranteed by law. Normal activities of different religions can be carried out in China according to their rights prescribed by the Constitution and law. Buddhism and Taoism are comparatively widespread in China, but statistics of the number of their devotees are not available. There are now over 9,500 Buddhist temples and monasteries with about 170,000 monks and nuns in the country. There are over 6,000 Taoist priests and nuns who live in the temples, with more than 600 temples and monasteries open to the public. There are about 17 million Muslims and more than 26,000 mosques, about 4 million Catholics, including 2,700 clergymen, and 4,000 Catholic churches, about 6.5 million Christians or Protestants, including 18,000 missionaries, 8,000 churches and 20,000 simply equipped meeting places in China. China now has 2,000 religious social organizations and 48 religious schools and colleges. Religious scriptures, books and magazines are published by various religions. China's Constitution stipulates that the state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. In order to ensure that citizens really enjoy the freedom of religious belief, religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.