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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Protecting human rights 'important' for China

Protecting human rights 'important' for China

Human Rights ChinaThe linked report cites a "senior official" saying on Monday that the promotion of human rights is important for China.

"It has become an important task for China in the new century to respect and guarantee human rights, and to improve the efforts to protect human rights," said State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan.

The "official" was addressing the members of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, an organisation of academics and human rights "specialists".

promotion of human rights is important for China.

-Tang Jiaxuan-Former Foreign Minister-

This statement is important for a couple of reasons.

  • Firstly Tang is a former Foreign Minister of the P.R.C. (and not just a Senior Official as the article states) so he would be very much "in the know".
  • he was addressing a Human Rights organisation, albeit a Chinese one,
  • the timing is rather coincident coming after the U.S.'s Human Rights Report on China was released and on the day the Chinese response report was released, and
  • a senior Chinese "Human Rights " organisation president was allowed (or directed?) to release a statement critical of the country's record, albeit mildly.

As the article states Tang's remarks came days before the opening of this year's session of the National People's Congress which will discuss and vote on an amendment of the Constitution which includes a clause that guarantees China's citizens protection of human rights.

If the amendment is passed (and I have not at time of writing any detail as to what it covers and to what degree) it will be fairly significant event and one that would truly show China heading in the right direction on Human Rights.

The news article implies that by enshrining a human rights amendment in the Constitution that it is important from a legal point of view. This is not necessarily the case however.

Even though things are far from perfect, generally speaking China has made remarkable achievements in human rights protection

-Zhou Jue-China Human Rights President-

Religious freedom for example is enshrined already in the constitution but people have very little legal recourse under it because it has a fairly significant rider attached that religion can not interfere with state security, so in purely legal terms it is useless. However by being there it provides considerable ammunition for which to level criticism at China.

The Chinese government will know that as soon as they pass a "Human Rights Amendment", no matter how loosely constructed, it will be thrown up at them at every opportunity by every government, human rights organisation and activist in the world so it will be a decision not entered into lightly.

I do agree with the article however when it states that the amendment will "make it a fundamental rule for government departments to respect and protect human rights".

I have said before that in the echelons below the Politburo there are thousands of old hard liners who use their positions to advance themselves personally through graft and corruption and to use their power to violate human rights of a variety of groups, Uygur and Tibetan in particular but many others as well.

Having such an amendment within the constitution will send a fairly strong message to these people who are already getting some strong messages with China's drive on official corruption.

The article goes on to quote Zhou Jue president of a "Non Government" aligned Human Rights organisation who almost makes a plea for understanding on the different attitudes of China and the West toward the rights to life and development, the views about democracy and the relationship between sovereignty and human rights.

Zhou Jue noted in his address at the same conference attended by the ex-Foreign Minister that

"China's economic development and reform have provided conditions to guarantee its people's rights to life and development, while the nation's efforts to reform the political system and strengthen the legal system have allowed the Chinese to enjoy broader civil and political rights."

I have got to say that I am fairly encouraged by this event, being timed as it has.

It is obvious that the P.R.C. has directed the ex-foreign minister and the HRO president to say what it can not come out openly to say and in doing so send a clear message of intent.

The P.R.C's latest efforts to crack down on official corruption (they have even taken away official car usage in some instances!), to admit openly the very real problem that exists with income distribution between rural and urban citizens. the early release of the "Singing" Tibetan nun and measures on AIDS control all bode well for the direction they are taking.

To sum up in the words of the HRO President Zhou and in hope that he is correct

"Even though things are far from perfect, generally speaking China has made remarkable achievements in human rights protection,"