Full Text: Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China

Human Rights
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China on Sunday published a white paper titled "Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China."

XinhuaUpdated: September 23, 2019

IV. Effectively Ensuring That People Enjoy Their Rights

Over the 70 years since the founding of the PRC, China has continued to improve its protection of the people's economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental rights, and ensured the development of human rights in all respects. 

Personal rights and dignity are well respected and protected. Personal rights and dignity are the basic components of human rights, so China has consistently attached great importance to protecting such rights over the past 70 years. The Constitution of the PRC states that the personal dignity of citizens of the PRC is inviolable. The 19th CPC National Congress again emphasized the protection of personal rights, property rights and right to dignity, demonstrating the humane view of protecting people's personal dignity and promoting the well-rounded development of the individual person. The Civil Law in particular elaborates the right to dignity. China is now accelerating the reform of the household registration system. It has relaxed restrictions on the change of domicile, enabling eligible permanent residents with stable employment in urban areas to localize their residency. Inviolability of residence, freedom of correspondence and security of information are fully protected by law. 

China fully safeguards workers' rights. Before the founding of the PRC, a large part of the urban workforce was unemployed. At the end of 1949 there were 180.82 million people across the country in employment, of whom only 15.33 million worked in urban areas. The urban unemployment rate was 23.6 percent. The employment situation has steadily improved over the past 70 years. By the end of 1978, the year when the policy of reform and opening up was adopted, the employed population had reached 401.52 million. After that, thanks to rapid economic growth and a policy that prioritizes employment, China's employed population expanded rapidly. During the six years from the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 to 2018, over 13 million new jobs were created each year, and the total employed population in 2018 reached 775.86 million. The registered unemployment rate remained at a low level below 4.1 percent for a long period of time. 

The guarantee for remuneration for labor, right to equal pay for equal work, right to rest and leisure, right to occupational safety and health, right to join in and organize a labor union, and right to participate in the democratic management of businesses and public institutions are protected by law, as is women workers' right to special protection. Universal mechanisms to adjust and assess the minimum wage have been established across the country, so as to ensure the basic living conditions of workers and their dependents. At present, each worker is entitled to 115 rest days and public holidays, and 5 to 15 days of paid holidays each year, as well as maternity leave, wedding leave, funeral leave and family reunion leave in line with the regulations. The number of primary-level labor unions rose from 207,000 in 1952 to 2.73 million in 2018 and their members grew from 10 million to 295 million during the same period. 

China has established a social security system that covers the largest population in the world. There was no social security system in China when the PRC was founded. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, the state and employers began providing labor protection and other forms of welfare, and rural collectives provided peasants with a certain level of social security. After launching reform and opening up China gradually set up the world's largest social security system covering people of both rural and urban areas. It has continued to make improvements. By March 2019 basic endowment insurance covered 941 million people, work-related injury insurance 239 million, unemployment insurance 197 million, and birth insurance more than 200 million. The basic medical insurance system, including basic medical insurance for workers and for rural and non-working urban residents, now covers more than 1.3 billion people - almost China's entire population. China has substantially raised the amount of the basic pension of enterprise retirees every year since 2005. Per capita government subsidies for basic medical insurance for rural and non-working urban residents rose from RMB240 in 2012 to RMB520 in 2019. China pioneered a long-term nursing insurance system in 2016. China is improving its capacity to offer social security services. In 2016, it launched a real-time settlement of medical expenses for medical treatment incurred outside the provincial-level administrative area where the patient's medical insurance is registered, and this benefited a growing number of people. By March 2019, there were about 1.25 billion social security card holders, covering 89.6 percent of China's population.

