The Struggle for Human Rights by the Communist Party of China (1921-1949)

  8136
Liu Hainian

The objective of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has always been to struggle for the realization of socialism and communist as well as for the full enjoyment of human rights by Chinese people. Therefore, it can be said that the history of the CPC is a history of struggle for the human rights of people all ethnic groups in China. For many years, however, this fact has been distorted by the enemies of the CPC, who used the mass media under their control to create misunderstandings among our friends about the human rights record of the CPC. For some more complicated reasons, there are confusions about this issue even among our own ranks for a long period of time. In view of this situation, carrying out a review of the literatures on the historical facts of the struggle by the CPC for human rights is beneficial to clearing up misunderstandings and confusions both for our friends and for ourselves.

I

The so-called human rights are the rights enjoyed or ought to be enjoyed by every human being. In other words, they are rights of human beings. Here “human beings” refers to all individuals, including men, women, the elderly, minors, healthy persons, the disabled, citizens, foreigners, stateless persons, prisoners of war, and criminals. And the rights here refer to all the rights that ought to be enjoyed by human beings, including civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to environment. Although the concept of human rights was introduced into China in modern history, Chinese people’s rights consciousness is as old as the Chinese civilization. The countless slave uprisings, peasant wars, and resistance against foreign aggressions occurred on Chinese territory have shown that the struggle by Chinese people for human rights has never ceased in the 5,000 years of Chinese history and, with the rise of their rights consciousness, the Chinese people become increasingly determined in their struggle for human rights.

China was invaded by many imperialist powers after losing the Opium War in 1840. A large part of Chinese territory was ceded to or divided up as sphere of influence by foreign powers. Imperialist powers also forcibly occupied many Chinese harbors and ports and large areas of neighborhoods in major Chinese cities as their concessions. They not only established security forces, but also stationed troops in China. Some imperialists acted in a tyrannous manner on Chinese territory: they wantonly humiliated the Chinese people, trampled upon their human rights; they even designated some parks in China as forbidden zones for Chinese people and put up the sign “No Dogs and Chinese Allowed” at the entrance of these parks; and under the protection of extraterritoriality, they could commit all kinds of crimes without being punished. Because of the above fact, the struggle by Chinese people for human rights was a struggle not only against domestic rulers, but also against foreign invaders. And this was also why Dr. Sun Yat-zen took the “Three Principles of the People” (namely the principles of nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood) as the banner of his democratic revolution in early 20th century to arouse the Chinese people (and succeeded to a certain extent in doing so). The 1911 Revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-zen brought to an end to the autocratic monarchical system that had lasted for over 2,000 years and overthrew the last emperor of China. From then on, the concept of democratic republic has been deeply rooted in the mind of Chinese people. However, because of the congenital weakness of the Chinese national bourgeoisie, the revolution was not based on solid ground. As a result, it had failed to establish a bourgeois republic envisaged by it. The fruit of revolution was soon usurped by northern warlords backed by imperialist powers and headed by Yuan Shih-kai. From Yuan Shih-kai on, a series of warlords had entrenched themselves in Beijing and controlled the central government. Although they ultimately failed to abolish the “republic”, they continued to act in the same way as that of the feudal rulers in the Qing Dynasty. In this “republic”, Chinese people continued to be oppressed by feudal warlords and imperialists. Under this circumstance, Yuan Shih-kai signed “The Twenty-One Demands” in exchange for support by Japanese imperialists. Later, the Beiyang Government attended the Paris Peace Conference and intended to agree on the transfer of Germany’s privileges in Shandong Peninsula to Japan. This had greatly angered Chinese intellectuals and workers. On May 4, 1919, students took to the streets and chanted such slogans as “Down with imperialists”, “Down with warlords”, “Severely punish traitors to the country”, “Fight for civil rights” and “Fight for freedom”. Staunchly supported by the working class, the patriotic actions of the students and other intellectuals developed into a great patriotic movement—the May 4th Movement. Later Mao Tse-tung pointed out: “The outstanding historical significance of the May 4th Movement is to be seen in a feature which was absent from the Revolution of 1911, namely, its thorough and uncompromising opposition to imperialism as well as to feudalism.” It was against this historical background that the advanced elements in the May 4th Movement—the communists—established the CPC in 1921. As soon as it stepped onto historical stage, the CPC began to shout loudly: “Arise! All those who don't want to be slaves! Arise, the wretched people of the world! ... The earth shall rise on new foundations, and we will be the masters of the world.” From the above song that embodies the purpose of the working class party we can see that the CPC from its very beginning has linked the struggle for human rights and freedoms with the struggle for the overthrow of the old rule and for making people the masters of their own country—namely the struggle for political power. Just as the white paper “Human Rights in China”, promulgated by the Information Office of the State Council in November 1991, points out: “Under long years of oppression by the ‘three big mountains’ -- imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism -- people in old China did not have any human rights to speak of. Suffering bitterly from this, the Chinese people fought for more than a century, defying death and personal sacrifices and advancing wave upon wave, in an arduous struggle to overthrow the ‘three big mountains’ and gain their human rights.”

II

Historical facts show that the 1911 Revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the May Fourth Movement, and the New Democratic Revolution led by the CPC all took the fight for the rights of Chinese people as their starting point and ultimate goal. The person who first introduced the concept of human rights into China was Mr. Chen Duxiu, one of the founders of the CPC. As early as before the establishment of the CPC, Chen Duxiu pointed out that human rights and science are indispensable to national prosperity, just like two wheels to a carriage. “In order to deliver themselves from ignorance and catch up with western nations, the Chinese people must attach equal importance to science and human rights.” After its establishment, the CPC led a major strike by Jinghan (Peking-Hankou) Railway workers in 1923, during which it put forward the slogan of “Fight for freedom and human rights; march forward and never retreat”. In August of the same year, Mr. Chen Duxiu, then the Secretary-General of the CPC, stated in his report to the Third National Congress of the CPC that: “With respect to the campaign for human rights, we have already established alliances for human rights in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shandong and Jiangxi in accordance with a resolution adopted at the Second National Congress of the Party. In Beijing, most members of the alliance are students while in Shandong and Guangzhou, the majority of the members of the alliance are workers.” I have not been able to find the original text of the resolution on the campaign for human rights adopted at the Second National Congress of the CPC, but the above report on the work carried out by the CPC since its second national congress shows that the CPC did adopted such a resolution, established corresponding organizations, and carried out a campaign for human rights.

The existing historical documents show that the human rights mentioned in almost all of the CPC’s political programs and in all the slogans put forward by the CPC in the workers’ and peasants’ movements in its early years and during the First Revolutionary Civil War were specific rights. The only exception was the slogan of “fight for freedom and human rights” put forward during 1923 strike by Jing-Han Railway workers. The reason for this maybe was that the mention of specific rights could enable the broad masses of Chinese people to better understand the relationship between the CPC’s political campaigns and their own personal interests.

