Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Promulgation and Implementation of the Current Constitution*
December 4, 2012
Comrades and friends:
On December 4, 1982 the Fifth Session of the Fifth National People's Congress (NPC) adopted the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. It has been 30 years since the Constitution was promulgated and implemented. Today, we are gathered here to solemnly commemorate this event of great historical and practical significance in order to ensure the comprehensive and effective implementation of the Constitution and carry out the guidelines of the 18th CPC National Congress.
History is always inspiring. Looking back on the progress of the Chinese constitutional system, we are deeply aware that it is closely connected with the arduous struggle and splendid achievements of the Party and the people, and with the trail we have blazed and the valuable experience we have gained.
The current Constitution can be traced back to the Common Program of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which was promulgated in 1949 to serve as the provisional Constitution, and the Constitution of the People's Republic of China adopted at the First Session of the First NPC in 1954. These documents affirmed the heroic struggle of the Chinese people against domestic and foreign enemies and their striving for national independence and people's freedom and happiness over the previous 100 years in modern China, and affirmed the history in which the CPC led the Chinese people in winning victory in the New Democratic Revolution1 and in acquiring state power.
In 1978 the CPC convened the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee, which was of great historical significance, ushering in a new historical period of reform and opening up. Developing socialist democracy and improving the socialist legal system became the unalterable basic principle of the Party and the state. It was at this meeting that Deng Xiaoping pointed out profoundly: "To ensure people's democracy we must strengthen our legal system. Democracy has to be institutionalized and written into law, so as to make sure that institutions and laws do not change whenever the leadership changes, or whenever the leaders change their views or shift the focus of their attention."2 In accordance with the guidelines, principles and policies set forth at the Third Plenary Session, we reviewed China's positive and negative experience in building socialism, drew the hard lessons from the ten-year Cultural Revolution3 (1966-1976), learned from the gains and losses of world socialism, and adapted to the new requirements of reform and opening up and socialist modernization, and the new demands of socialist democracy and the legal system in China, whereby we promulgated the current Constitution. However, the Constitution must adjust to new circumstances, draw on new experiences and affirm new achievements, so as to maintain ever-lasting vitality. In 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004, respectively, the NPC made necessary and important amendments to the Constitution, so as to ensure that it kept up with the times while maintaining its consistency and authority.
As the fundamental law of the state, the Constitution verifies the developments concerning the path, theories and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, demonstrates the common will and fundamental interests of the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and has become the supreme expression of the central work, basic principles, major guidelines and important policies of the Party and the state in the national legal system.
Over the past 30 years the Constitution, relying on its supreme legal status and powerful legal force, has convincingly ensured that the Chinese people are the masters of the country, vigorously promoted reform and opening up and socialist modernization, advanced the building of a law-based socialist country, facilitated the cause of human rights, safeguarded national reunification, ethnic unity and social stability, and exerted a profound influence on the political, economic, cultural and social life of China.
The Constitution has fully proved over the past 30 years that it is a good Constitution that suits China's national conditions and reality, and the requirements of the times; that it is a cogent Constitution that demonstrates the common will of the people, safeguards their right to democracy, and protects their fundamental interests; that it is a vigorous Constitution that promotes national development and progress, guarantees a happy life for the people, and ensures that the Chinese nation achieves its great rejuvenation; and that it is the fundamental legal guarantee enabling our country and people to pass through all difficulties, risks and tests and to forge ahead along the socialist path with Chinese characteristics.
From the implementation of the Constitution over the past 60-plus years since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, we can see that the Constitution is closely bound up with the future of the country and the destiny of the people. Safeguarding the authority of the Constitution is safeguarding the authority of the common will of the Party and the people. Upholding the dignity of the Constitution is upholding the dignity of the common will of the Party and the people. Ensuring the implementation of the Constitution is ensuring the people's fundamental interests. As long as we respect and implement the Constitution the people will be able to be masters of the country, and the cause of the Party and the state will be able to progress smoothly. If the Constitution is disregarded, weakened or even sabotaged, the people's rights and freedoms cannot be guaranteed, and the cause of the Party and the state will suffer. Therefore, precious inspirations from long-term practice must be cherished. We should be more active in taking the initiative in abiding by the principles prescribed by the Constitution, carrying forward its essence and fulfilling the duties it prescribes.
