Scene of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights yesterday. Photos by Wu Zhiyi
The Beijing Forum on Human Rights sponsored by the China Society for Human Rights Studies is a great event for the international human rights community. Under the theme of "Development, Security and Human Rights," the forum has gathered human rights experts and scholars, notable personages and officials from across the world in beautiful springtime Beijing.
Please allow me, on behalf of the State Council Information Office of China, to extend sincere congratulations on the opening of the forum. I'd also like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to Beijing.
Respect for and observance of human rights is a major achievement in the evolution of human society, an important symbol of modern civilized society and a shared pursuit of people across the world. Six decades ago, the UN General Assembly adopted the world renowned Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As the first solemn declaration made by the organized international community on human rights and fundamental freedoms, it embodies the lofty aspiration of all nations to build "a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want" and has made indelible contributions to promoting the world's human rights cause.
Motivated by the declaration and the international community, nearly 100 nations have broken the shackles of colonialism and gained independence over the past half century. As a result, the colonial system that had ruled the world for centuries came tumbling down, ushering in bright prospects for realizing fundamental human rights for all nations and peoples.
In his report to the UN General Assembly three years ago, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan put human rights on par with security and development for the first time. The report, entitled "In Larger Freedom-Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All," defines security, development and human rights as the three pillars of the UN-the three fronts that the world body will advance side by side in the 21st century.
Today, world multi-polarization and economic globalization are deepening. While traditional security threats such as armed conflicts persist, non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and environmental pollution have become more prominent than ever.
The gap between the South and the North and between the rich and the poor has widened. Against this backdrop, it is highly significant for human rights experts, scholars and officials from different countries and regions to hold in-depth discussions and conduct frank exchanges under the theme of "Development, Security and Human Rights."
Development, security, and human rights are closely related, mutually reinforcing concepts that cannot be addressed separately. Security is the prerequisite for development and human rights. Common development and prosperity of all countries are the basis for maintaining international security and promoting human rights progress. Full realization of human rights is the goal of all humanity. History has repeatedly borne witness to the destructive effects of war on humanity, economy and society.
Without a peaceful and stable international environment, not only is it impossible to carry out new constructions, but existing achievements may perish in wars. In that case, human rights are bound to be violated and trampled upon. Without the common development and prosperity of all humanity, there will be no lasting peace in the world. The goal of preserving and developing human rights will therefore be out of reach. Efforts to protect international security and stability and promote economic development and prosperity are ultimately aimed at achieving the all-round development of mankind and fully realizing the rights of the person.
As a founding member of the UN that holds a permanent seat in its Security Council, China always honors the principles and purposes of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, attaches great importance to putting people first, upholds the principle that development is for the people, by the people and with the people sharing in its fruits and entitles the people to political, economic, social and cultural rights according to law.
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China more than 50 years ago, especially since reform and opening up began 30 years ago, the Chinese Government has always put the realization of the people's right to life and development at the top of its agenda. By taking economic development as its central task and vigorously developing social productive forces, China has achieved rapid economic and social progress, enhanced its comprehensive national power and considerably improved Chinese people's living standards. The Chinese have leapfrogged from suffering from poverty first to being adequately fed and clad and then to living a well-off life. Their right to life and development has been notably advanced.
China's human rights cause has made historical strides. Civil and political rights have been effectively protected. Political democracy at the primary level has made headway, with steady progress in the democratic systems of election, decision making, management and oversight. The legal framework for human rights protection with the Constitution at the center has been increasingly improved. Intensified efforts have been made to reform China's judicial system, leading to continued improvement. Judicial protection of human rights has been strengthened. The political, economic, social and cultural rights of all members of society have been fully observed.
At the same time, we are clearly aware of the need to keep advancing human rights. China is a developing country with a population of 1.3 billion. Hindered by natural, historical and cultural conditions and economic and social development, it faces many problems and difficulties in its human rights development. China's political and economic systems are far from flawless. Its democracy and legal system have yet to be improved. The awareness of governments at various levels of exercising administrative power according to law and respecting human rights have yet to be enhanced.
Development between urban and rural areas and among different regions is unbalanced. Problems in employment, social welfare, income distribution, education, heath care, housing and safety production have adversely affected the interests of the general public. Enough is enough. It is a long-term, arduous endeavor of the Chinese Government and people to respect and preserve human rights and promote the all-round development of the human rights cause in China.
The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October 2007 designated human rights development as one of the essential tasks of the Party and the state. After human rights were enshrined in the Chinese Constitution in 2004, respect for and observance of human rights were incorporated into the CPC Constitution for the first time at the congress. It has become an important concept that the Party and the government should bear in mind as they govern and rejuvenate the country in the new era and a major theme of the campaign to "build a moderately prosperous society in all respects".
We believe that we will make our society more harmonious, our people's lives more beautiful and the rights they enjoy more substantial as long as we are committed to implementing the basic principle of respecting and preserving human rights, pursuing reform and opening up and promoting democracy and the rule of law.
China not only sees great value in and devotes itself to protecting and developing human rights for the Chinese but also seeks to promote the development of the international human rights cause. China has worked in the UN's human rights agencies and taken part in formulating international legal documents on human rights with a positive and responsible attitude. It has conducted extensive human rights dialogue, cooperation and exchanges with the international community through various channels.
It has made full use of the international stage to strive to safeguard human rights for all nations. China's propositions that the universality of human rights must be adapted to the specific conditions of different countries, that the right to life and development is a fundamental human right of primary importance, that constructive dialogue and cooperation are crucial to the realization of human rights and that the rights of all members of society must be developed in a coordinated manner have been widely recognized in the international community.
China will, as always, make contributions to the development of the international human rights cause. We are willing to make concerted efforts along with the international community to build a harmonious world with lasting peace, common prosperity and human rights for all.
Pursuing a goal is like sailing across the boundless sea. The development of the human rights theory and the progress of the human rights cause call for unremitting efforts of every nation and every member of society. The Beijing Forum on Human Rights has offered a platform for us to share experience and exchange views. I hope that we inspire each other, pool our ideas, expand our common ground and enhance our friendship during our frank discussions at the forum.
I wish the Beijing Forum on Human Rights a great success. I wish you a happy, healthy stay in Beijing.
The article is the full text of Wang's remarks at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights
(China Daily 04/22/2008 page10)