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Human rights, private property fixed as pillars
( 2003-12-23 01:31) (China Daily)

China's 1982 Constitution will be amended for the fourth time, further clarifying the country's stance on the protection of human rights, with a particular emphasis on private property rights.

National legislators yesterday initiated the amending process by reading a draft of the amendment in their latest session.

A clause stating the country respects and safeguards human rights will be added to the first article of the chapter on basic rights and obligations of citizens.

"This is a reflection of the increased awareness of human rights protection among the public in the past two decades,'' said Hu Jinguang, a constitutional professor with the Law School of Renmin University of China.

Hu said none of the three previous amendments to the Constitution touched on human rights and this draft indicates the government is paying more attention to the protection of those rights.

The proposed amendment will definitely enhance protection of specific rights of citizens because the legal basis for the protection of rights which are not listed in the constitution will be extended from this general stipulation, Hu said.

He added the constitutional change will also benefit China's exchanges and co-operation on human rights with other countries.

Another prominent change is the explicit expression of the protection of private property.

The draft amendment says citizens' legitimate private property is subject to no infringement.

The current version states the country protects citizens' legitimate income, savings, housing and the ownership on other legitimate properties.

"The draft is more explicit and will offer stronger protection on citizens' private property,'' said Zhang Houyi, a researcher at the Institute of Social Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The country, for the public interest, may expropriate private property in accordance with law but must compensate for the expropriation, says the draft.

Zhang said the private sector will become the most prominent beneficiary of this change as the constitutional guarantee is the strongest protection for them. He said the amendment will surely bolster confidence in private investment.

The draft amendment was proposed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Legislators will hold preliminary discussions over the draft before passing it along for approval by the plenary session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) in March..

Wang Zhaoguo, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee yesterday explained the draft amendment to the legislators who are sitting in the committee's by-monthly session.

For the development of the private sector, the draft states the country encourages, supports and guides its development while conducting supervision and management according to law, said Wang who is also vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee.

The draft amendment also incorporates the theory of "Three Represents'' into the Constitution's preamble as one of the guiding principles of the nation, together with the heritage and further development of Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory.

"Three Represents'' Thought of the CPC means that the party must represent China's advanced productive forces, its advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people.

It was written into the Party Constitution in November of last year.

Wang said the draft stipulates the country should set up and improve the social security institutions in tune with its economic development.

The draft also extends the term of congresses at grassroots from three years to five years among other things.

Besides discussing the draft constitutional amendment, the week-long session of the national legislators will also deliberate on draft laws on foreign trade and banking supervision and draft amendments to the laws on central bank and commercial banks.

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