While fully affirming our achievements, we should also be aware of our shortcomings: The oversight mechanisms and pertinent systems to ensure the implementation of the Constitution are not yet complete; laws are not properly observed or strictly enforced, and lawbreakers are not prosecuted by some local regions and government agencies; problems concerning the people's direct interests remain prominent in law enforcement and jurisdiction; abuse of power, malfeasance and dereliction of duty by government employees, and lawbreaking by law-enforcement personnel for personal gain have seriously damaged the authority of the national legal system; and awareness of the need to observe the Constitution among citizens and some officials needs to be further enhanced. We must pay close attention to and earnestly solve these problems.
Comrades and friends,
The 18th CPC National Congress stressed: The rule of law is a fundamental principle by which the Party leads the people in running the country; the rule of law is the basic way to run the country; we should give greater scope to the important role the rule of law plays in the country's governance and social management; and we should promote law-based governance of the country in an all-round way, and accelerate the building of a socialist country based on the rule of law. To achieve this objective, we must comprehensively implement the Constitution.
Comprehensively implementing the Constitution is the primary task and groundwork for building a law-based socialist country. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the state and the general program for managing state affairs; enjoying supreme legal status, legal authority and legal validity, it is fundamental and consistent, and is of overall and long-term importance. The people of all ethnic groups, all government agencies, the armed forces, all political parties and public organizations, and all enterprises and public institutions in the country must take the Constitution as the basic standard of conduct and regard it as a duty to uphold the dignity of the Constitution and ensure its implementation. No organization or individual is privileged to act beyond the Constitution or the law. All acts in violation of the Constitution or the law must be investigated.
The life of the Constitution is in its implementation, and so is its authority. We must persistently ensure the implementation of the Constitution, and raise the comprehensive implementation of the Constitution to a new level.
First, we should uphold the correct political direction, and keep to the socialist path of making political progress with Chinese characteristics. Since the reform and opening-up policy was introduced in 1978 our Party, rallying and leading the people, has made major progress in developing socialist democracy, and successfully opened up and kept to the socialist path of making political advance with Chinese characteristics, thus charting the correct course for achieving the most-extensive-possible people's democracy in China. The core thought, underlying component and basic requirement of this political path are all affirmed in the Constitution, their theoretical essence being closely related, integrated and mutually reinforcing. We must uphold, implement and develop the systems and principles set forth in the Constitution, namely, the basic system and basic tasks of the state, the core leadership and theoretical guidance of the state, the state system which is a socialist state under the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and farmers, the system of people's congresses as the system of government, the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, the system of community-level self-governance, the patriotic United Front, the socialist legal system, the principle of democratic centralism, and the principle of respecting and safeguarding human rights.
The key to keeping to the socialist path of making political progress with Chinese characteristics is to ensure the unity of the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country and law-based governance, so as to guarantee the fundamental position of the people, to reach the goal of enhancing the vitality of the Party and the country and keeping the people fully motivated, to expand socialist democracy and to promote socialist political progress. We must uphold the idea prescribed in the Constitution that all power of the state belongs to the people; extensively mobilize and organize the people to exercise state power through people's congresses at all levels, and to manage state and social affairs and economic and cultural programs by various means and in various forms; and ensure that the people jointly participate in national development, share the benefits of progress, accomplish the common cause, and become the masters of the country, of society and of themselves. Adhering to the principle of democratic centralism, the system of state power and the standards of actions defined in the Constitution, we should exercise state power through the people's congresses, ensure that decision-making power, executive power and oversight power function independently but are coordinated with each other, ensure that government agencies exercise their power and perform their duties in accordance with statutory mandates and procedures, and ensure that government agencies organize all undertakings concertedly and effectively. Abiding by the systems and principles established by the Constitution, we should correctly handle the relationship between the central and local governments, between all ethnic groups and between the interests of all parties, and mobilize all positive efforts to consolidate the political situation and make it more democratic, unified, stable and harmonious. We should adapt ourselves to the needs of expanding people's democracy and promoting social and economic development, proactively and steadily advance political reforms, make people's democracy more extensive, adequate and complete, give full play to the strength of our socialist political system, and constantly push forward the self-improvement and development of the socialist political system.
