Editor's Note: On the occasion of the first anniversary of the launching of the Human Rights magazine, the journalists of Human Rights interviewed the Australian, Egyptian, Hungarian and Indonesian ambassadors, and Mexican minister to China. Following are their points of view on China's human rights situation.
Mr. David Taylor Irvine, Australian Ambassador:
Improved observance of human rights will inevitably accompany the economic reform and opening up that China is embracing.
Australia particularly welcomes the increased personal freedoms that the Chinese people now enjoy. The freedom to choose where to work and where to live, to make individual decisions about lifestyle, and the freedom to travel in China and abroad are now enjoyed by the Chinese people and have done much to transform the face of Chinese society. Likewise Australia welcomes the efforts China has made to advance the social, economic, and cultural rights of its people, the measures it has taken to protect the rights of women and children, and the relative freedom of religion the Chinese people now enjoy. Considerable work is also being done to implement the concept of the Rule of Law in China. China's observance of some human rights, such as those that relate to freedom of speech, assembly and association, has improved over the pre-reform era. But, as with many countries, continuous work needs to be done to ensure that practices in China conform with all the universally accepted standards of human rights. Australia is happy to work together with the Chinese government and people on these issues.
Mr. Aly Houssam El-Din El-Hefny, Egyptian Ambassador:
In general, the present human rights situation in China has been developing side by side with the positive development of the whole society. China's economy has developed rapidly and the living standards of both the urban and the rural residents continue to improve. The Chinese government has always paid full attention to the problems of poor rural population. Consequently, the number of poor population has been steadily reduced over years. The medical and health services have also continued to improve, and the mean life expectancy reached 72 years, which is rapidly approaching the 75 years level of the developed countries.
The Chinese government has protected as well the right to work. The number of total employment has been increasing despite of the on-going economic reform, taking into consideration the ever increasing reemployment rate in new jobs. At the same time, the social security system, including the pension insurance, the unemployment insurance and the medical insurance, is improving.
The sector of education has also witnessed tremendous improvement.
The compulsory education projects in impoverished areas, for example, have been extended. The illiteracy rate among the Chinese people has dropped to almost 4.5 percent, which is an excellent achievement.
China also gives priority to promoting the legal system to ensure civil and political rights according to law. All competent international circles acknowledge the progress made by China's government to enhance the rule of law along the whole country. At the same time, significant efforts have been exerted by the Chinese government to ensure the equal rights of the ethnic minorities, which already enjoy the right to regional autonomy.
Furthermore, the Chinese authorities have strengthened their efforts to fight poverty in ethnic minority areas. In such areas, the protection of the freedom of religious beliefs and practices is fully ensured. Such regions also formulate their own regulations concerning family planning.
To sum up, I can say that I am deeply impressed by the achievements of modern China, by its reform and opening up, as well as by its unprecedented positive developments of the various aspects of human rights in the country and wish this friendly country and people more achievements especially realizing Xiaokang
by the year 2020.
Mr. Mihly Bayer, Hungarian Ambassador:
The situation of human rights in China changed a lot during the past decades. Thanks to the legal reform opened in 1978, Chinese law has grown markedly in terms of quantity and quality. In the quarter century since the end of the Cultural Revolution, the PRC has engaged in the single most concerted national effort in terms of legal development in Chinese history. The results are impressive and they benefited the whole Chinese society.
Hungary has observed the Chinese efforts with great sympathy and is ready to share her experience gained in the last decade during the transition to democracy, rule of law and market economy.
China and Hungary, two traditional friends, whose recent history and the challenges they had to surmount in the past have many common features. This is the reason why our two countries started a dialogue on human rights in 2000. We consider the open and constructive exchanges of views on human rights issues with China helpful to both sides.
The Hungarian experience proved that a well functioning market economy and the rule of law are closely linked with each other because the market mechanisms can only work in a regulated and calculable legal environment. I am convinced that China is on the best way towards the full application of these ideas, even if her historical and cultural background is quite different from that of Hungary.
Mr. Aa Kustia, Indonesian Ambassador:
Most of the developing countries have enjoyed progress on human rights situations in their countries, particularly China who has been developing its economy so fast in the past years. The Chinese people have what is enjoyed by the people in developed countries.
They are free to go everywhere and free to do what they like as long as they observe the law and regulation in the country.
Mr. Jose Oramas Cadena, Mexican Minister:
China and Mexico share the same constructive position regarding his topic, and look forward to find more cooperative ways in pushing forward a positive support for the protection and promotion of human rights. In September 2001, the Mexican Vice
Minister for Human Rights, Mariclaire Acostaa, visited China and held a series of very fruitful meetings with Chinese officials and organizations on human rights. We have set as a priority to proceed with this dialogue.
During the said visit, the Mexican side was deeply impressed by the progress made by China in the protection and promotion of people's rights to subsistence and development; the protection devoted to ethnic minorities and the effective means to grant them autonomy in different levels of self-government; as well as wide religious freedom. On the other hand, it is important to point out that both countries, as developing nations, support the same position that human rights should not be a pretext to intervene in the internal affairs of any country.
We are well aware of China's unremitting efforts to build a well-off society in an all-round way, including further develop the economy, improve democracy, advance science and education, enrich culture, foster social harmony and upgrade the texture of life for the people, together with the rule of law and the rule of virtue, as was stated in the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. With these solid foundations China is witnessing an unwavering improvement in human rights compared to the situation before 1949.