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Protecting human rights 'important' for China
(China Daily by Shao Zongwei)
Updated: 2004-03-01 23:22

A senior official said 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.

He was addressing the members of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, an NGO comprising scholars and specialists on human rights.

Tang's remarks came days before the opening of this year's session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature. The session will discuss and vote on an amendment of the Constitution which includes a clause that guarantees China's respect and protection of human rights.

Observers believe that the amendment not only sums up China's human rights efforts in legal terms but also makes it a fundamental rule for government departments to respect and protect human rights.

Apart from the human right protection practices and theoretical research, China has conducted dialogues with countries including the United States and the European Union over the years.

"Everywhere in the world people want human rights," said Zhu Muzhi, the society's honorary president. "But due to the different national conditions, their views and requirements for it vary."

On Zhu's list of differences are the attitudes toward the rights to life and development, the view about democracy and the relationship between sovereignty and human rights.

These differences over the understanding of human rights have been one of the major discords between China and a number of Western countries.

Last Wednesday, the US State Department issued Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003, again criticizing China for human rights deterioration.

The society's president Zhou Jue noted 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.

Among the latest efforts to protect human rights, the central government has taken measures to better protect the rights of the migrant workers, AIDS patients and the impoverished population.

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

Also Monday, China issued the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2003 in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003 issued by the US last Wednesday.

Released by the Information Office of the State Council, the Chinese report listed a multitude of cases to show that serious violations of human rights exist on the homeland of the United States.

"As in any previous year, the United States once again acted as 'the world human rights police' by distorting and censuring in the 'reports' the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions across the world, including China. And just as usual, the United States once again 'omitted' its own long-standing malpractices and problems of human rights in the 'reports'. Therefore, we have to, as before, help the United States keep its human rights record," said China's own report.

The report reviewed the human rights record of the United States in 2003 from six perspectives: Life, Freedom and Safety; Political Rights and Freedom; Living Conditions of US Laborers; Racial Discrimination; Conditions of Women, Children and Elderly People; and Infringement upon Human Rights of Other Nations.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Information Office of the State Council has issued human rights record of the United States to answer the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued annually by the State Department of the United States.

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