For example, the Declaration of the Second National Congress of the CPC stated that the goals of the current struggle were: “to overthrow the oppressive rule of imperialists and achieve complete independence of the Chinese nation”; “to ensure that workers and peasants, regardless of their sex, have unlimited right to vote in the election of the parliaments at all levels, including municipal councils, and that they enjoy absolute freedoms of express, of the press, of assembly, of association, and of strike”. The Declaration also demanded the adoption of a series of laws on safeguarding the rights of workers, peasants and women, on reforming the educational system and implementing the system of compulsory education, and on limiting the rate of farm rent. With respect to improving the treatment of workers, the CPC’s demands included: “(1) to abolish the system of bonded labor; (2) to implement the system of eight-hour working day; (3) to establish workers’ hospital and other health facilities in factors; (4) to establish an insurance system for factories; (5) to protect female and minor workers; (6) to protect unemployed workers”; “to abolish all laws restricting the rights and freedoms of women, to ensure women enjoy equal political, economic, social and educational rights with men”; and “to reform the educational system and implement the system of compulsory education”. The human rights advocated by the CPC in other programmatic documents and workers’ movements were basically the same as those mentioned above, only they revealed more profoundly the existing human rights problems and put forward more specific and targeted rights demands in light of specific situations of different time periods and locations. For example, the Declaration on General Strike in Kailuan Coal Mines, published in October 1922, pointed out that: “The Kailuan Coal Mine Bureau treated its workers worse than mules. When there is mining accident, the foreign bosses of the mines asked only how many mules have died. They don’t care how many miners have died. This is because mules cost them 200-300 yuan a head whereas for miners died in an accident they need only to pay 100 yuan compensation “per head”.” Soon afterwards, the Combined Secretary of China Labor Organizations, led by the CPC, pointed out in the Appeal to All Workers in China for Supporting the Strikes by the Miners of Kailuan Mines and the Cotton Spinners in Japanese-Run Textile Factories that: “Shanghai Japanese Textile Factory, run by Japanese capitalists, is the biggest blood sucker for Chinese workers. Workers in this factory went on a strike in the end of May because their wages were too low to maintain a basic livelihood. But the strike failed because the Japanese capitalists bribed Shanghai police who then closed down the trade union to which all the workers entrust their fate for no reason at all… now the workers of the factory are at the end of their tether. They have no choice but to go on a second strike. The Chinese Constitution clearly provides that “People have the freedom of assembly”. But they have deprived us of this natural right. If this can be tolerated, what cannot?”

Historical documents show that, compared with international campaigns for human rights, those led by the CPC had the following characteristics: firstly, they were clearly goal-oriented. The CPC had learnt from historical experience and practice that the invasion by imperialist powers and the rule by feudal warlords were like two big mountains that weighed heavily on the back of Chinese people. Without overthrowing these two big mountains, the Chinese nation would never become independent and the Chinese people would never be liberated or have any human rights to talk about. Therefore, in order to protect their human rights, the Chinese people must overthrow imperialists and feudal warlords. Secondly, the scope of the subjects of rights was more extensive. For a long period of time, the subjects of human rights in western countries had been mainly the male members of the bourgeoisie. The protection of many of the rights of the working class and women was placed on the agenda of western countries only during the 1960s and 1970s, whereas the CPC had paid attention to the protection of the human rights of workers and peasants, who made up the majority of the Chinese population, at a relatively early stage and its campaigns for women’s rights was decades earlier than those in some developed western countries. Thirdly, the objects of rights are more extensive. At the every early stage, the CPC had campaigned not only for civil and political rights, but also for economic, social, cultural and educational rights. Fourth, it is especially noteworthy that the CPC had not only put forward the slogan of human rights, but also participated in workers’ and peasants’ organizations and led the actual struggles for human rights. Many CPC members had laid down their precious lives in such struggles.

Through these struggles, the CPC realized that, in order to defeat the imperialist invasion and overthrow the oppressive rule of feudal warlords, it must establish a broad alliance with various social forces and cooperate with the Nationalist Party (Kou Ming Tang, or KMT) led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. For this purpose, the CPC adopted at its Third National Congress the Resolution on National Movement and KMT, in which it was decided to establish an alliance with the KMT and jointly launch a campaign of national revolution. Thereafter, many members of the CPC jointed the KMT and some of them become part of the KMT leadership. At the first National Congress of KMT, held in Guangzhou in January 1924, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, with the help of the CPC, developed his “Three Principles of the People” into “New Three Principles of the People”. As was pointed out by the Declaration of the First National Congress of KMT, the main content of the “New Three Principles of the People” were: (1) The principle of nationalism. In terms of external relations, nationalism means “to emancipate the Chinese nation so that it can become a free and independent nation in the world.” For this purpose, the Chinese people must resist foreign aggression. The Declaration pointed out that: “To any class, nationalism means nothing more than freedom from the aggression by imperialists. Without national independence, Chinese national enterprises will be economically oppressed by foreign powers and never have any chance to develop; as for Chinese workers, they will be drained dry by warlords and domestic and foreign capitalists who are dependent on imperialism. Therefore, to most Chinese people, the fight for national liberation is nothing more than the fight against imperialism.” In terms of internal relations, nationalism means “the equality of all ethnic groups and opposition to the oppression of one ethnic group by another ethnic group.” (2) The Principle of democracy. According to this principle, the right to vote and to stand for election, the right to recall, the right of initiative, and the right to referendum “should be enjoyed by all citizens, rather than the privilege of a few.” Especially they should not “become the tools of oppression against the common people.” In order to truly realize democratic rights and freedoms, it is necessary to provide for civil rights in the constitution and to safeguard them by the constitution and laws. (3) The third principle is the principle of people’s livelihood. The main content of this principle includes equalization of land ownership and regulation of capital. China was an agricultural country, “the main cause of the economic inequality in China is the concentration of the ownership of land in a small number of people.” “Of all classes in Chinese society, peasants suffer the greatest hardship…Therefore, for those peasants who have lost their land and become tenants, the state should provide them land to cultivate and undertake water conservancy projects for them. It shall establish such relief organs as peasants’ banks to provide relief to peasants who are in urgent need of money to prevent them from becoming lifelong debtors, so that they can lead a happy life.” “To regulate the capital means that the state should take over the management of Chinese and foreign enterprises that are of monopolistic nature or industries that are too large in scale to be managed by private enterprises, such as banks, railroad, and airlines, so that the people’s livelihood will not be controlled by private capital.” “The state shall provide unemployed workers with relief and adopt labor laws to raise their living standard. Moreover, the state should also make efforts to implement other social welfare systems aimed at safeguarding people’s livelihood, such as the pension system, the child-raising system, the system of social assistance to disabled people, and the system of compulsory education.”

The “New Three Principles of the People” comprehensively explained Dr. Sun’s proposition of realizing human rights in China through national revolution, which was basically the same as the political program of the CPC during the period of Democratic Revolution. After the First National Congress of the KMT, it became the common program of the KMT-CPC cooperation. Under the guidance of this common program, the revolutionary forces in China had made brilliant achievements in the fight for human rights.

