The Communist Party of China and Human Rights Protection
– A 100-Year Quest
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China
First Edition 2021
I.For People’s Liberation and Wellbeing
II.The Principle of Respecting and Protecting Human Rights Embedded in Governance
III.Ensuring the People’s Position as Masters of the Country
IV.Making Comprehensive Progress in Human Rights
V.Protecting the Basic Rights of Citizens in Accordance with the Law
VI.Advancing Human Rights Around the World
VII.Adding Diversity to the Concept of Human Rights
The year 2021 marks the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Over the past century, the CPC has invested a huge effort in human rights protection, adding significantly to global human rights progress.
A hundred years ago, the CPC came into being – its mission to salvage the country and save the Chinese people at a perilous time of domestic upheaval and foreign aggression. This was an epoch-changing moment. Under the leadership of the CPC, the Chinese people embarked on a new journey towards prosperity, national rejuvenation, and wellbeing.
Over this period of one hundred years, the CPC has united and led the people in toppling the “three mountains” of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, creating the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and completing the New Democratic Revolution and the Socialist Revolution. The political and institutional foundations were thereby laid down to ensure the rights and freedoms of the people. Through successes and setbacks, China has pioneered reform and opening up, set the goal of socialist modernization, and ushered in a new era of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Chinese nation has stood up, become better off, and grown in strength. Now, it is embarking on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects.
For a hundred years, the CPC has always put people first, applying the principle of universality of human rights in the context of the national conditions. It regards the rights to subsistence and development as the primary and basic human rights, and believes that living a life of contentment is the ultimate human right. It promotes the well-rounded development of the individual, and strives to give every person a stronger sense of gain, happiness and security. Its success in pioneering human rights in a socialist country is unique and readily apparent.
For a hundred years, the CPC has committed itself to peaceful development and common progress. China is firm in its international stance – to safeguard world peace and seek progress through cooperation, ensuring human rights with the benefits deriving from development. It has been an active participant in matters of international human rights, providing a Chinese contribution to global human rights governance and progress, and working with other countries to forge a global community of shared future.
I. For People’s Liberation and Wellbeing
1. Human Rights Trampled after the Mid-19th Century
The Chinese nation is a great nation boasting a civilization spanning five millennia. China once led the world in composite national strength over a long period of time. But beginning in the middle and latter half of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), and especially after the Opium War in 1840, China plunged into stagnation due to a corrupt, incompetent government and ever growing Western aggression. It was eventually reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal state where the people were enslaved and suffered immeasurably.
Beginning in 1840, the Western imperialist powers, through war and other aggressive means, forced the Chinese government into hundreds of unequal treaties, regulations and conventions, grabbing territory, demanding reparations and privileges, and engaging in a process of colonization and plunder throughout China. Western invasion and colonization shackled the Chinese people, trampling on their dignity and putting their very lives in jeopardy.
It was a tragedy for the country and the people. Oppressed by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, the Chinese people suffered from hunger and poverty and the nation from backwardness and subjugation.
The subsistence crisis raged in all directions. The economy was in a shambles. Low agricultural productivity, land annexation, harsh taxes and levies, natural disasters, and frequent wars turned large numbers of small farmers and peasants into farm laborers for hire or homeless poor. Industry and commerce developed to a certain extent, but was small in scale, low in productivity and unbalanced in structure. Manipulated by foreign and domestic bureaucrat capital, it was impossible to sustain the nation or the people. Under a shattered economy, the people were destitute and struggled to survive. It is estimated that 80 percent of the population was constantly haunted by dire hunger or inadequate food supply, and that tens or even hundreds of thousands of people starved to death every year.
China was also tortured by diseases and hindered by the lack of education among its people. Epidemics such as plague, smallpox and cholera swept across the country and recurred every year, taking a heavy toll on the populace due to the lack of health services. The average life expectancy in old China was only 35 years. When the PRC was founded in 1949, 80 percent of the 540 million population were illiterate, less than 20 percent of school-age children were in elementary schools, and there were only 117,000 students receiving higher education. Commenting on the miseries of the people, Mao Zedong said, “The poverty and lack of freedom among the Chinese people are on a scale seldom found.” With the people struggling for survival, it was impossible to talk about any other rights.
2. National Salvation on the Shoulders of the CPC
With the nation under threat and the people in pain, many people of lofty ideals and insight devoted themselves to the cause of national salvation – leading peasant uprisings, creating initiatives to learn from the West, attempting reformist experiments, and launching a bourgeois revolution. But none of these freed the Chinese from oppression and slavery. The mission of national independence and the liberation of the people fell to the CPC.
In July 1921, the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China announced the founding of the Party, heralding a new stage in the Chinese revolution. It reversed the tragic fate of the Chinese people and laid down the foundations for them to enjoy their basic rights. The first Marxists in China, including Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao and Mao Zedong, already understood the close connection between liberation, independence and the people’s interests.They knew well that only through revolution could the proletariat and the working people establish and maintain their rights, and that only through revolution could China get back on its feet and its people emerge from poverty and humiliation.
The CPC was a party of the proletariat from the very beginning. Through its programs, proposals, and declarations, it made its mission clear and its stance known – to save the nation and secure human rights for its people. The original aspiration and the mission of the Party is to seek happiness for the people of China and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is also the root of its stance on human rights. The CPC, with its people-centered position, has won the support of the Chinese people, making it the spine of the Chinese revolution.
3. Human Rights Protection During the New Democratic Revolution
In the New Democratic Revolution to liberate and free the people and make them masters of the country, the CPC always applied Marxist human rights theory to the Chinese context, pioneering a path of human rights predicated on the universality of human rights and one that is distinctively Chinese.
In the Great Revolution (1924-1927), the CPC took on improving people’s lives and protecting their right to subsistence as key objectives. In the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-1937), the CPC-led Chinese Soviet Government promulgated the Land Law, giving the peasants political rights as well as land to till, so that they could make a living. In the full-scale phase of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), the Party formulated a series of regulations and measures for human rights protection, and enacted tax and interest reduction policies in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region. In the War of Liberation (1945-1949), the Party emphasized protection of human rights and ensuring basic livelihoods for the people, formulated the Outline of the Land Law of China and carried out land reform among 100 million people in the liberated areas, distributing land among peasants and putting an end to feudal production relations. It organized production campaigns to ensure self-sufficiency, encouraged privately-owned industrial and commercial businesses, and provided social relief, all to ensure the people’s wellbeing.
Making the people masters of the country was a primary goal in ensuring human rights during the New Democratic Revolution. Universal suffrage was implemented in the CPC-led Central Soviet Area and the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region, and the long-oppressed people finally had the right to participate in politics and have their voice heard. During the War Against Japanese Aggression, the base areas established democratic governments with CPC members, progressive non-CPC figures, and centrists each occupying one third of the official posts. These policies and systems greatly encouraged the people to take part in revolution and political administration.