Human rights actions speak louder than words but challenges remain

By Shan Chu Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-22 20:38:01

On October 22, China underwent its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council. During the session, China stated its position on human rights protection and outlined its new achievements, challenges and future goals, with emphasis on the implementation of the recommendations it accepted in the first UPR four years ago.

An overwhelming majority of countries commended China's significant progress in human rights protection. The efforts by the Chinese government and people to promote and protect human rights have been well recognized by the international community.

Human rights promotion and protection is a journey of a thousand miles and we have to begin with a single step.

Four years ago, the Chinese government made a solemn commitment in the first UPR: When China undergoes the next review, the world will see a China with a more prosperous economy, improved democracy and the rule of law, a more harmonious society and people living in greater happiness.

Now the commitment has been basically fulfilled by every single step China has taken to advance its human rights cause in the past years.

A single step could be as big as the abolishment of death penalty for 13 separate non-violent economic crimes, and could also be as small as the direct election of villagers' committees in rural areas.

It could be a long-term policy such as building a social security system covering urban and rural residents which reduces their worries about future, and could also be a one-off program like the 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) economic stimulus package that has boosted the economy and created jobs.

It could be a holistic plan, and could also be a concrete action as an open and constructive dialogue on the human rights issue with another country. All these steps have led to giant leaps in human rights protection in China.

Political rights of the Chinese citizens have been upheld better. The judicial system has been strengthened with enhanced human rights protection as an important target.

All 60 tasks of the judicial system reform launched in 2008 have been completed and judicial transparency has been improved.

Freedom of speech is extensively enjoyed. By the end of 2012, the number of netizens in China reached 564 million. People express views freely through microblogs, postings and other means in accordance with the law.

The level of protection of the human rights of special groups is an important yardstick in measuring the cultural progress of China. From 2008 to 2012, nearly 12.2 million people with disabilities were rehabilitated to varying degrees.

By 2012, insurance schemes for senior citizens had covered all rural areas and non-working urban residents, with the participation of 790 million people. Minority ethnic groups enjoy extensive human rights. Their freedom of religious belief and the right to use and develop their spoken and written languages are fully respected and guaranteed.

As the saying goes, none but the wearer knows if the shoe fits. Different countries face different challenges and priority tasks in the field of human rights, and their paths toward human rights development are bound to differ as well.

To judge whether a path is good or not, the key is to see whether it meets people's needs and aspirations and brings benefits to the people.

The socialist human rights development path with Chinese characteristics chosen by the Chinese people suits China's conditions, and has effectively safeguarded various rights of the 1.3 billion people and upgraded China's human rights development to an unprecedented level. China should stay firm on this path.

China is a big developing country with a vast population. We should be soberly aware of the difficulties and challenges we face.

Arduous efforts still need to be made to solve the numerous problems in the development of various undertakings that bear on the people's vital interests.

There is still room for improvement. New ways and measures need to be explored to better promote and protect human rights.

The author is a political analyst based in Beijing.

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