III

Under the banner of “Three Principles of the People”, the Great Revolution led by CPC and the KMT had dealt a heavy blow to the reactionary rules of imperialists and feudal warlords. However, Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Jingwei, who for a long period of time had disguised themselves as left-wing members of the KMT and ultimately seized the military and political power of the KMT, launched a counterrevolutionary coup in Shanghai and Wuhan in April and July 1927, respectively, in which a large number of CPC members and other revolutionaries had been massacred. The coup marked the failure of the Great Revolution and a big setback in the struggle for human rights in China. Faced with such grim situation, members of the CPC were not intimidated by Chiang Kai-shek’s “white terror”. They buried their fallen comrades, wiped the blood off their own wounds, and went on fighting with dauntless spirit.

Because of the change of situation, the CPC’s struggle for human rights during the Period of the Second Civil War that began in 1927 showed the following new characteristics:

1. As the representative of the working class and oppressed people, the CPC continued to lead the Chinese people in the struggle against reactionaries headed by Chiang Kai-shek

In view of the fact that Chiang Kai-shek had completely betrayed the revolution and used military force to massacre communists and ordinary people, the CPC decided to organize armed uprisings, establish its own armed forces, and fight armed enemies with revolutionary armed forces. In accordance with a decision of the Central Committee of the CPC, the communists organized a series of uprisings, including: the Nanchang Uprising in Jiangxi Province on August 1, 1927; the Autumn Harvest Uprising in Hunan Province in September 1927; the uprisings in Gaiyang and Huang’an of Hubei Province, in Haifeng and Qiongya of Canton Province, in Ji’an and Wan’an of Jiangxi Province, as well as in various places in Henan Province, Hebei Province, and Shanxi Province in the Autumn of 1927; the Guangzhou Uprising in December 1927; the uprisings in Yiyang and Hengfeng of Jiangxi Province, in Yizhang of Hunan Province, and in Honghu and Sangzhi of Hubei Province in January 1928, the uprisings in Jianping of Fujian Province in February 1928; the uprisings in Weinan, Huaxian and Tongguan of Shaanxi Province in the Spring of 1928; and the uprising in Pingjiang of Hunan Province in July 1928. Although the above-mentioned uprisings occurred in different locations with different participants, they all had the same objective, namely to overthrow the rule of new warlords headed by Chiang Kai-shek and backed by Imperialists, to resist the oppression by feudal landlord class and comprador class, and to fight for people’s rights.

The followings were the conditions of negotiation raised by the CPC Canton Party Committee to Zhang Fakui, a local warlord, in its Declaration of Uprising: “(1) to immediate release all political prisoners; (2) to immediate return to trade unions their union clubs occupied by the Reorganization Committee, which was a running dog of the warlords; (3) to completely restore and protect all the rights of workers who had participated in the Canton-Hong Kong Strike; (4) to completely restore the freedoms of speech, of publication, of assembly, of demonstration, of strike and other freedoms of the working class; (5) to arrest and punish all criminals who terrorize members of the working class; and (6) to immediately arm the workers in Canton Province and put them under the command of Canton Workers’ Congress. The Basic Program of the Canton Uprising included the followings: “with respect to the working class: ordinances shall be promulgated to implement the eight-hour day system, and similar systems shall be implemented for workers in handicraft industry and in small enterprises; the rights of the workers who participated in the Canton-Hong Kong Strike shall be restored and expanded; the state shall provide subsidies to the unemployed workers in light of their original wages and raise the wages of all employed workers.” “With respect to peasants: ordinances shall be promulgated to declare that all land belongs to the state and be handed over to peasants for cultivation.” With respect to common working people and petty bourgeoisie urban citizens: orders shall be issued to confiscate the housings and properties of bourgeoisie and distribute them among the poor people, to abolish all taxes for the poor, to cancel all debts, especially debts that are due in the end of the year, for the poor, and to abolish all housing taxes for the poor—all housings in the city shall be owned publicly; all the pawns in all the pawn shops shall be confiscated and those belonging to the poor shall be returned to their original owners.” With respect to soldiers, the state-owned land shall be assigned to soldiers and unemployed people for cultivation; soldiers’ committees shall be set up in all armed forces; and revolutionary army of workers and peasants shall be established.”

The documents adopted by the CPC during the Canton Uprising and the Guangzhou Uprising were, to some extent, representative of the documents adopted by the CPC at that time. Their objectives were to overthrow the rule of warlords headed by Chiang Kai-shek, to uphold the rights of workers, the poor people and the petty bourgeoisie in urban areas, and to overthrow local tyrants, evil gentry and feudal landlord class which formed the basis of Chiang Kai-shek’s rule. Some people might say that this kind of political program was too radical. Actually it was not. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, when explaining his Three Principles of the People, stated that: “Civil rights can only be enjoyed by the citizens of the Republic. They should not be granted to those who are against the Republic to be used by them to sabotage the Republic. More specifically, all individuals and groups who are truly against imperialism should be able to enjoy all the freedoms and rights whereas no one, whether individual or group, who betrays his own country and pledges loyalty to imperials and warlords may enjoy such rights and freedoms.” After the 1927 Counterrevolutionary Coup, the new warlords headed by Chiang Kai-shek had already become willing pawns of imperialists in their aggression against China. When they began to massacre the Chinese people, the CPC had no choice but to pay them back in their coin. Any act of mercy towards them would be a crime against the people. It was exactly by summarizing international and Chinese historical experiences, especially the revolutionary experience in China, that the CPC had succeeded in organizing and leading a series of armed uprisings against Chiang Kai-shek’s rule, establishing its own armed forces, fighting violent enemies through violent revolution, and eventually winning human rights for Chinese people.

It should be pointed out that during the 1920s and 1930s, there had emerged a group of intellectuals called the “human rights school” in China. Represented by Mr. Hu Shi and Mr. Luo Rongji, these intellectuals put forward or expounded on a series human rights theories which had had some positive impacts in China. However, in the violent struggle between revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries, this group of intellectuals began to waver in their political stance and soon break up. Nevertheless, their historical role in the struggle for human rights in China should be fully recognized.

2. As the creator and leader of the “red bases”, the CPC adopted a serious of laws on the protection of human rights during the early 1930s

