White Paper on Human Rights’ Reality in China

By Genc Mlloja

The White Paper titled "Moderate Prosperity in All Respects: Another Milestone Achieved in China's Human Rights", released by the State Council Information Office on August 12, 2021, is part and parcel of the practice of publishing documents on specific sensitive issues such as human rights whose aim is at providing anyone inside and outside the country with abundant concrete information, key figures and full of arguments on the ‘China of yesterday, today and tomorrow’.

In fact, the publication of white papers on human rights in China, which has joined 22 international human rights conventions, has a 30-year history dating back to 1991.

The paper document that has just come to light, consisting of a foreword, eight statements, a conclusion and an appendix, has a special value because it has explored a wide range of human rights topics by examining the facts and figures in various aspects, including ending extreme poverty and securing the people's right to an adequate standard of living, putting life above all else in fighting COVID-19, ensuring equitable and accessible health services, improving the environment, protecting civil and political rights, and promoting social equity. It also covers such topics as the historical course of building a socialist country under the rule of law, legislation and a legal system with Chinese characteristics, legal systems to respect and safeguard human rights, and other social and economic issues.

As a modest follower of these issues, I am of the opinion that the 2021 White Paper is the latest consistent continuation of the efficient and constructive activity of the Chinese representatives in the United Nations Human Rights Council, which held its 47th regular session on June 21 to July 13, 2021. China has undertaken three cycles of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review process since 2009, with its reports being adopted, and it has paid due attention and responsible feedback to all suggestions from other countries. Most member countries have affirmed China's achievements in this regard and its contribution to international human rights.

Building a moderately prosperous society, a milestone

Moderate prosperity in China, according to the white paper, is evident in all respects: a buoyant economy, political democracy, a flourishing culture, social equity, and healthy ecosystems, balanced development between urban and rural areas to the benefit of all the people, and high respect for and comprehensive protection of human rights.

But the path traversed by the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which commemorated the 100th anniversary of its creation in July this year, to build a moderately prosperous society has been a grand strategy not always flat since the 1980s. China declared realizing the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects on July 1, 2021.

“The white paper was released one month after China announced the completion of the goal of building China into a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and it showed that the moderately prosperous society not only includes developments in terms of the economy, politics, culture and ecology, but also the development of the people,” Chang Jian, deputy director and professor of the Zhou Enlai School of Government in Nankai University, told the Global Times.

The achievement of the new milestone of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, which expresses a higher stage of the development of human rights in much wider dimensions, is a glorious chapter in the modern history of this great Asian country, home to 1.4 billion people.

Step by step, but with determination and wisdom, the political and institutional foundations were laid to ensure the rights and freedoms of the people, and it has been moved forward through successes and setbacks, bold innovative reforms and openness entering a new era of construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The white paper highlighted some appealing features of the human rights progress during this process: prioritizing the right to subsistence, realizing the coordinated development of all human rights, and advancing the rights of all people.

In the rural areas, the protection of the rights of local people has been upgraded, and the document highlighted the efforts in boosting rural property right through land reform, improving the lives of migrant workers, caring for migrant workers' family members left behind in rural areas, and enhancing the rural living environment.

On the other hand, China has optimized laws and policies to increase the protection of the rights of women, children and the elderly, empowered women to participate in economic and social affairs, improved health care for women and children, provided special care and protection for children, and guaranteed the lives and rights of the elderly.

China has furthered the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities through multiple measures, including guaranteeing their right to participate in the administration of state affairs, raising their living standards, developing education, boosting cultural undertakings, and safeguarding peace and stability in ethnic minority areas, said the white paper.

Poverty eradication as part of human rights…

"Poverty is the biggest obstacle to human rights," said the newly published document according to which China has won the biggest and toughest battle against poverty in human history to the benefit of the largest number of people by eliminating extreme poverty. By the end of 2020, by China's current poverty threshold, all of the 99 million rural poor, had emerged from poverty.

Ms. Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China, stated at an event under the motto ‘Chinese Vision’ organized on March 18, 2021 that China had reached this culmination through a defined goal and is a valuable reference for other nations. According to her, the estimated 750 million Chinese who emerged from absolute poverty over the past four decades accounted for nearly three-quarters of the global population during that period, a remarkable achievement in efforts to end poverty worldwide.

Ms. Trankmann unveiled that the UNDP is working with China to promote its national experience on poverty alleviation, and she saw this as a contribution to sustainable global development.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn, president of the Kuhn Foundation and winner of the Friendship Medal for Reform in China, said in the same event that he had shown evidence of Chinese reality for more than three decades by spreading his observations on the country's anti-poverty efforts.

Eradicating poverty in China is the best evidence of eliminating distortions and ending stereotypes about China, Kuhn said at the event. According to him, China's success in bringing COVID-19 under control and ending extreme poverty is based on three principles - the leadership of the CPC, the commitment of Secretary-General Xi Jinping and the mobilization of the CPC.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 SDGs are integrated-they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. Countries have committed to prioritize progress for those who're furthest behind. The SDGs are designed to end poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls.

Fight against COVID -19 was not won waving a 'magic wand'

The transition from poverty, which means eradication of hunger and bad clothing, to a dignified life with the objective of moderate prosperity constitutes a historic transformation of China, a dream come true in the face of a world which even in the most developed countries is experiencing economic recession, unemployment growth, degradation of social services and insecurity among people.