Universal education expands remarkably. In the early days of the PRC, China's education system was poor and the general level of education was low. The net primary education enrolment rate was 20 percent and the gross junior secondary education enrolment rate was only 3 percent. There were only 117,000 college students and 80 percent of the population was illiterate. The new Chinese government paid close attention to the development of education. The enrolment rate of school-age children reached 95.5 percent in 1978, and the overall rate of illiteracy had dropped to 22.8 percent by 1982. Since the launch of reform and opening up, China has invested an enormous effort in implementing the education-first strategy, to modernize education and guarantee equal access to education for all. In 2018 the gross three-year preschool education enrolment rate reached 81.7 percent, and the children enrolled in government-funded and privately-run non-profit kindergartens accounted for 73.1 percent of all kindergarteners. The net primary education enrolment rate was 99.95 percent, the gross junior secondary education enrolment rate was 100.9 percent, and the completion rate of the free nine-year compulsory education was 94.2 percent. Availability of senior secondary education in China is now basically universal. In 2018, senior high schools had a total of 39.35 million students on campus. Higher education is becoming universal. In 2018, with 7.91 million newly enrolled students, there were a total of 38.33 million students studying in colleges and universities, representing a gross college enrolment rate of 48.1 percent. A modern vocational education and continuing education system has been established. In 2018, there were 11,600 vocational schools across China, with a total of 26.89 million students, including 9.26 million newly enrolled. 

Public cultural services benefit more people. When the PRC was founded in 1949, provision of public cultural services was quite backward, with few public cultural facilities across the whole country - only 55 public libraries, 896 cultural centers, and 21 museums. Thanks to a constant effort over the past 70 years, socialist cultural undertakings in China are flourishing in every respect. A public cultural service system is in place, an increasing number of public cultural facilities are open to the public for free, and the cultural industry is developing rapidly. 

In 2018 China had the following facilities and infrastructure:

•  3,176 public libraries (57.7 times of that in 1949)

•  3,328 cultural centers (art centers)

•  41,193 township (sub-district) cultural stations

• 340,560 community (village) centers

•  11.4 sq m of public library space per 1,000 people

•  30.7 sq m of public cultural facilities per 1,000 people

•  5,354 museums (4,743 open to the public for free) - one museum per 260,000 head of population 

•  98.94 percent of the total population was covered by the broadcasting network

•  99.25 percent had access to television

• 9.5 billion copies of books were published (35 times of that in 1950).

It also had a significant capability to provide digital cultural services through public libraries, including 808 million e-books, 223,500 computers (including 146,300 e-reading terminals), and 1,200 terabytes of public digital cultural resources created through public digital cultural service projects. Work to popularize science has been further intensified to improve the public's understanding and appreciation of science and culture. 

Chinese people enjoy real democracy. The Constitution clearly provides that all power in the PRC belongs to the people. The essence and the core principle of the socialist democratic political system is that the people are the masters of the country. The NPC and local people's congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power. The principles of universality, equality, direct election, indirect election, and competitive election are applied. All citizens who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status, or length of residence, except persons deprived of political rights in accordance with the law. In line with the national conditions and reality, China has improved the election system to gradually ensure that both rural and urban areas have the same proportion of deputies from the represented population in elections of people's congress deputies, and that all regions, ethnic groups, and sectors of society have a certain proportion of deputies. In the elections of deputies to the people's congresses at county and township levels beginning in 2016, more than 1 billion constituents cast votes for nearly 2.5 million deputies. 

Orderly development is seen in community-level democracy. A community-level self-governance system, featuring self-governance by urban and rural residents, and democratic election, consultation, decision-making, management, and supervision, is now in place and continues to improve.

China protects people's rights to know, to participate, to express, and to supervise. A mechanism through which public opinion is consulted in drafting laws has been set up and improved. Transparency of administrative work of the government is enhanced, and the channels for public participation in legislation and major administrative decision-making are constantly broadening. By 2018 the state legislatures had solicited public opinion on 172 draft laws, receiving 5.1 million comments from 150 million people. 