In order to win the battle against powerful enemies, the revolutionary armed forces must avoid key cities, which were the strongholds of enemies, and transfer its main forces to and establish revolutionary bases in rural areas, especially remote and border regions, where the enemies’ rule were relatively weak. By 1930, the CPC had established over a dozen rural revolutionary bases of varying seize throughout the country, mainly in the remote mountainous regions in the provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Fujian, Canton, Guangxi, Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Sichuan. “In these economically and culturally backward regions, the transportation was poor and the dominant economy was small-scale peasant economy with outdated cultivation methods and low productivity. Most of the people there were illiterate. Feudal clan organizations and superstitious practices were prevalent. Men in these regions were usually subjected to the oppression by three systems of authority, namely political authority, clan authority, and religious authority. As for women, in addition to being oppressed by these three systems of authority, they were also dominated by men (the authority of the husband). As was pointed out by comrade Mao Tse-tung, “These four authorities--political, clan, religious and masculine--are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal system and ideology, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasants.” The political authority of the landlords established on the basis of the feudal land ownership system was the backbone of all the other systems of authority. Bound by the four thick ropes and oppressed by the political authority of the landlords, Chinese peasants, like Chinese workers in cities, had no human right to talk about. In order to fight for human rights and to mobilize peasants to participate in the revolution, the CPC carried out land reform and adopted a series of relevant laws and regulations in the revolutionary bases, including the land struggle and the promulgation of the Land Law in Jingguangshan area, Jiangxi Province; the formulation of the Land Law in Xingguo County, Jiangxi Province, which was presided over by Mao Tse-tung; the adoption of the Land Resolution in western Fujian Province; the adoption of Political Program on Land Issues in northwest Hubei Province; and the adoption of the Interim Regulations on Land Law in Zuojiang area of Guangxi Province. Although these land laws and policies varied in their concrete contents, they were consistent in general spirit and basic principle, namely to rely on poor peasants who made up the majority of the rural population, establish alliance with middle peasants, restrict rich peasants, eliminate the feudal landlord class, abolish the system of ownership of land by feudal landlord and establish the system of ownership of land by peasants, so as to truly realize the ideal of “land to the tiller”. The land reform carried out by the CPC in revolutionary bases had led to huge changes in rural areas: the poor peasants who had long been under the oppression of feudal landlords finally gained political emancipation and became the master of the rural areas; middle peasants also “have had their say along with poor peasants”. The land reform had greatly raised the peasants’ enthusiasm for production and the raise of productivity had in turn led to rapid improvement of peasants’ livelihood. Political empowerment, economic development and the improvement of livelihood had motivated more peasants to joint the revolutionary ranks and to fight for the rights of the Chinese people.

Apart from the land issue, another urgent human rights issue in rural China was the protection of the rights of women who suffered the most severe oppression in Chinese society. Therefore, great importance was attached by the CPC to the adoption of laws on the protection of women’s rights in revolutionary bases. The laws, regulations and policies adopted by the CPC during this period included: the Marriage Law adopted by the first Workers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Congress of Western Fujian Province in March 1930; the Marriage Regulations adopted by the Soviet Area in Hunan-Jiangxi-Jiangsu Border Region and the Resolution on the Issue of Marriage” promulgated by the Second Workers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Congress of Hubei-Henan-Anhui Border Region later in the same year; the Regulations of the Soviet Republic of China on Marriage and the Marriage Law of the Soviet Republic of China, adopted by the Central Soviet Area in December 1931 and April 1934, respectively, with the support of Mao Tse-tung; the Decision on the Adoption of the Marriage Law, adopted by the Soviet Government of Western Fujian Area in March 1930, which pointed out that: “In the past several thousand years, under the influence of the old moral codes, China has implemented a very shameful mercenary marriage system. Under this system, men treated women as their appendants and family property. In order to economically exploit women’s labor so as to uphold family economy, men always tried to lower women’s political and social status by restricting them with such old moral codes as “the three obediences and the four virtues”, “parents deciding the marriages of their children”, and “ignorance being the virtue for women”. In November 1931, the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Republic of China adopted at its first meeting a Resolution on the Adoption of the Marriage Regulations, which pointed out that: “Under the feudal rule, the marriage between men and women are barbaric and inhumane. The oppression and the pain suffered by women are far worse than those suffered by men.” In order to change this situation, the above-mentioned marriage laws and regulations all embodied the following principles: first, freedom of marriage, which requires the abolition of all arranged, forced or mercenary marriages and the prohibition of the practice of child-bride. Marriage must be based on the consent of both the men and women and no party may use compulsion on the other party and no third party may interfere in marriage. Second, the implementation of the monogamy system and prohibition of polygamy. Third, the minimum ages for marriage are 20 for men and 18 for women. Marriage shall be prohibited if the man and the woman are lineal relatives by blood or collateral relatives by blood up to the fifth (or third in some of these laws) degree of kinship or for those suffering from venereal diseases or leprosy. Fourth, freedom of divorce. Divorce shall be granted if either the husband or the wife insists on divorce. Fifth, marriage and divorce must be registered at the county government. Sixth, after divorce, the husband and the wife shall dispose of their own pre-marital properties or debts; marital properties shall be divided equally between the husband and the wife; if there are children in the family, marital properties shall be divided equally among all the members of the family. The debts incurred by the family after marriage shall be paid by the husband after divorce. Seventh, the wife shall have the custody of the children born or conceived before divorce; if the wife refuses to take custody of the children, then the husband shall take over the custody. If the wife takes the custody of a child, the husband must pay two thirds of the living expense of the child till he or she reaches the age of 16. Eighth, children born out of wedlock shall be protected by law and it is prohibited to abuse or abandon such children. The above principles, while recognizing the freedom of marriage, provided special protection to women and children. This was because “women had just been liberated from feudal oppression. They have not yet recovered from the various harms caused by the oppression (such as foot-binding), or gained complete economic independence. Therefore, laws and policies should put more emphasis on the protection of women, and require men to take on more duties and obligations resulting from divorce. Children are the masters of new society, but the care of children was often neglected in by the old custom. Therefore, the laws must contain special provisions on the protection of children.” The marriage laws and regulations adopted by the CPC during the period of the Second Revolutionary Civil War were progressive and led to a revolution in the protection of women’s rights. Not only so, they had also laid a legal foundation for the protection of women’s rights in China during the later stages of revolution, even after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The main legal provisions on human rights protection in the “red bases” during the period of the Second Revolutionary Civil War were contained in several constitutional documents promulgated by the CPC in the Soviet areas. They included the Outline Constitution of the Soviet Republic of China, promulgated by the government of the Central Soviet Area in 1931 and 1934; the Ten Main Political Programs of the Soviet Republic of China, the Declaration of Guangzhou Soviet, the Revolutionary Political Programs of the Revolutionary Committee of Hunan-Hubei-Jiangxi Border Region, and the Interim Political Program of Jiangxi Soviet, adopted in 1933. The main content of these constitutional documents included:

Firstly, the Chinese Soviet was a state of democratic dictatorship by workers and peasants. “All workers, peasants, soldiers of the red army, and all other working people and their family members, regardless of their gender, race,… religion, shall be equal before the Soviet law…all the above-mentioned Soviet citizens who have reached the age of 16 have the right to vote and stand for election in the Soviet, to choose their representative, to participate in the Soviets at various levels to discuss and decide all local political affairs of the state.”

Secondly, “the political power of Chinese Soviet takes the safeguarding workers’ and peasants’ freedoms of expression, of the press, of assembly, and of association as its objective. It opposes the democracy of the landlords and the bourgeoisie, and advocate the democracy of workers and peasants; it strives to abolish the economic and political rights of the landlords and the bourgeoisie, and remove all obstacles set up by reactionary society to the enjoyed of freedoms by workers and peasants.”

Thirdly, “the political power of Chinese Soviet takes the safeguarding of the religious freedom of workers and peasants as its objective, and absolutely adheres to the principle of separation of political power from religion.”

Fourthly, “The political power of Chinese Soviet recognizes the right to self-determination of ethnic minorities in China…currently it will try its best to help these weak ethnic groups to free themselves from the oppressive rules of imperialists, the KMT, warlords, aristocrats, lamas, and chieftains and achieve complete autonomy. It will help them to develop their own cultures and languages.”

