China’s Human Rights Philosophy

By Muhammad Asif Noor | Gwadar Pro Apr 21, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is the Founder of Friends of BRI Forum. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

The Chinese human rights philosophy centers on civil rights and the right to moderate development, prosperity, and equality. According to this philosophy, human beings must be free, respected, and equal, and should enjoy equitable living conditions under moderate prosperity in order for there to be a true spirit of human rights. In pursuit of this goal, China places great importance on achieving harmony, prosperity, and comprehensive development while simultaneously safeguarding civil rights as defined by the constitution, legal code, and socialist norms.

It is important to note that the pursuit of comprehensive human development as the ultimate goal of human rights does not negate the fundamental values of freedom, equality, and harmony. Instead, this philosophy defines comprehensive human development as the accessible, comprehensive, and coordinated development of all people. In this context, freedom, equality, and harmony serve as crucial binding factors for the comprehensive development of each individual, but they are not the sole purpose of human rights.

The Chinese government has integrated these notions and concepts into a cohesive framework, striving to protect human rights through coordinated efforts. By placing equal emphasis on civil rights and comprehensive development, China aims to create a society that values and promotes the well-being of all individuals. Through this approach, China seeks to reconcile the pursuit of human rights with the goal of building a prosperous and harmonious society.

The concept of human rights has long been central to progressive societies, as Charles Dickens famously noted in his work. China, too, has a history of recognizing the importance of protecting human rights in times of peace and war. However, as global society has undergone multiple transformations and faced numerous challenges, such as energy crises, pandemics, food shortages, and power struggles, the issue of human rights has become increasingly unequal globally. While societies are becoming more interconnected, the question of human rights remains strongly influenced by distinct histories, cultures, and civilizations.

In modern China, the publication of the human rights agenda began with the issuance of a white paper titled "Human Rights in China" in 1991. While human rights had been recognized in imperial China in a different context, this article focuses on the modern era. This white paper is significant because it was the first time China used the term "human rights" in a modern sense and incorporated it into the Chinese constitution in 2004, recognizing the state's responsibility to protect and respect human rights.

The Chinese constitution and its accompanying legal system have played a significant role in nurturing a socialist legal framework that places human rights at the heart of a socialist society. This framework extends beyond the central government and encompasses laws that apply to local and administrative units, ensuring that fundamental human rights are not violated. Moreover, China has integrated its legal human rights framework with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights conventions. 

The Communist Party of China has taken concrete steps to safeguard human rights, with a focus on judicial protection and strengthening awareness about the importance of respecting human rights. This approach involves strengthening legal institutions and increasing public participation in governance, with the aim of ensuring that human rights are protected at all levels of society.

China is successfully announcing and implemented Action Plan for human rights, monitoring the progress and recreating a new plan for the next term since 2009. Chinese State Council Information Office released fourth Human Rights Action Plan 2021-25, which sets new milestones and tasks for respect of human rights. There is another rare phenomenon attached to the Chinese notion of human rights: parallel human development across society, which implies China considers development as significant human development. The moderate degree of prosperity is the socioeconomic goal that supplements the protection of civil human rights.  

The current degree of human rights protection in China is the result of three decades since China embarked on this journey in 1991. Chinese society was less prosperous, yet the central government prioritized human rights currently, China is the second largest economy and is more pressing towards protecting human rights. Following Charles Dickens's logic, China has supported human rights in its struggling phase and is more conscious of watching them in its best times. It became possible due to coordinated efforts between socio-economic development across China, the proliferation of legal and judicial cover for human rights, and broader public awareness of their rights and duties as responsible members of society. 

China's commitment to human rights is grounded in the belief that the ultimate goal of human rights is comprehensive development and prosperity for all citizens. The country's efforts to allocate resources and promote development in both rural and urban areas without discrimination reflect a commitment to equity and fairness. For China, human rights are not simply a matter of individual liberties or political freedoms but are tied to the broader goal of ensuring that all citizens can enjoy a high standard of living and equitable opportunities for development. This vision of human rights places a premium on access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity, with a focus on promoting social stability and sustainable growth.

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