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White paper published on China's rule of law
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III. Legal Systems of Respecting and Safeguarding Human Rights

China takes as its constant goal the elimination of poverty, enjoyment of human rights to the full by everyone and building of a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious modern socialist country. China's basic stand on the development of human rights is: placing top priority on people's rights to subsistence and development, making development the principal task, and promoting citizens' political, economic, social and cultural rights to achieve their all-round development.

Based on its Constitution, China has formulated and improved a series of legal systems to codify and institutionalize the safeguarding of human rights.

-- Legal safeguard of the right to life. China attaches great importance to safeguarding its citizens' right to life. The Constitution, Criminal Law and General Principles of the Civil Law all include fundamental stipulations on protecting citizens' right to life. The Production Safety Law, the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Occupational Diseases, and other laws and regulations lay down provisions for the protection of working people's life and health. In view of the country's situation, China retains the death penalty in the law, but upholds the policy of "killing fewer and with caution" and exercises strict and cautious control over the use of the death penalty to ensure that it is applied only in the most serious cases. The death penalty shall not be imposed on persons who have not reached the age of 18 at the time the crime is committed or on women who are pregnant at the time of adjudication. The Criminal Law also prescribes the system of a two-year probation of execution, which is conducive to rigorously controlling the death penalty and reducing the actual number being executed.

-- Legal safeguard of the right to personal freedom and dignity. The Constitution rules that freedom of the person of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable. No citizen may be arrested without the approval or decision of a people's procuratorate or a decision of a people's court, and any arrest must be made by a public security organ. Unlawful detention and deprivation or restriction of citizens' freedom of the person by other means is prohibited. The residences of citizens are inviolable, and unlawful search of, or intrusion into, a citizen's residence is prohibited. The freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens are protected by law, and unlawful censorship of citizens' correspondence is prohibited. The Criminal Procedure Law expressly outlaws extortion of confessions by torture, and prescribes strict legal procedures for compulsory measures and means, including detention, execution of arrests, investigation and gathering of evidence, related to personal freedom and safety. The Criminal Law lays down a special provision on the crime of extorting confessions by torture by judicial functionaries. Both the Legislation Law and Law on Administrative Punishment provide too that no administrative regulation or local regulation may impose any penalties restricting personal freedom. Any compulsory measures or penalties restricting personal freedom shall only be enacted by law. In 2003 the State Council annulled the Measures for Taking in and Sending back Vagrants and Beggars in Cities and, at the same time, enacted the Measures for Assisting Vagrants and Beggars with No Means of Support in Cities. The Constitution stipulates that the personal dignity of citizens is inviolable, and that insult, libel, false accusation or false incrimination directed against citizens by any means is prohibited. The General Principles of the Civil Law protects citizens' right to personal name, honor and portrait.

-- Legal safeguard of the right to equality. The Constitution establishes the principle that all citizens of the People's Republic of China are equal before the law. Every citizen is entitled to the rights and, at the same time, must perform the duties prescribed by the Constitution and the law. Protection or punishment is applied equally to everyone regardless of personal differences. No organization or individual is privileged to be beyond the Constitution or the law, and all acts in violation of the Constitution or the law must be investigated. The Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy prescribe that all ethnic groups in the People's Republic of China are equal, and that the state protects the lawful rights and interests of ethnic minorities, and discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited. All ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, as well as the freedom to preserve or reform their own folkways and customs. The Constitution, the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women and other laws stipulate that women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life -- political, economic, cultural, social and family.