Fifth, “The political power of the Chinese Soviet takes the complete improvement of the livelihood of the working class as its objective. To this end, it adopts labor law, implements the eight-hour working day system, provides for the standard of minimum wage, establishes social insurance system and state unemployment allowance system, and declares that workers have the right to supervise over production.”

Sixth, “The political power of the Chinese Soviet takes the elimination of feudal exploitation and improvement of peasants’ livelihood as its objective. To this end, it promulgates the land law, deprives the landlord class of all its land and distributes it to farmhands, poor peasants and middle peasants, and takes the realization of the nationalization of land as its ultimate objective.”

Seventh, “The political power of the Chinese Soviet takes the complete realization of women’s liberation as its objective. To this end, it recognizes the freedom of marriage, implements various measures for the protection of women, so as to gradually lay the material foundation for women to truly free themselves from the bondage of housework, and to participate in the economic, political and cultural life of society.”

Eighth, “The political power of the Chinese Soviet takes the safeguarding of the right to education of workers and peasants as its objective. To this end, it implements a complete free universal education system to the extent allowed by the conditions of revolutionary war. This system shall be implemented first among the young people. It shall safeguard all the rights of young working people, actively encourage them to participate in political, cultural and revolutionary activities, so as to cultivate new social forces.”

A review of the legal provisions on the protection of human rights promulgated by the CPC during the Second Revolutionary Civil War gives one the impression that some of these provisions were too radical and did not offer sufficient protection to national bourgeoisie and rich peasants. This is true. However, in order to make a more objective assessment of these provisions, we should analyze them in their historical context. In 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek betrayed the revolution, he was supported not only by big bourgeoisie, but also by the upper stratum of the national bourgeoisie. Landlords and rich peasants also tried their best to oppose revolution and were Chiang’s social basis in rural areas. Under such circumstances, it was impossible for the CPC to give the same rights protection to landlords and rich peasants as that given to the broad masses of peasants and it is understandable that CPC leaders at that time, filled with hatred against the enemies who massacred their comrades and sometimes misguided wrong ideologies, had made certain mistakes in human rights policies and laws. Of course, we can also look at this issue from another perspective: although human rights are universal, different countries and areas are faced with different situations and have different priorities, and their human rights laws and policies must reflect such differences. Therefore, it is not appropriate to expect the policies and laws adopted by the CPC at that time to be perfect or make indiscreet remarks or criticisms against them. Although there were defects in these laws and policies, the basic purpose of the CPC was to serve the people and tens of thousands of communists and revolutionary soldiers had sacrificed their lives in the struggle for the realization of human rights in China, thereby winning the heartfelt support of the great masses of Chinese people. In just a few years, a new situation of political and economic development and human rights protection had emerged in the revolutionary bases. Later, Chiang Kai-shek personally commanded massive forces to carry out repeated campaigns of "encirclement and suppression" against the revolutionary bases. Faced with the strong enemy, the red army was forced to evacuate from their bases and begin the Long March. After they left, the people in the revolutionary bases were deprived of their newly-gained rights and once again plunged into the abyss of misery.

IV.

At the time when the Chinese warlords were busy fighting each other in a scramble for power and wealth and Chiang Kai-shek busy suppressing with massive forces red armies in various revolutionary bases, the Japanese invaders, who had long since entrenched themselves in Northeast China, began to carry out their plan to annex the entire Chinese territory. The situation in China at that time was exactly the same as that described in the Appeal to All Fellow Countrymen to Resist Japanese Invasion and Save the Chinese Nation, issued by the Central Committee of the CPC on August 1, 1935 (The August First Declaration): “In less than four years since the Mukden Incident of 1931, the Japanese had occupied and annexed over half of the Chinese territory, marching from Manchuria to Rehe, from Rehe to the Great Wall Fortress, from the Great Wall Fortress to “Luandong De-militarized Zone”, and from the Demilitarized Zone to Hebei, Shanxi and other northern provinces. Now they have already occupied half of the Chinese territory and are actually carrying out the vicious plan of conquering the entire China laid out in the Tanaka Memorandum. Before long, the Yangtze River Basin, the Pearl River Basin and other regions in China will be under the occupation of the Japanese invaders, our five-thousand-year-old homeland will become a conquered land, and four hundred million Chinese people will become slaves of a foreign power. When province after province of China were occupied by the Japanese, thousands after thousands of the Chinese people become slaves, village after village and city after city being bathed in blood, millions after millions of countrymen driven from their homes, and one internal affair after another being interfered with, can China still be regarded as an independent country? Can Chinese people still regarded as an independent nation?” In view of the above situation, the Appeal pointed out that: “The Chinese state and the Chinese nation are now at their crucial moment of life and death. They will survive only if we rise up to resist the Japanese invasion. Therefore, fighting against Japanese invasion has become a sacred duty of every fellow Chinese.” The Appeal finally called upon all Chinese compatriots to “Fight for our homeland! Fight for the survival of the Chinese nation! Fight for national independence! Fight for territorial integrity! And fight for human rights and freedom!”

The Appeal was issued by the CPC during the Long March when the Red Army was constantly pursued and intercepted by enemies. When the Red Army, after breaking through one barrier after another, finally reached northern Shaanxi Province, the CPC issued two declarations with contents identical to that of the August First Declaration. The first one, Declaration on the Annexation of Northern China by Japan and on the Betrayal of Northern China and Entire China by Chiang Kai-shek, was issued on November 13, 1935 in the name of the Central Committee of the CPC. The second one, Declaration on Resisting Japanese Invasion and Saving the Chinese Nation, was issued on November 28, 1935 in the name of Mao Tse-tung and Zhu De. Apparently, the main human rights issue faced by China around the year 1935 had become the independence and survival of the Chinese nation, endangered by Japanese invasion. During this period of time, the emphasis of the struggle for human rights led by the CPC was to unit the Chinese people to resist Japanese invasion and uphold national independence. Therefore, the CPC’s struggle for human rights during the period between 1935 and August 1945 had been carried out mainly in the following three fronts:

