China / Society

Baby names connote respect for the Constitution

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-12-03 20:04

BEIJING - In a country where baby names used to often have political connotations, it is not unusual to meet someone called Xianfa, which literally means the Constitution.

The motivation behind China's inaugural Constitution Day, falling on Thursday, is similar -- to promote the overarching law and to enhance its implementation.

On Dec. 4, 1982, China's top legislature adopted the fourth Constitution, which is still in use, based on the first version enacted in 1954.

The name Xianfa was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, in the same way that shortly after the founding of New China in 1949, Jianguo (Build the Nation) and Jianjun (Build the Army) became popular.

Liu Xianfa, born in 1954 in Tianjin city, was given the name "by accident". Less than a week after his birth, Liu was hospitalized for acute pneumonia, but his parents could not complete a registry form since he had not been named.

"A nurse proposed 'Xianfa', saying 'the whole country is learning the Constitution with great passion'," recalled Liu, a senior macro-economy researcher with China Development Institute. His parents, both former military personnel, loved the idea.

Having been called Xianfa his whole life, Liu, despite not really "liking" the name has never thought about changing it.

"In a good way, the name bears the stamp of the dynamic years," he said.

Feng Xianfa, born in 1962 in Jiangsu Province, was given the name by his father, a farmer.

"He simply felt the name sounded forceful, which mirrored the popularity and recognition of the law among the people of the time," said Feng, editor-in-chief of a local newspaper in Nanjing City, the provincial capital of Jiangsu.

However, the much-revered Constitution was ravaged by the chaotic decade-long Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966. During the turmoil, the supreme law failed to defend citizens' rights.

The revolution prompted Liu Xianquan, 58, to pursue a career in law. Born in Shanghai, he went to law school in 1979 and now heads the East China University of Political Science and Law's School of Law.

"Experiencing the crazy years, I realized that a country must safeguard its legal system with the Constitution as its core," he said. His given name, Xianquan, means "rights of the Constitution".

Respect for the the Constitution returned after the turmoil calmed down. Four amendments to the 1982 Constitution have enriched the law through items protecting human rights and private property.

On the popular Chinese social networking website, whose users were mainly born in 1980s and 1990s, more than 1,000 registry names contain the word Xianfa.

On Nov. 1, China's top legislature decided to designate Dec. 4 as national Constitution Day, shortly after a key Party meeting stressed rule of law and the core status of the Constitution.

The enforcement of the Constitution requires the participation of all citizens, said Mo Yuchuan, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at Renmin University of China.

"The establishment may effectively help the spirit of the Constitution permeate society," Mo said.

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