China is Committed to a Human Rights Development Path with Chinese Characteristics
Li Baodong, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China
10 December 2016
Today is the 68th Human Rights Day. It was designated by the UN to remember the hard lessons of the two world wars and reaffirm the need to respect and protect human rights. Its designation opened a new chapter in the international human rights endeavor, which has travelled an extraordinary journey with significant progress.
– Over the past 68 years, the rights to peace and life have been upheld. There have been no world wars, some local conflicts have been contained and peace and tranquility are enjoyed by people in most countries and regions. A large number of Asian, African and Latin American countries have emerged from colonial rule. All forms of slavery and racism have been banned. It has become the prevailing consensus of the international community that the rights and basic freedoms of citizens should be protected.
– Over the past 68 years, great achievements have been made in protecting the rights to survival and development. Since 2000, 1.1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty globally. Net enrollment rate in primary education in developing countries has reached 91%. Mortality rate of children under five has more than halved. Maternal mortality has dropped by 45%. An additional 1.9 billion people have gained access to drinking water. The Internet is accessible to 3.5 billion people. In September last year, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals. An ambitious blueprint aimed at “leaving no one behind” and achieving “zero poverty”, the 2030 Agenda will bring benefits to mankind.
– Over the past 68 years, international cooperation on human rights has flourished. The UN has adopted nine core treaties and over 100 international instruments on human rights. Human rights theories and practises have been enriched and improved. In 2005, the UN identified human rights as the three pillars of its work together with security and development, thus mainstreaming human rights in the UN system. Developing countries have pushed for reform of the UN human rights bodies, and justice, objectivity and non-selectivity have been affirmed as the basis and principles of the UN’s human rights work.
On the other hand, there is no fundamental change to the fact that the South has a much weaker voice than the North in global human rights governance. There is also a growing tendency toward politicizing human rights or applying double standards. Some countries are using human rights as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Injustice, intolerance and instability still persist, and global development continues to be unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable. In short, the international human rights endeavor remains an uphill battle.
Human rights are the lofty ideals of mankind, but there is no universally agreed path to human rights. In international human rights cooperation, countries must adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations, respect each other’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and discard politicization and double standards. It is important that countries respect each other’s independent choice of human rights path, as well as each other’s values, history, cultural tradition and political system. There should be equal-footed dialogue and cooperation so that countries can learn from each other and achieve common progress. We should also work for balanced development of the two categories of human rights, and strike a balance between the universality and particularity of human rights, between rights and obligations, and between individual rights and collective rights.
By aligning the universality of human rights with China’s national conditions, China has worked for the all-round and balanced development of people’s economic, social, cultural rights as well as civil and political rights, and embarked on a human rights development path with Chinese characteristics. It is the longstanding policy of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government to respect and protect human rights, which has been included in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and China’s economic and social development programs. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President Xi Jinping has addressed the human rights issue on a number of important occasions. A few days ago, in a congratulatory letter to the International Seminar on the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the United Nations’ “Declaration on the Right to Development”, he stressed that development is the eternal quest of mankind and that the international community, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a new starting point, should strive to realize common development and find a path to fair, open, comprehensive and innovation-driven development. His words provide guidance for advancing China’s human rights cause in an all-round way. Thanks to the unremitting efforts over many years, human rights have been fully protected in China and our human rights cause has reached a new phase.
– China has come a long way in its economic and social development. Food and clothing is no longer a problem for the 1.3 billion Chinese people. Over 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty, accounting for more than 70% of the global total. China is the first country to have realized the Millennium Development Goal of halving its poor population; this is a major contribution to the global poverty reduction efforts. At present, 770 million Chinese have jobs and there is universal coverage of nine-year compulsory education. China has the world’s largest universal medical insurance system and the largest social security system and has won the international “Social Security Outstanding Achievement Award”. In its China National Human Development Report 2016, the UN lauded China for enjoying the most rapid development in the past 30 years.
– China has made progress in democracy and the rule of law. The Chinese people have enjoyed more extensive democratic rights and freedoms according to law. Elective democracy and consultative democracy are complementing each other, democratic supervision has been made more robust and effective, and the exercise of power has been made more transparent. The judicial protection of human rights has become stronger, and faster progress has been made in promoting rule of law. A socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics has been established, with 254 laws and over 9,000 sub-national regulations in force. China supports social organizations in taking part in domestic economic and social development and welcomes overseas NGOs to conduct friendly exchanges and cooperation in China. The Law on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-governmental Organizations Within the Territory of China will be implemented as of January 2017; it is designed to protect the lawful rights and interests of overseas NGOs in China.
– China has protected the lawful rights of vulnerable groups. The Chinese government gives priority to the development of ethnic minority groups and regions, and has adopted many special policies and measures to help ethnic minorities fully participate in political decision-making, share in the achievements of economic and social progress, and enjoy broad freedoms in inheriting and developing their traditional cultures and religious beliefs. China is committed to the goal of gender equality. We believe women “hold up half the sky”, support women in pursuing careers and give every woman the opportunity to succeed and fulfill her dream. China has followed the principle of putting children first, encouraged greater respect and supporting for the elderly, and stepped up efforts to protect the rights and interests of people with disabilities. In a word, the government has made greater efforts to ensure the rights of children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
– China has actively advanced the international human rights agenda. China has been deeply and comprehensively involved in global human rights governance, put forward proposals, and promoted the healthy development of international human rights bodies. Last October, China was elected to the UN Human Rights Council with as many as 180 votes, becoming one of few countries which have sat in the Council for four times, thanks to international recognition of China’s role. China has honored its international obligations on human rights and cooperated with the Universal Periodic Review and reviews of its implementation of human rights conventions. China holds human rights dialogues and exchanges with almost 40 countries, actively carries out technical cooperation on human rights and is an active force in advancing the international human rights agenda.
– China has provided assistance to other developing countries to the best of its capabilities. By 2015, China had provided nearly RMB400 billion of assistance to 166 countries as well as international organizations, offered medical assistance to 69 countries, mobilized over 600,000 assistance personnel and helped over 120 developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. For the Ebola epidemic alone, China has provided four batches of assistance worth RMB750 million to the affected African countries. The China-UN peace and development fund has been put into operation and the assistance fund for South-South cooperation has been launched. China is advancing the Belt and Road Initiative. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is already up and running. During its G20 presidency, China placed development high on the agenda of the G20. China is among the first countries to deposit its instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement, helping to bring forward the entry into force of the agreement. As China continues to grow, you will see it make further contribution to the global cause of human rights.
The Chinese nation is striving to meet the “Two Centenary Goals” and fulfill the Chinese Dream of national renewal. It will continue to make political, economic, cultural, social and ecological progress, pursue the four-pronged comprehensive strategy, have confidence in its path, theories, system and culture and go all out to meet the goals of doubling its 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020, completely eliminating poverty, advancing democracy for the people and building a law-based government. China has recently released National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) and New Progress in the Judicial Protection of Human Rights in China. These and other important documents will go a long way toward ensuring the people’s extensive rights and freedoms in accordance with law, safeguarding social equity and justice, and better promoting human rights protection in China.
Standing on the vast land of 9.6 million square kilometers, nourished by its 5,000-year history and culture and backed by the cohesion of 1.3 billion people, China has a vast stage, profound historical strength and inexhaustible driving force to pursue the path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics.