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Protecting Human Rights Nation's Top Priority for Century

The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has already shown greater concern for human rights and so has the government, said State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan on Monday.

The draft amendment to the Constitution, scheduled to be discussed at the annual session of the Chinese legislature this month, includes the CPC-proposed item "to respect and guarantee human rights."

The new Chinese leadership has also promoted a scientific concept of development featuring humanistic governance and comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development of the economy and society.

"The series of policies put forward by the new leadership since last year are significant to improving human rights protection in China," said Zhou Jue, president of the China Society for Human Rights (CSHR) at the second session of its second national council, held on Monday.

Notably, the Party and the government pledged to promote citizens' participation in politics and better implement the Constitution, Zhou said.

China has adopted open elections for village committees in rural areas and promoted balloting for community committees in cities. Voting for heads of townships and counties is on trial in a few areas.

The government has taken steps to protect the rights of minority groups such as migrant workers, AIDS/HIV patients and the needy, Zhou added.

Premier Wen Jiabao visited and shook hands with AIDS patients in Beijing on December 1 last year, an unprecedented act. The administration also promised to offer free medicine to needy AIDS/HIV-positive people.

"China's perspective on human rights is different from the West, since the two have different cultures and face different economic and social problems," said Zhu Muzhi, a senior expert and honorary president of the CSHR. "It is not confrontation, but dialogue that will narrow the differences."

The Chinese enjoyed better human rights than ever before, but there were problems, said Peking University Professor Chen Zhishang, a member of CSHR.

The gap between the rich and the poor and between cities and the countryside was expanding. The country should also seek new ways to protect the rights of the poor and the rural population, Chen said.

The CSHR, founded in 1993 and with a total membership of 163, is the only national academic society for human rights in China.

(Xinhua News Agency March 1, 2004)

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