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Protection pushed forward in an institutional and legal way, but sustainable development needed to maintain progress
It is meaningful for specialists and officials on human rights from around the world to attend the Fifth Beijing Forum on Human Rights, co-hosted by the China Society for Human Rights Studies and the China Foundation for Human Rights Development, to promote international cooperation and communication on human rights issues.
The forum has been hosted here five times in five years, providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and frank communication on international human rights topics. We promote mutual understanding, enlarge consensus and deepen friendship through the Beijing forum, which meets the requirements of development, as well as the essential requirements of constructing socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Chinese citizens' awareness of human rights has remarkably improved over the last 30 years since China began reform and opening-up. People's living standards have been improved remarkably and people's economic, social and cultural rights are guaranteed in an all-round way. Citizens' rights and political rights are effectively reinforced. The rights of ethnic minorities, women, children, senior citizens and the disabled are effectively guaranteed.
China has pushed forward its human rights protection in an institutional and legal way. Its deepening communication and cooperation in international human rights fields marks a new stage in the development of China's human rights cause.
The recently concluded 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China stressed the important position of people in China's development as owners of the country. China's development should rely on the people, be for the people and the people should enjoy the fruits of China's development. The report of the congress proposed promoting prosperity, civilization, democracy, freedom, fairness, justice and the rule of law in China, and building the core values of patriotism, responsibility, honesty and amicability, which will further enrich human rights with Chinese characteristics.
Humans have only one planet, which is our common home. The theme of this forum, "Science and technology, environment and human rights", reflects the international community's profound understanding of the relations between human rights and development, and it clearly shows the relations between the development of science and technology, environmental protection and the advancement of human rights. The ultimate purpose of the advancement of science and technology is for the comprehensive development of human freedom.
In the history of human civilization, the development of science and technology has promoted the liberation of human thought and the liberation of human thought has promoted the development of science and technology in return. The advancement of science and technology has not only improved the quality of people's lives but also changed the way people work and their life models, and consistently given new meanings to human rights.
However, fast economic development has also resulted in environmental problems, which are a huge threat to development. How to maintain a good balance between development and environmental protection to realize sustainable development is the big challenge for science and technology. Undoubtedly, a damaged environment will directly threaten people's rights to subsistence, health and property. Compromising human's environmental rights for economic growth does not make sense.
The largest developing country in the world, China also has the largest population in the world, limited natural resources, a weak ecological environment and is confronted with unbalanced development. China must pursue sustainable development to maintain its economic growth without threatening the environment.
The 18th Party congress explicitly proposed China respect nature, follow the laws of nature and protect the ecological civilization of nature. The congress highlighted the importance of an ecological civilization and required China to integrate the construction of an ecological civilization into its economic construction, political construction, cultural construction and social construction. Building a beautiful China in a sustainable way is a solemn promise made by the CPC with a strong sense of responsibility to build China's ecological civilization under new historical circumstances.
China has made remarkable progress in environmental protection and sustainable development. Over the last 10 years, China has afforested nearly 50 million hectares of land and increased China's forest coverage from 16.55 percent to 20.36 percent. China enforces the strictest protection measures on farmland and water resources in the world. It has 20 percent of the world's population with less than 10 percent of the global farmland and an average personal water resource that is only 28 percent of the world average. China has improved its efficiency of energy and resource use through energy saving and emissions reduction campaigns.
China has also taken the opportunity to develop its new energy and renewable energy industries, and made constant progress in its environmental laws and law enforcement to better fit its fast developing national conditions.
China is the first country in the world to cut its poverty stricken population by half according to the Millennium Development Goals. China's sustainable development path is rooted in its national conditions and external situations. China's development achievements and experience will also be a priceless asset for the world's sustainable development in the future.
Despite its great achievements, China is confronted with many challenges in sustainable development and the human rights cause. China is dedicated to promoting the development of human rights. But there should not be only one standard, or one ruler of unified measurement.
We can apply the principle of seeking common points while reserving differences in our efforts to improve human rights conditions around the world and in our communications to better heed each others' concerns. Only in this way can we deepen our understanding and bridge the gaps among different countries. There are no best human rights conditions, only better ones.
I believe we can gain a clearer understanding of the relations between science and technology, the environment and human rights through our communication and dialogue and we can contribute more thoughts and wisdom for the harmonious development of both nature and humans and a bright future for human society.
The author is minister of the State Council Information Office. The article is a translation of excerpts from his speech at the opening ceremony of the Fifth Beijing Forum on Human Rights on Wednesday.
(China Daily 12/13/2012 page8)