1. Leading Chinese people in the fight for democracy, freedom and the right to resist against Japanese invasion

After betraying the revolution, Chiang Kai-shek adopted a domestic policy of dictatorship and suppression of dissenters and a foreign policy of “stabilizing the country first and resisting foreign aggression afterwards”, which actually was a capitulation policy. In the Declaration of the Great Alliance of Freedom Movement in China in 1930, Yu Dafu and Lu Xun described the situation in China at that time as the following: “under the rule of the current government, people have no freedom to talk about. Books and newspapers are banned, so there is no freedom of thought; the press is censored, so people cannot freely express their opinion; colleges and universities are closed down, so people are not able to freely receive education; all mass organizations which are not designated by the government are disbanded, so there is no freedom of association. All political movements and strikes or acts of resistance against rent taken by poor working people for the purpose of improving their livelihood are absolutely prohibited and the organizers of such activities are even arrested. Chance remarks can lead to public execution; there is no security of person or life whatsoever. The Chinese people, being deprived of their freedoms, are living in extreme misery.” Under the KMT rule, no publication was allowed to advocate the resistance against Japanese invasion and all anti-Japanese statements and actions were regarded as the crime of “communist propaganda”. The CPC had carried out various forms of struggle against the KMT’s suppression of Chinese people’s resistance against Japanese invasion. In October 1935, students in ten middle schools and universities in Beiping and Tianjin, under the influence and leadership of the CPC, establish a student council, which issued the “Declaration on Resisting Japanese Invasion, Saving the Chinese Nation, and Fighting for Freedom” in November of the same year. On December 6, the student council of 15 universities and middle schools in Beiping published an Open Telegram from the Students of Various Universities and Schools in Beiping, which denounced the appeasement and capitulation policy adopted the KMT government towards Japanese invaders since the Mukden Incident, and eloquently explained that there was only one way out for China, that is to mobilize the people in the whole country to resist Japanese invasion.” On December 9th, thousands of students broke the numerous blockages set up by KMT military police to demonstrate in the street of Beiping and petitioned the KMT government to cease all acts of civil war, stop arbitrary arrests, ensure local territorial security, and safeguard the freedoms of expression, of assembly, of association, and of the press. This was the famous “December 9th Movement”, which shocked China and the world and mobilized the entire nation to rise up against Japanese aggression.

In 1936, under the influence of the CPC, the literary and art circles in Shanghai, represented by such famous writers as Lu Xun, Ba Jin and Mao Dun, published the “Declaration of Literary and Art Circles on the Resistance against Japanese Aggression and Protection of the Freedom of Express”, which pointed out that: “The Japanese invasion is intensifying with each passing day and the subjugation of the Chinese nation is imminent: the four provinces in northeast China have long fallen into enemy hands, the five provisions in north China as well as Fujian province are now also in imminent danger.” The Declaration demanded that all anti-Japanese forces be united and earnestly pointed out that: “the freedom of expression and the freedom of literary and artistic activity are the key not only to cultural development, but also to the survival of the nation. Today, to freely express the demand to save the nation is not only a right, but also a bounden duty of Chinese citizens. Unless it is prohibited for citizens to love their own country, it is a matter of course that they should enjoy the freedom to express their patriotic opinions. Therefore, we demand that the government immediately grant the people their freedom of expression and abolish all laws and regulations that obstruct the exercise by people of their freedom of expression, such as those on the censorship of newspapers and banning and seizure of publications.” The Declaration expressed common wishes of Chinese intellectuals and forcefully promoted the anti-Japanese struggle in KMT controlled areas.

Apart from mobilizing students and other intellectuals to join the anti-Japanese campaign, the CPC had also made much efforts in wining the support of democratic personages, social activists and high-ranking officials of various KMT factors, such as Soong Ching-ling, Cai Yuanpei, Zhang Xueliang, Shao Zongnan, Shao Zili, Li Jishen, Li Zongren, Bai Chongxi, Jiang Guangnai, Cai Tingkai, Chen Guofu, Chen Lifu, Hu Zongnan, Chen Cheng, and Chiang Kai-shek himself. From the second half of 1936 to the first half of 1937, the CPC had been sending them letters or using other channels to explain to them the importance of stopping the civil war, implementing democracy, and establishing a united front to fight against the Japanese aggression. In October 1939, Mao Tse-tung, Zhu De and other Red Army leaders sent a letter to Chiang Kai-shek and other leaders of the National Revolutionary Army in which they pointed out that: “Now the Chinese nation is facing its greatest peril. ‘When a bird's nest is overturned, no egg can remain intact.’ When a nation is in such a critical condition, there is no longer any room for internal strife.” On December 1, 1936, Mao Tse-tung and Zhu De pointed out in a letter to Chiang Kai-shek that: “Recently the situation in Suiyuan is deteriorating. Because of the civil war, the number of soldiers available for defending the Chinese territory against Japanese is very small. The Great Wall Campaign and the Battle of January 18th in Shanghai were two examples…If we could only stop the civil war today, we will be able to pull our troops out of the internecine battlefields and sent them to the frontlines of anti-Japanese war tomorrow, thereby increasing the defense capability in Shuiyuan by ten times…In this way, we can avenge our nation for the humiliation it had suffered at the hand of the Japanese invaders, defend our homeland, and recover our lost territory…It is for this reason that we are now personally writing to you to once again earnestly requesting you to make a prompt decision to grant our request to save our country. Let us turn hostility into friendship, to joint our efforts in the fight against the Japanese because this is not only beneficial to both of us, but also the only way for the Chinese nation to get itself out of the current crisis.” As for what kind of joint government should be established through the KMT-CPC cooperation, the Central Committee of the CPC had made it very clear in a previous letter to the Central Committee of the KMT: “Chinese people demand for a democratic republic government that works in the interests of the people. The political program of such a government must: firstly, to resist foreign aggression; secondly, to safeguard people’s democratic rights; and thirdly, to alleviate, even to eliminate, people’s sufferings in their daily life.”

The CPC’s call for the stop of civil war and the establishment of an anti-Japanese alliance had not only won the support of workers, peasants, students, intellectuals and community leaders, but also caused strong reaction in the military and political circles of the KMT. On December 12, 1936, Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng, the two generals of the KMT army stationed in Xi’an, driven beyond their limits of forbearance by Chiang Kai-shek’s anti-communist policy, detained Chiang who came to the city to urgent them to send their troops to the frontline of the civil war against the CPC, and in December 13 sent circular telegrams to the relevant parties throughout the country in which they put forward the following Eight-point Proposal: “first, to restructure the Nanjing Government and to form an anti-Japanese united front composed of all parties and factions; second, to stop all acts of civil war; third, to immediately release patriotic leaders arrested in Shanghai; fourth, to release all political prisoners; fifth, to lift the ban on patriot movement; sixth, to safeguard the freedom of assembly, the freedom of association and all other political rights; seventh, to truly implement the will of Dr. Sun Yat-sen; and eighth, to immediately convene a national salvation conference.” On December 15, Mao Tse-tung, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai and other Red Army leaders sent a telegram to the KMT and the national government expressing their support to the Eight-Point Proposal put forward by Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng. The telegram pointed out that: “The Eight-Point Proposal expressed the common wish of the Chinese people”; and that “the KMT and the national government should accept the Proposal, stop the civil war they are launching right now, remove Chiang Kai-shek from his office and hand him over to the Chinese people for trial; establish a government of united front consisting representatives of all parties, factions, all circles of society and all armed forces, abandon the concentration of power and the bureaucracy so indulged in by Chiang Kai-shek, carry out political reform, lift the ban on the freedom of expression and on patriotic publications, release patriotic political prisoners, pull all troops out of battlefields of civil war and send them to Shanxi and Suiyuan to fight against Japanese invaders, so as to save the Chinese nation from foreign subjugation.” After successfully mediating a peaceful solution to the Xi’an Incident, the Central Committee of the CPC raised a five-point demand to the Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the KMT: “first, to stop all acts of civil war so as to concentrate national strength on resisting foreign aggression; second, to safeguard the freedoms expression, of assembly, and of association, and release all political prisoners; third, to convene a national congress participated by representatives of all political parties, sections, social circles, and armed forces so as to draw on collective wisdom and absorb all useful ideas to save the nation; fourth, to complete as soon as possible all preparation for the war of resistance against Japanese aggression; and fifth, to improve people’s livelihood. Through its strenuous efforts, the CPC finally established an anti-Japanese united front, realized the second KMT-CPC cooperation, and removed the obstacles to the anti-Japanese national salvation movement.