Second, we should implement the rule of law as the basic strategy, and accelerate the building of a law-based socialist country. The Constitution establishes the fundamental principle of our socialist legal system, explicitly stipulates that the People's Republic of China practices the rule of law and builds a law-based socialist country, and the state upholds the uniformity and dignity of the socialist legal system. To implement the rule of law as the basic strategy, and accelerate the building of a law-based socialist country we should make laws through proper procedures, enforce them strictly, administer justice impartially, and ensure that everyone abides by the law.
We must take the Constitution as the supreme legal norm, continue to improve our socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics underpinned by the Constitution, bring all state undertakings and work onto the track of the legal system, ensure that there are laws to abide by, that laws are observed and strictly enforced, and that lawbreakers are prosecuted, safeguard social fairness and justice, and make state and social life more institutionalized and law-based. The NPC and its Standing Committee must enhance legislation in key fields, expand the channels for the people's orderly participation in legislation, promote the implementation of the Constitution through well-established laws, and ensure the implementation of the systems and principles established by the Constitution. The State Council and local people's congresses along with their standing committees with legislative power must formulate and amend administrative and local regulations in accordance with current laws, so as to ensure the effective implementation of the Constitution and laws. State administrative, judicial and procuratorial bodies at all levels must exercise government administration in accordance with the law, administer justice impartially, accelerate the building of law-based government, and constantly increase judicial credibility. The State Council and local people's governments at all levels are the executive and administrative bodies of state power, and bear the major responsibility of strictly implementing the Constitution and laws, and so must promote procedure-based government conduct and conscientiously ensure strict, impartial and civilized law enforcement. We should continue the reform of the judicial structure to a deeper level, and ensure the independent and impartial exercise of judicial and procuratorial powers pursuant to law. The NPC and its Standing Committee and related state oversight bodies should fulfill their oversight duties, enhance oversight and inspection for the implementation of the Constitution and laws, improve oversight mechanisms and procedures, and resolutely correct breaches of the Constitution and laws. Local people's congresses at all levels and their standing committees must exercise their powers in accordance with the law, and make sure that the Constitution and laws are observed and enforced in their respective administrative regions.
Third, we must maintain the people's dominant position in the country, and ensure that all citizens enjoy their rights and perform their duties. The fundamental rights and duties of citizens are the core of the Constitution, which in turn serves as the fundamental guarantee for every citizen to enjoy his rights and perform his duties. The underpinning of the Constitution is the people's heartfelt support, and the power of the Constitution lies in the people's sincere faith. Only by ensuring that all citizens are equal before the law, by respecting and protecting human rights and by ensuring that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms as prescribed by law, can the Constitution take root in the people's minds, can it be well received by the people, and can all the people take the initiative in implementing the Constitution.