A mechanism in which decisions are made in accordance with the law has been improved. This takes public participation, expert discussion, risk assessment, review of legality, and group discussion as legal procedures in major administrative decision-making, so as to make decision-making more reasonable, democratic and law-based. Democratic consultation is applied extensively as a mechanism at multiple levels. The content and procedure of consultation are regulated, and the forms, frequency, and effect of consultation are extending and increasing. Extensive consultation is conducted on matters concerning overall economic and social development and related to the vital interests of the people. By March 2019, the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) had received 141,807 proposals and 130,299 of them were placed on file, published and transmitted 12,096 samples of public opinion, and adopted and carried out most of the proposals. 

A public complaints reporting system has been established and improved. The national public complaints information system links public complaints and proposals administrative organs at all levels with more than 90,000 functional departments, town and township governments and sub-district offices, and 41 departments of the CPC and ministries of the central government. A people's proposal soliciting system has been set up. China provides smooth channels through which people express their opinion, offers innovative ways of public supervision, and puts in place convenient and effective online platforms for citizens to offer their views and advice, express their demands, and participate in social management in an orderly manner. 

The Experience of Fengqiao, a town in Zhuji City, Zhejiang Province, is a good example of successful dispute resolution, by which "trivial matters are solved in the villages, major problems are settled in the town, and no conflict are passed on to the higher authorities." This model is being rolled out. People's mediation is closely linked to and synergizes with administrative, industry- and profession-based, and judicial mediation, and a diverse conflict and dispute solving mechanism is being improved, so that people can solve their problems quickly and on the site. The NPC Standing Committee carries out examinations of law enforcement. The CPPCC actively explores and improves the democratic supervision system and offers criticism and suggestions regarding problems arising in implementation of the decisions made by the Party or government. 

China protects freedom of religious belief in accordance with the law. China follows policies on freedom of religious belief. Based on the conditions of the country and reality of its religions, China protects citizens' freedom of religious belief, builds active and healthy religious relations, and maintains religious and social harmony. In accordance with the Constitution and the law, the Chinese government supports all religions in upholding the principle of independence and self-management. It also supports religious groups, clerical personnel, and believers in managing their own religious affairs. The government manages religious affairs involving national and public interests but does not interfere in the internal affairs of religions. The state treats all religions fairly and equally, and does not exercise administrative power to encourage or ban any religion. No religion is given preferential treatment over other religions or enjoys special legal privileges. The major religions practiced in China are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestant Christianity, with nearly 200 million believers and more than 380,000 clerical personnel. At present, there are about 144,000 places of worship registered for religious activities and 92 religious schools in China. 

Environmental rights are better protected. Over the past 70 years, with rapid economic growth and industrialization, China has determined environmental protection as a national policy and included it in the functions and work of government. It has set up and continued to improve the mechanisms, policies, and legal system required for environmental protection. It advocates sustainable development, promotes a circular economy, and accelerates the process of clean and low-carbon transformation. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has determined environmental progress as a point of the Five-point Strategy. China advocates green development and harmony between human and nature. It is intensifying environmental governance, addressing the thorniest problems in the fight against air, water and soil contamination, and carrying out strict supervision over environmental protection work. The idea that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets has ingrained into people's minds. Through such efforts, China is rapidly improving the quality of its environment. 

In 2018 clean energy resources, including natural gas, water, nuclear, wind and solar energy, made up 22.1 percent of China's total energy consumption, an increase of 15.5 percentage points over 1978. Between 2013 and 2018, the average PM10 intensity in 338 cities at and above the prefecture level fell by 26.8 percent, and the average PM2.5 and SO2 intensity in the 74 cities that took the lead in implementing the Ambient Air Quality Standards fell by 42 percent and 68 percent respectively. The proportion of excellent and good quality surface water increased to 71 percent while that of inferior Class V surface water dropped to 6.7 percent. An environmental protection zoning map has been drawn up that covers 95 percent of China's rare and endangered species and their habitats and about 45 percent of carbon sequestration by vegetation.

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