2. Leading Chinese people in resisting Japanese aggression and upholding national independence

The Japanese had long since made a strategic plan to conquer China and dominate entire Asia. “According to this plan, eight divisions would be deployed in North China to take Beiping, Tianjin and other major cities and carry out military campaigns in five provinces of North China; five divisions would be deployed in Central China: one attacks Shanghai; one force-lands from Hangzhou Bay, and the other two take coordinated action to attack Nanjing; and one division would be deployed in South China to take Guangzhou and the surrounding area. From the beginning, the Japanese navy would take control of the Chinese coasts and the Yangtze River Basin and assist the ground forces to capture strategic areas. The Japan’s military campaigns in China were carried out basically according to this plan, only the strength of the military force used in these campaigns far exceeded that in the original plan.” In the process of execution of this plan, the Japanese invaders pursued the policy of “burn all, kill all, and loot all”, savagely slaughtered Chinese people—most of them were civilians—and beastly raped Chinese women—many of them were old women or girl children and many died as a result of the rape. The Japanese invaders carried out thousands of massacres in urban and rural areas in China. According to incomplete statistics, a total of 21 million Chinese people had been killed or wounded and another 10 million tortured to death during Japan’s all-out war of aggression against China that began in 1937. During the six weeks beginning from December 13, 1937, the Japanese invaders carried out systematic massacres in the city of Nanjing in which over 300,000 civilians were killed; between July 1937 and July 1945, the Japanese invaders carried out 498 massacres—in each of them no less than 10 civilians were slaughtered—in Hebei Province alone; between May and June 1942, 50,000 Japanese soldiers were sent to eastern Hebei Province to carry out the “May First Mopping-up Campaigns”, in which over 50,000 civilians were killed; among the 78 counties and cities in Hunan Province, 44 were occupied, eleven invaded and harassed, and nine bombed by the Japanese troops during the eight-year Anti-Japanese War, resulting in 2,622,383 casualties; the Japanese invaders had left numerous mass graves in many parts of China during the war. Faced with the atrocious slaughter by the Japanese invaders and national subjugation and genocide, the CPC, while organizing the united front and calling Chinese people to resist Japanese invasion, also carried out coordinated military campaigns alongside friendly forces in frontline battlefields against the Japanese troops. It led the independent guerrilla warfare against the Japanese carried out by the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army in North, Central and East China and the military campaign against the Japanese carried out by Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army in Northeast China. The CPC led armies eliminated over 1,000 Japanese soldiers in the Battle of Pingxinguan Pass and over 2,000 enemies in the ambushes in Pingding County and Xiyang County of Shanxi Province; destroyed or seriously damaged over 20 enemy planes in the surprise attack on Mingyangbao Airport in Dai County, Shanxi Province; and, in coordination with the KMT armies, engaged in pitched battles with Japanese troops in Xikou Town of Shanxi Province, which lasted for 20 days and dealt a serious blow to the arrogant Japanese invaders. The above campaigns effective contained the main forces of Japanese invaders and upset their plan to annex China. Between August and December 1940, the Eighth Route Army launched the “Hundred Regiments Offensive” against Japanese invaders in North China area. A total of 105 regiments participated in the offensive, “killing and wounding 30,000 Japanese soldiers and soldiers of collaborationist Chinese armies and capturing 281 Japanese soldiers and 1,400 soldiers of collaborationist Chinese armies”, thereby dealing an even heavier blow to the Japanese army, and cutting it vanguards off from it rear. In the meantime, the strategy of protracted war, put forward by Mao Tse-tung and implemented by the CPC, had enhanced the confidence of Chinese soldiers and civilians in the ultimate victory of the war against Japanese invasion. Despite the policy of passive resistance adopted by the KMT and the continuous obstructions and frictions created by the capitulationist factions in the KMT, the war of resistance against Japanese aggression by Chinese people, including the majority of officers and soldiers in the KMT army, like an unstoppable deluge, finally engulfed and overwhelmed the Japanese invaders and a small band of collaborationist Chinese who surrendered themselves to the Japanese imperialists. In August 1945, the Chinese people finally won the great victory of war of resistance against Japanese invasion.

3. Adopting a series of laws on the protection of human rights in various anti-Japanese bases

Anti-Japanese bases were the bases established by the CPC to support the war of resistance against Japanese invasion. During the entire anti-Japanese war period, these bases, while under tremendous military, economic and political pressure and blockage, had undertaken the difficult task of providing human and material resources for the war effort. In order to unit broader range of social forces in the fight against Japanese aggressors, and to uphold the independence, freedoms and human rights of the Chinese people, the CPC needed to further strengthen the construction of the legal system of protection of human rights in light of the new situation.

