Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China
The State Council Information Office of
the People’s Republic of China
I. A Splendid History of China’s Human Rights Protection
II. People-centered Approach in Human Rights Protection
III. Continuing to Improve People’s Living Standards
IV. Effectively Ensuring That People Enjoy Their Rights
V. Protecting the Rights of Special Groups
VI. Strengthening the Rule of Law for Human Rights
VII. Full Participation in Global Governance of Human Rights
VIII. Advancing the International Cause of Human Rights
October 1, 2019 is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a day of special significance not only for China but for the entire world. As a result of the developments that have taken place in the PRC over the 70 years, the people of China are living a happier life, the world is more prosperous, and human society is more diverse and colorful.
Seventy years ago, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) the people of China were emancipated and became masters of their country. Over the subsequent seven decades, the Chinese nation has stood up and grown prosperous and is becoming strong; all basic rights of the people are better respected and protected; and China has made regular contribution to the international cause of human rights.
Living a happy life is the primary human right. Since the day of its foundation, the CPC has set its goal to work for the wellbeing of the people of China, for national rejuvenation and for human progress. Since the founding of the PRC, and especially since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, China has been guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. The nation has constantly reviewed the experience gained in human social development, integrated the principle of universality of human rights with national conditions in practicing socialism with Chinese characteristics, and espoused a people-centered view of human rights. China regards the rights to subsistence and development as its primary and basic human rights. It endeavors to improve the rights of all its people in a coordinated manner and works for their rounded development. Both history and present circumstances attest that China has opened a new path of human rights protection based on its national conditions, and increased the diversity of human civilizations.
As a key member of the international community, China raises high the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefits, stanchly safeguarding world peace, promoting common development, and advancing development through cooperation while promoting human rights through development. It fully participates in global human rights governance, and works strenuously to advance the international cause of human rights.
I. A Splendid History of China’s Human Rights Protection
The PRC is a socialist country led by the CPC. The original aspiration and the mission of the Party is to seek happiness for the people of China and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation, and putting the people at the center of all its work is the supreme pursuit of the Party in its governance. The Party’s leadership is the fundamental guarantee for the people of China to have access to human rights, and to fully enjoy more human rights. This leadership is therefore in the interests of all people of China, critical for their pursuit of a happy life, and provides the foundations for the cause of human rights in China.
The progress in human rights in China parallels the country’s overall progress in recent times, and results from the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The cause of human rights in China has gone through three phases since 1949:
The first phase: Founded in 1949, the PRC established a basic socialist system and achieved the most extensive and profound social transformation in China’s history, laying down the basic political prerequisite and establishing the institutions for developing human rights in China.
Between 1840 and 1949, due to repeated invasions by foreign powers, a corrupt ruling class, and a backward social system, China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. Frequent wars, instability, a shattered economy, and a destitute populace – this is an accurate portrayal of China at that time. The people suffered under the oppression of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism, and had no access to human rights at all.
With the founding of the PRC, China achieved and then defended true, complete national liberation and independence, which provided the fundamental guarantee for the subsistence, freedom, and personal security of the people, and created fundamental conditions to effectively protect and continuously improve all of their rights.
The PRC established and consolidated the political system of people’s democracy, which guarantees the people’s rights to be masters of their country. The Common Program of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which was adopted on the eve of the founding of the PRC and served as the provisional Constitution of China, stipulates: people have the right to vote and to stand in election in addition to a wide range of political rights and freedoms; and women have the same rights as men in all respects, including politics, economy, culture, education and social life. The 1954 Constitution of the PRC, which was adopted at the First Session of the First National People’s Congress (NPC), set up the principles of people’s democracy and socialism, established the system of people’s congresses, and provided institutional guarantees for ensuring all power in the PRC belongs to the people. It included a chapter specifying the basic rights and obligations of citizens.
The various democratic reforms and social programs carried out by the PRC during this period created conditions for economic and social development and protection of human rights. The land reform in the early 1950s abolished the feudal system of land ownership that allowed for exploitation by the landlord class. As a result, Chinese peasants were economically liberated and became masters of their country. Suppressed rural productive forces were unleashed and peasants’ economic status and living standards were greatly improved. The democratic reform of the production and management of state-owned factories, mines, and transportation operators that started in 1950 set up factory management committees and workers’ congresses in these entities, and hence made workers true masters of their enterprises. The Marriage Law promulgated in 1950 abolished the feudal marriage system that sanctioned arranged or forced marriages, enabled men’s superiority over women, and neglected children’s interests. It established a new marriage system featuring monogamy, freedom of marriage, gender equality, and protection of the legitimate interests of women and children. In addition, China promoted education and healthcare, established labor insurance and social relief systems, and created a nascent social security system with public employers being the building blocks.
The PRC established a complete, comprehensive economic system to boost economic growth, which laid the economic foundations for human rights protection. The newborn People’s Republic quickly recovered from the devastation of past wars. In only three years its economy and the people’s standard of living rose to the highest level in history. On this basis China started socialist transformation of agriculture, handcrafts and capitalist industry and commerce, and established a basic economic system of socialism. This provided the basic institutional guarantee for the people to participate in economic development and share the fruits of their work on an equal footing.
The PRC soundly rejects ethnic oppression and discrimination, and forges an interethnic relationship characterized by equality, mutual help and unity. The success of the system of regional ethnic autonomy effectively guarantees the equal rights of all ethnic minority groups in China as well as their right of autonomy in handling affairs of their own groups and regions.
The second phase: The reform and opening up launched in 1978 opened the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and has emancipated and developed the productive forces to a great extent. As a result the people’s rights to subsistence and development and other basic rights are better protected, and the cause of human rights in China has made huge progress.
Reform and opening up was a great new revolution undertaken by the people of China and led by the CPC under the new conditions of that era. Under the leadership of the CPC, the people review experiences and lessons drawn from socialist construction, adhere to the path of socialism, keep economic development as our central task, uphold the Four Cardinal Principles and reform and opening up, and build socialism with Chinese characteristics. The CPC pursues development as its top priority in governance and rejuvenation of the nation and the key to solving all China’s problems. It vigorously builds up productive forces and strives to better protect human rights through development, and has thereby aroused great enthusiasm among the people.