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Actions Focus on Guarding Human Rights

Human rights experts and scholars yesterday urged more efforts to turn constitutional principles into action after the Sunday amendment which adds human rights protection into the Chinese Constitution.

Hailing the amendment as "a milestone" in China's human rights development, they suggested institutional, legislative and educational endeavours further improve human rights conditions in the world's most populous country.

"The State has a special role to play in respecting and protecting human rights... because it has the legislative, administrative and judicial rights," said Liu Hainian, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Liu, speaking at a seminar on the constitutional amendment, stressed the State should enhance supervision and guard its subordinate institutions, including legislative, judicial and administrative departments against any human rights violations.

The latest amendment of the Constitution, passed by an overwhelming majority during the Second Session of the 10th National People's Congress on Sunday, added a clause which says that the State respects and preserves human rights.

Even though the current Constitution, which took effect in 1982, stipulates the fundamental rights of citizens, this is the first time that the term "human rights" has been written into the Chinese Constitution.

The amendment is also expected to influence the nation's legislation in the future.

"We expect that future laws and regulations will increasingly reflect the constitutional principle of respecting and protecting human rights," said Chen Weidian, a member of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.

"Meanwhile, there should be a review of current laws and regulations so that they will be readjusted, improved or further elaborated following the principles enshrined in the Constitution."

Embracing the idea of human rights protection, China's law-makers made significant amendments to the country's Criminal Procedure Law and Criminal Law in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

Other laws that have contributed to better human rights protection include the State Compensation Law, the General Principles of Civil Law and the laws on the protection of women, minors and senior citizens.

China Society for Human Rights Studies Secretary-General Dong Yunhu told China Daily in a recent interview that China has formed a initial legal system for human rights protection based on the Constitution which covers every aspect of life.

Regarded as bourgeois, "human rights" used to be a taboo term in China, a socialist country founded shortly after the start of the Cold War. With increasing awareness among the Chinese since the 1980s when the nation started to open up to the outside world, human rights are now deemed an outcome of the development of human civilization.

The scholars yesterday stressed the necessity to spread relevant knowledge among citizens to better promote human rights in China.

"We need to start a campaign from the government to the public to spread knowledge about human rights," said Liu Wenzong, a professor with the Beijing-based Foreign Affairs College.

(China Daily March 16, 2004)

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