We must ensure that all citizens enjoy extensive rights in accordance with the law, that their right of the person and property and basic political rights are inviolable, and that their economic, cultural and social rights are exercised. We must safeguard the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people, and fulfill their aspirations for and pursuit of a better life. We should address public demands impartially and in accordance with the law, enable the people to feel that justice is served in every case before the courts, and eradicate elements that hurt their sentiments or damage their interests. We should enhance publicity and education about the Constitution widely in society, improve the awareness of the need to abide by the Constitution and legal system among all the people, especially among officials at all levels and government employees, carry forward the socialist rule of law, cultivate a law-based socialist culture, make the Constitution known to every household, and create a good social atmosphere of studying, observing and applying the law. We should make unremitting efforts to firmly establish the authority of the Constitution and laws, get the people to fully trust the law, consciously apply the law and be aware that the Constitution is not only the code of conduct that all citizens must abide by but also a legal weapon to safeguard their rights and interests. We should take education about the Constitution as a major element of Party officials' training, ensure that officials at all levels and government employees master the basic knowledge of the Constitution, and cultivate the consciousness to be loyal to, abide by and uphold the Constitution. Law is written morality, while morality is conscious law. We should integrate the rule of law with rule by virtue, pay more attention to the rule of virtue in citizens' conduct, and encourage citizens to protect their legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law while conscientiously fulfilling their duties prescribed by law, which means enjoying rights while performing duties.
Fourth, we should uphold the Party's leadership, and lay greater emphasis on improving the way it exercises leadership and governance. In essence, the rule of law is rule by the Constitution; the key to law-based governance is Constitution-based governance. In the new circumstances, to perform its duty properly in state governance and national rejuvenation, our Party should exercise strict discipline, and govern the country in accordance with the Constitution. As it leads the people in formulating and implementing the Constitution and laws, the Party must act within the limits prescribed by the Constitution and laws, and ensure that it exercises leadership in legislation, guarantees law enforcement and takes the lead in observing the law.
We must ensure that the Party plays its proper role as the leadership core in exercising overall leadership and coordinating the efforts of all, upholds the rule of law as the fundamental strategy and administration in accordance with the law as the basic way, turns the Party's views into the will of the state through legal procedures, trains candidates recommended by Party organizations to become leaders of agencies of state power, exercises the Party's leadership over the country and society through the agencies of state power, and supports the agencies of state power along with the administrative, judicial and procuratorial bodies to carry out their work separately yet concertedly in accordance with the Constitution and laws. Party organizations and officials at all levels should set an example in promoting the rule of law, constantly improve their law-based governance capacity and level, and persistently push ahead institutionalized and law-based management of state affairs. Officials at all levels should upgrade their ability in both thinking and action to further the reform to a deeper level, promote development, resolve problems and maintain stability, form a law-based approach to administering affairs, dealing with difficulties, handling problems and resolving conflicts, and advance all undertakings along the path of the rule of law. We should improve the mechanism for conducting checks and oversight on the exercise of power, through linking power with responsibility, supervising the exercise of power, enforcing accountability for dereliction of duty, and prosecuting breaches of the law, so that the power granted by the people can always be exercised in their interests.
Comrades and friends,
The whole Party and the people of all ethnic groups must rally closely around the Party Central Committee, uphold socialism with Chinese characteristics, follow the guidance of Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of the Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development, promote the rule of law and law-based governance and administration, build a law-based country, government and society, and conscientiously implement the guiding principles of the 18th CPC National Congress in all their work for the goals of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and ushering in a new stage of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
* Speech at the Meeting of the People from All Walks of Life in Beijing to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Promulgation and Implementation of the Current Constitution.
1 The New Democratic Revolution (1919-1949) is a bourgeois democratic revolution against imperialism and feudal dictatorship under the leadership of the proletariat. It did not aim at founding a republic ruled by the bourgeoisie, but a people's republic led by the proletariat, based on the worker-peasant alliance, and ruled by all the revolutionary classes. Spanning three decades from 1919, when the May 4th Movement began, to 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, the revolution waged by the CPC against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism is dubbed the New Democratic Revolution.
2 Deng Xiaoping: "Emancipate the Mind, Seek Truth from Facts and Unite as One in Looking to the Future," Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol. II, Eng. ed., Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1994, p. 156.
3 The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, or Cultural Revolution for short, refers to the political movement wrongly launched by Mao Zedong that lasted from May 1966 to October 1976 and was participated in by the general public. Manipulated by Lin Biao and the counter-revolutionary group represented by Jiang Qing, it caused grave disasters to the CPC, the country and the people of all ethnic groups.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)