By Liu Hongyang:
On the occasion of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, I would like to brief the people of Malawi on China’s human rights policy, status of development and effective ways to fulfil human rights.
The right to development is one of paramount importance. Without the right to development, human rights are nothing but castles in the air. Between 1840 and 1949, due to repeated invasions by foreign powers, China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society.
Frequent wars, an unstable society, a shattered economy and a destitute populace composed an accurate portrayal of China at that time. The people suffered under the oppression of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, and had no access to human rights at all.
Since its founding in 1921, the Communist Party of China (CPC) led the Chinese people through hard and tortuous struggles for 28 years, which culminated in the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Since then, China has espoused a people-centred philosophy by focusing undivided attention on development for the people and all the Chinese people have made a historic leap from destitution to a life of moderate prosperity. China’s cause of human rights has gained respect and development in the global society.
The past 70 years have seen China’s epoch-making changes from a poor and undeveloped agricultural country to the world’s second-largest economy with its per capita GDP exceeding $10,000.
Adequate food for nearly 1.4 billion people has been ensured and more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty. More than 770 million job opportunities have been created while 250 million elderly people, 85 million persons with disabilities and more than 60 million people who are benefitting from the urban-rural social relief system have been secured by social security systems.
Life expectancy in China rose from 35 in 1949 to 78 now. The world’s largest education system, social security system, community-level democracy election system are in China.
The protection of women and children in China has gradually improved consistently and better medical and healthcare services have been provided to them. Ethnic oppression and discrimination were soundly abolished and an inter-ethnic relationship characterised by equality, mutual help and unity among all the 56 ethnic groups has been forged in China. The ethnic minority areas have leapfrogged in social and economic development. The freedom of ethnic minorities to use and practice their own spoken and written languages and religious freedoms are fully protected.
In 1991, the Chinese government published its first white paper on human rights – ‘Human Rights in China’. In 2019, the Chinese government published another white paper titled ‘Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China’, elaborating the splendid history the advancement of the cause of human rights, which is widely acclaimed by the international community.
Living a happy life is the goal of human rights. Chinese people enjoy to the full civil, political, economic, social, cultural rights, etc., defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants on human rights. At present, as China builds a moderately prosperous society in all respects, Chinese people’s income and living standards improve remarkably, every citizen’s rights in health care, employment, social security, education and other spheres can be fully safeguarded.
If you travel to China now, you may find that every Chinese citizen enjoys living and working in peace and contentment. China holds the views that human rights are not only political rights but, more importantly, rights that lead to subsistence and development and a stronger sense of gain, happiness and security, which are fully enjoyed by Chinese people.
Human rights mean the rights of the people, not only individual rights. Collective rights offer foundations and guarantees to individual rights. Individual rights can only be realised and enjoyed in the context of collective rights. China has opened a new and right path of human rights protection, endeavours to improve the rights of all its people in a coordinated manner and work for their wellbeing.
The right to life is a fundamental human right. At this moment, the world is still in a tough battle with Covid, thus defeating the pandemic is the most pressing of human rights. The virus was first reported in China and the Chinese government had timely adopted the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures to bring the outbreak under control within only three months.
Despite the serious impact of Covid, the Chinese economy has stayed strong and demonstrated a robust momentum of recovery, making China the only major economy to register positive growth. Till February 28 2021, there were 89,912 confirmed cases in China, and 4,636 deaths. Compared with other countries, these figures are very small. We value and cherish every person’s life and mourn for the lives lost to the pandemic. But, at the same time, it is easy to tell which country is doing better regarding the protection of the right to life.
In 1998, a rare super flood occurred in both the north and the south of China at the same time and 29 provinces and cities across the country were affected. Under the leadership of the CPC, the Chinese military and Chinese people put the people’s interests, national interests and overall interests at the core of the work of floods control, emergency rescue and disaster relief. They finally won against floods in a short time, saving a lot of people’s lives and property.
In 2008, the southern part of China suffered rare winter storms, causing widespread power outages. However, the Chinese government responded quickly and took effective measures to restore power supply in a timely manner, avoiding greater economic and personnel losses.
China not only protects the life of every Chinese person, but is equally committed to protecting the lives of people all over the world. In the face of the Covid pandemic, China has been actively helping the international community on the basis of its own prevention and control.
Up to now, China has provided timely medical supplies to over 150 countries and 10 international organisations with over 220 billion masks, 2.25 billion protective suits and over 1.02 billion testing kits in response to their needs. We have sent 36 medical teams to 34 countries in need, provided $50 million to the World Health Organisation and pledged to provide $2 billion over two years to help other countries respond to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
China is a true friend of Malawi. In order to support Malawi’s fight against Covid, the Chinese government, the Chinese Embassy in Malawi, together with Chinese enterprises, communities in Malawi and individuals have donated 1.2 million surgical masks, 90,000 test kits, 16,000 sets of protective suits and goggles, 70 oxygen concentrators and 85 ventilators, 530 infrared thermometers and 50,000 pairs of protective gloves.
More assistance is on the way. Currently, vaccines concern the health and life of the people. We believe that global distributions of vaccines must be equitable and any vaccine hoarding behaviour is against human rights. As the first country that pledged to make vaccines a global public good, China is committed to securing their accessibility and affordability in developing countries.
Sharing the fruits of development is the sharing of human rights. China believes that the fruits of development should be shared globally and the joint promotion of the development of all mankind is the fundamental manifestation of human rights. President Xi Jinping has put forward the vision to build a community with a shared future for mankind, the core of which is to share the fruits of development for all.
China has always been committed to bringing the fruits of development to the world. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by China has become a successful practice of promoting the sharing of benefits of China’s and global development. Up to now, China has signed 201 cooperation documents on jointly building the BRI with 171 countries (including 46 African countries) and international organisations, and jointly launched more than 2,000 projects. The BRI brings China’s development achievements to the world, greatly benefits the peoples of BRI partner countries and promotes the building of a community with a shared future for all mankind.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) is an important platform for China and African countries to exchange development experience, share fruits of development and achieve common prosperity. Over the past 20 years since its establishment, the Focac has effectively promoted the economic and social development and vitalisation of African countries and has become a model for Africa’s foreign cooperation.
The 2018 Focac Beijing Summit brought China-Africa cooperation to a new level and the eight major initiatives determined at the summit have further promoted the development of Africa. China has been Africa’s biggest trading partner for 11 years consecutively, with the bilateral trade volume exceeding $200 billion.
Human rights are not political tools. China supports the universal principle of human rights protection and has ratified, or is signatory of 26 international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Declaration on the Right to Development and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It earnestly fulfils its international human rights obligations and actively contributes to promoting international rules and mechanisms for protecting human rights.
At present, some countries still hold the wrong thinking of ‘race supremacy’ on human rights issues, believe in the law of the jungle, politicise human rights and engage in ‘double standards’ with hegemony means and use human rights as weapons to attack developing countries and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.
These deeds seriously violate human rights and China firmly opposes them. It is hoped that all countries will abide by the gist and basic principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, jointly promote and protect human rights and respect each other’ independent choice of development path of human rights.
China firmly believes that development is an important human right and is the only way to solve human rights issues. China’s human rights philosophy is rooted in the people, committing to a people-centred approach and standing to serve the people. China is willing to continue to work together with other countries in the world on the basis of equality and mutual respect, to promote the continuous development and improvement of protection of human rights.
The author is Chinese Ambassador to Malawi
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