"The constitutional amendment is a milestone for the development of China's human rights. It illustrates China's social progress and results from human rights development in China," Yang Zhengquan, standing vice president of the China Foundation for Human Rights Development, vice president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told China.org.cn.
The amendment says that "the state respects and safeguards human rights."
Yang said that human rights development has experienced four historical phases in China since the late 1920s.
In the first phase, from 1921 to 1949, the Communist Party of China led the people in their fight for national independence, sovereignty, democracy and human rights.
The human rights situation changed entirely in the second phase, from 1949 to 1978, as the Chinese people won national independence and a democratic state power as a political guarantee for the right to life and development.
In the third phase, from 1978 to the present, the reform and opening policy brought further improvements to the people's standard of living and their economic, cultural and social rights.
The constitutional amendment of 2004 marks entry into the fourth phase, in which China's human rights development will make new headway as it gains impetus from the amendment.
Yang said the enforcement of the amendment will raise consciousness among government officials as well as citizens.
"To facilitate the enforcement of the constitutional amendment, widespread human rights education will be given to citizens, providing them with knowledge about human rights as well as improving their sense of self-protection.
"Human rights education for citizens is an important part of building a socialist political civilization in China. It will improve their political caliber and boost social progress," said Yang.
Yang noted that government entities will step up their efforts in promoting human rights and more related research institutions will emerge.
"A number of existing laws and regulations will be reviewed to see whether they have conflicts with the human rights amendment. If any violations or imperfections are found in them, they will have to be revised in line with the Constitution. The amendment will also influence future legislation as every law must incorporate the spirit of protecting human rights," he said.
Yang went on to say that the amendment clearly illustrates the Chinese government's attitude toward human rights and will greatly boost China's communications on the issue with other countries. It will help the international community to better understand the human rights situation in China.
Some other amendments to the Constitution approved on March 14, such as the provisions for protecting private property, encouraging and supporting the private sector of the economy and improving the social security and land expropriation systems, said Yang, also provide legal conditions for better human rights protection.
"No country has a perfect human rights record and China, as a developing country, is no exception. We are fully aware that we have some problems in our human rights development, which we will solve properly step by step. The constitutional amendment is a good illustration of our resolve to tackle the problems."
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Chen Chao, March 16, 2004)