It is sad to learn official figures that the death toll from the pandemic in many countries, including the US, has exceeded the death toll during World War II. The question rightly arises: Is not this frightful number of victims of COVID-19 a fatal violation of the essence of human rights or is the double standard practice still followed whereby human rights violations in the West are not taken into account?

The success story of the Chinese triumph over the virus, which has struck the whole world, has rightly become a sort of a legend of how to win a showdown over a fatal plague. There are no people in all walks of life who do not see the Chinese example as an eventual path that many countries, including developed ones like the US, Canada, and Europe, could have followed, or might follow now to take advantage of it.

"China did everything possible to treat all patients," said the white paper proving in details that the successful fight against COVID-19 was not a coincidence and it was not won waving a 'magic wand'. No! The real magic wand is the fact the country has put the people's interests first, adopted thorough, rigorous and effective prevention and control measures, and turned the tide in the battle against the COVID-19.  It’s meaningful the fact that across central China's Hubei Province, more than 3,000 COVID-19 patients over the age of 80, including seven centenarians, were cured, with many of them brought back to life from the verge of death.

It should be noted that the war against the deadly virus was also won because medical service, as a fundamental human right, has been a priority of the Chinese government platform and some of the following facts and figures speak for themselves: The number of medical and health institutions in China increased from 170,000 in 1978 to over 1 million in 2020; the average life expectancy rose from 67.8 years in 1981 to 77.3 years in 2019; maternal mortality dropped from 43.2 per 100,000 in 2002 to 16.9 per 100,000 in 2020.; From 1978 to 2020, the country's per capita GDP increased from 385 yuan to 72,000 yuan. In 2020, the average per capita disposable income was 32,189 yuan; China's forest coverage rose from 12.7 percent in the early 1970s to 23 percent in 2020; the proportion of female students in junior colleges and universities rose from 24.1 percent in 1978 to 51.7 percent in 2019.

Thus, the white paper is not only a reflection of what China and its people have achieved in the development of human rights but also a dignified diplomatic response to Western anti-Chinese propaganda with concrete facts and arguments.

According to analysts quoted by globaltimes.cn, the achievement of 'Xiaokang', a phrase about well-off life an idea cherished by the Chinese people for thousands of years becoming a reality in today's China, is a 'slap in the face' to the US and the West, who have consistently fabricated everything to attack China on 'human rights' issues. It is at the same time an expression of China’s position on the development of human rights for other developing countries.  China realized Xiaokang on the whole at the end of the 20th century.

"Aside from releasing white papers on overall human rights developments, we also have issued ones on the Xinjiang and Tibet regions to tell the international community what China has done in these fields, and more importantly, to refute malicious attacks by the US and the West," said Zhang Yonghe, executive dean of the Human Rights Institute at the Southwestern University of Political Science and Justice in Chongqing.

Despite the progress made in improving Chinese people's economic, social and cultural rights as well as their civil and political rights and the right of religious beliefs, some Western countries still turn a blind eye to the facts and make ungrounded accusations, Lu Guangjin, secretary-general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, has said. These countries don't actually care about Chinese people's rights and use them as an excuse to interfere in China's internal affairs and prevent it from growing stronger, Lu said. "Such moves clearly have a political agenda rather than being the result of simple misunderstandings," he said. On accusations by some Western politicians on human rights issues in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Lu said, "If they really care about the human rights of people in Xinjiang, why didn't they condemn the violent acts when terrorist attacks occurred in the region?"

China's fast development really worries the US and the West, and what is worse is that practices have proved that China's pattern of human rights development is effective and achievable, which may attract the interest of more developing countries, experts said.

Upgrading human rights an endless endeavor…

Summarizing China's experience in promoting human rights in the process, the white paper noted that the country has applied the principle of universality of human rights in its context and has taken a people-centered approach to human rights.

"There is no end to improving human rights. Moderate prosperity is a new starting point on China's quest for human rights," the white paper said, vowing that China will make a greater contribution to global human rights.

Speaking about the new perspectives President Xi Jinping has said: "This means that we have brought about a historic resolution to the problem of absolute poverty in China, and we are now marching in confident strides toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects."

Given the achievements in line with the wisely proclaimed predictions of country’s leadership, there is no doubt that the Chinese people will realize their other dream that is based on reality, leadership's foresight and people's self-sacrifice to build a more prosperous future for themselves, but also to contribute globally.

I have always been impressed by the fact that how realistic all the Chinese I met in China, Albania or other countries had been when they expressed optimism for the future of the development of their country closely linked to the promotion of human rights of a great people as large as one-fifth of the world's population. And they were extremely sincere admitting openly that their country and people still had a lot to do in all areas of life. The more time passes against the background of the concrete rapid historical developments in China and in the world in general, particularly at these Covid times, the more the opinion is reinforced that the advancement of the successes achieved in all areas of life, including human rights, is inextricably linked with the defense of the country, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and freedom gained through many sublime sacrifices. The 'Chinese dream' is in complete harmony with the legitimate rights of the 1.4 billion people of this great country, one of the most authoritative world powers, which aspires for peace, global stability and peaceful development on this earth that is 'warmed' by the same sun.

*The original article was published in Albanian by CRI on August 16, 2021