-- Legal safeguard of political rights. It is stated in the Constitution that all power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people. The Legislation Law prescribes that deprivation of any citizen's political rights can only be done in accordance with the law. The right to election is an important political right for citizens. It is stipulated by the Constitution and the law 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 ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence, except for persons deprived of political rights in accordance with the law. The Electoral Law and the Organic Law of the Local People's Congresses and People's Governments prescribe that a group of ten or more voters or deputies may recommend candidates, who enjoy equal legal status with those nominated by political parties and social organizations. Deputies to the people's congresses at all levels, vice-chairmen of the standing committees of local people's congresses and deputy heads of the local people's governments must all be selected through competitive election. The chairmen of the standing committees of local people's congresses, heads of the local people's governments, presidents of local people's courts and chief procurators of local people's procuratorates must also be selected through competitive election, although a non-competitive election may be conducted if only one candidate is nominated. Citizens' freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration is also guaranteed by the Constitution and the law. The Electoral Law, Law on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations, and administrative regulations regarding publication and registration and management of social organizations provide legal guarantees for the political rights and freedom of citizens. The Regulations on Written and Personal Petitions promulgated by the State Council protects citizens' rights to criticism, suggestion, petition, accusation and impeachment through strengthening governments' responsibility for handling people's letters and visits regarding petitions.

-- Legal safeguard of freedom of religious belief. The Constitution stipulates that citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in or not believe in any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in or do not believe in any religion. 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. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination. The Regulations on Religious Affairs promulgated by the State Council prescribes that the state, in accordance with the law, protects the lawful rights and interests of religious bodies, venues of religious activities and religious believers, and their normal religious activities. Since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policies in 1978, Chinese citizens' freedom of religious belief has been fully respected and protected. In 1994 the State Council enacted the Provisions on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens within the Territory of the People's Republic of China to respect freedom of religious belief of aliens within Chinese territory, protect and administer their religious activities in accordance with the law and safeguard friendly contacts and cultural and academic exchanges of aliens with Chinese religious circles in respect of religion.

-- Legal safeguard of the rights and interests of the working people. The Labor Law, Law on Labor Contracts, Law on Labor Disputes Mediation and Arbitration, Law on the Promotion of Employment, Regulations on Paid Annual Leave of Employees, Regulations on Labor Security Supervision and other regulations and laws regulate and promote employment, rationally define the rights and obligations of employers and employees, and protect the lawful rights of employees. The Regulations on Work-related Injury Insurance, Regulations on Unemployment Insurance, Provisional Regulations on Collection and Payment of Social Insurance Premiums, Interim Measures on Maternity Insurance for Enterprise Employees and other regulations and rules guarantee necessary material assistance to the working people in regard to old age, unemployment, illness, work-related injury and childbearing. The Regulations on the Employment of the Disabled, Provisions on the Labor Protection of Female Employees, Provisions on the Prohibition of Child Labor and other regulations and rules provide special protection for the physical and psychological health and lawful rights of all underprivileged groups.

-- Legal safeguard of economic, social, cultural and other rights. The Constitution rules that the lawful private property of citizens is inviolable. The Property Rights Law stipulates that the property rights of the state, collective, individual and any other holder of such rights shall be protected by law, and may not be encroached upon by any entity or individual. The Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, Law on Maternal and Infant Health Care, Law on the Protection of Minors, Law on the Protection of the Disabled and other laws reinforce the protection of special groups. The Regulations on the Minimum Standard of Living of Urban Residents, Regulations on Rural "Five-Guarantee" Work and other regulations prescribe basic living security for urban poverty-stricken people and farmers without labor ability, sources of income, or any supporter, provider or fosterer. The Regulations on Special Care and Preferential Treatment for Servicepersons, Regulations on the Placement of Demobilized Compulsory Servicepersons, and other regulations lay down the state's special care and preferential treatment system for demobilized, injured or dead servicepersons and their families. Citizens' right to education is protected by the Constitution and the law. The Compulsory Education Law intensifies the state's responsibility for guaranteeing the implementation of compulsory education, brings compulsory education completely under the coverage of national financial guarantee, and ensures the equal right of all school-aged children and other teenagers to compulsory education. The Constitution also prescribes that citizens of the People's Republic of China have freedom to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation and other cultural pursuits.

China has joined 22 international human rights conventions, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other key international conventions in this respect. The Chinese government earnestly fulfills its obligations, submits implementation reports on its own initiative, and gives full play to the role of international human rights conventions in promoting and protecting human rights of the Chinese people.

(China.org.cn February 28, 2008)

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