The legal provisions on the protection of human rights adopted by CPC can be found in the administrative programs adopted by the governments of anti-Japanese bases in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region, the Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei Border Region, the Shanxi-Hebei-Shandong-Henan Border Region, Northwestern Shanxi Province and Shandong Province between 1939 and 1942. These administrative programs contain extensive provisions on the protection of human rights. For example, the Administrative Program of the Government of the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region during the Anti-Japanese War Period, promulgated in April 1939 contained the following provisions: (1) “to consolidate and expand the anti-Japanese national united front, to unit all people and political parties in the Border Region, and mobilize all human, material, financial and intellectual resources to defend the border region, the northwest China, and the whole of China and to recover the lost land”; (2) “to actively carry out the work of eliminating traitors, to increase people’s alertness, to completely eliminate traitors, enemy spies, and bandits, so as to strengthen the base areas”; (3) “to realize the equality of political and economic rights for Mongolian, Hui and Han nationalities and to form an anti-Japanese alliance of Mongolian, Hui and Han nationalities in accordance with the principle of equality of nationalities”; (4) “to respect the beliefs, religions, cultures, customs, and habits of the Mongolian and Hui nationalities, and help them to develop their own cultures”; (5) “to develop democracy, to adopt a direct, universal, equal and anonymous election system, to improve the political institutions of centralized democracy, and to enhance people’s ability of self-government”; (6) “to safeguard people’s freedoms of expression, of the press, of association, of belief, of residence, of movement and of communication, to encourage the development of anti-Japanese organizations and armed forces among the people, and to raise their enthusiasm for resisting Japanese invasion”; (7) “to implement the policy of gender equality and improve the political, economic and social status of women, implement the voluntary marriage system, and prohibit the systems of mercenary marriage and child bride”; (8) “to establish a judicial system that is convenient for the people, and safeguard people’s right to report on crimes committed by any government officials”; (9) “to develop universal education, eliminate illiteracy, enhance national consciousness and raise the political and cultural levels of the adult people in the Border Region”; (10) “to confirm people’s right to private property, and protect the interests of the people in the Border Region gained from the land reform”; (11) “to reclaim waste land, undertake water conservancy projects, improve farming, increase agricultural production, and organize ploughing in spring and harvest in autumn”; (12) “to develop handicraft industry and other industries, encourage investment by businessmen, and raise industrial production”; (13) “to establish eight-hour working day system, improve labor conditions, protect workers’ interests, enhance workers’ enthusiasm for work and increase productivity”; (14) “to protect children and prohibit maltreatment of children”; and (15) “to provide assistance to the elderly, the weak, orphans, and widows, to provide relief to victims of natural disasters so as to prevent them from becoming destitute and homeless”. In May 1941, in order to expand the basis of the anti-Japanese political power and establish a broader anti-Japanese united front, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPC promulgated the Administrative Program of the Government of Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region, which declared that a “three-thirds system” would be implemented in the construction of political power in the Border Region, namely only one third of the offices in the government of the Border Region would be held by the CPC members and the other two thirds would be held by non-CPC members. Moreover, the Program also strengthened the provisions on the protection of human rights. For example, it provided in Article 6 that: “The government shall safeguard the personal right, political right, property right and the freedoms of expression, of press, of association, of belief, of residence, and of movement of all anti-Japanese people (including landlords, capitalists, peasants and workers). No one may be arrested, interrogated or punished by any state organ, armed force, or organization, except by judicial or public security organs in the performance of functions; people have the right to report on or make charge against any unlawful act by public officials.” Article 7 of the Program provided that: “The government shall improve the judicial system, resolutely abolish corporal punishment, and lay stress on evidence rather than confession. With regard to those who had collaborated with Japanese invaders, except for those who refuse to repent, a policy of lenience shall be adopted to help them to change by education and persuasion, to allow them put their past behind them and start a new life, and it is prohibited to kill or humiliate them, or to force them to surrender themselves or write a statement of repentance. The same policy shall be adopted for anyone who tried to sabotage the government of the Border Region, such as traitors and anti-communists.” Article 16 provided that: “Vagrants shall be given land to cultivate and the opportunity to get job and education; measures shall be adopted to change the bad habit among civil servants and common people of discriminating against vagrants and to help vagrants to change their way of life through education and persuasion.” Article 20 provided that: “A policy of leniency shall be adopted for all prisoners of war and no question of their past shall be asked. Those who are willing to join the resistance forces shall be accepted and given preferential treatments; it is prohibited to kill or humiliate them, or to force them to surrender themselves or write a statement of repentance. The same policy shall be adopted for those who, after their release, joined the enemy force and being captured again. Those who had attacked the Eighth Route Army, the New Fourth Army and any other anti-Japanese forces shall be dealt with in a similar way.”

Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region was the seat of the Central Committee of the CPC, the Administrative Program of this Region had a demonstrative effect. The administrative programs of all other revolutionary bases contained roughly the same content.

In order to truly safeguard human rights, the various revolutionary bases, after promulgating their administrative programs, adopted regulations on the protection of human rights in accordance with the basic spirit of these administrative programs. Examples of such regulations include: the Regulations of Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region on the Protection of Human Rights and Property Rights, Regulations of Shandong Province on the Protection of Human Rights, Interim Regulations of Hebei-Shandong-Henan Border Region on the Protection of People’s Rights, Regulations of Northwest Shanxi Province on the Protection of Human Rights, and the Rules for the Implementation of Regulations of Bohai District on the Protection of Human Rights. These instruments contained specific provisions on the political, economic, cultural and personal rights of the people in these bases. With respect to political rights, the Regulations of Shandong Province on the Protection of Human Rights provided in Article 2 that: “All citizens of the Republic of China, regardless of their gender, race, religion, profession and class, are equal in legal and political rights”; in Article 3 that “All citizens of the Republic of China, with the exception of traitors and those deprived of their citizens’ rights, have the right to election, the right to recall, the right of initiative, and the right of referendum. The above-mentioned exception does not include political prisoners arrested before the start of the anti-Japanese war”; in Article 4 that: “to the extent of not jeopardizing the war of resistance against Japanese invasion, people shall have the following freedoms: (1) the freedom of person and the freedom of organizing anti-Japanese armed groups; (2) the freedom of movement and the freedom of residence; (3) the freedoms of expression, of writing, of the press, of assembly, of association, and of communication; (4) the freedom of belief, of religion and of political activity.” With respect to the right to property, the Regulations of Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region on the Protection of Human Rights and the Right to Property provided in Article 3 that: “The government protects the right to private property and the right to usufruct of private property (including land, house, creditor’s right and all other property) of all anti-Japanese people”; in Article 4 that: “in areas where the land allocation system had already been implemented, the right to private ownership of land of peasants who have already been allocated land shall be protected; in areas where the land allocation system had not yet been implemented, the landlords’ ownership of land and the debtors’ right shall be protected.” With regard to personal rights, the Regulations of Northwest Shanxi Province on Human Rights provided in Article 3 that: “People shall enjoy the right to person. No one may be arrested, detained, interrogated or punished unless in accordance with law”; in Article 4 that: “People shall have the freedom of action. No one maybe searched or stopped unless in accordance with law”; in Article 5 that: “People shall have the freedom of residence. Their residence may not be broken into, searched or sealed up unless in accordance with law”; in Article 9 that: “no armed force or mass organization has the right to arrest, detain, interrogate or punish any individual. In case the armed force needs to arrest an individual in relation to a military secret, it must do so through the local government or the relevant government organ”; and in Article 10 that: “District or village offices of the government have no power to arrest any person without the order from the county government; when arresting a person, the government (including public security bureaus) at various levels must produce a formal arrest warrant or a similar document.” Moreover, each of the above-mentioned human rights instruments strictly prohibited the practice of extorting confessions by torture and required that a criminal suspect be brought before a judge for trial in accordance with legal procedures within 24 hours under normal circumstance and no more than 48 hours under special circumstance after arrest. Both the Regulations of Shandong Province on the Protection of Human Rights, and the Rules for the Implementation of Regulations of Bohai District on the Protection of Human Rights provided for criminal punishments for public officials who infringe upon people’s freedoms or rights, extort confessions by torture or by other illegal means, and for the right of victims of such violations to request compensation for the damages they have suffered as a result of the violations.

The laws on the protection of human rights adopted by anti-Japanese bases were comprehensive and operable. Some people, based on western legislative standard, hold that the human rights protection laws in revolutionary bases failed to give a strict definition and theoretical generalization to the human rights concept and therefore doubt whether a human rights protection system really existed at that time or, if such a system did exist at that time, whether it could be regarded as a genuine human rights protection system. Such doubt is unjustified. Although defining human rights in a human rights law is important, definition of human rights should not be taken as the only standard for judging human rights laws. The protection of human rights is concrete. Faced with the grim situation at that time, when the revolutionary bases were under frequent attacks by both the Japanese invaders and KMT armies, the human rights protection in these bases depended on concrete codes of conduct, which must use concise and clear language to inform soldiers and civilians what rights they were entitled to, what rules they must abide by, what acts were prohibited, and what kind of violation of human rights were crimes punishable under the law. These regulations, together with other laws, constituted the revolutionary legal system in the revolutionary bases, which effectively united the people and consolidated the people’s democratic political power of these bases, and turned these remote culturally and economically backward border regions into politically, economically and culturally developed model regions, and strongholds of the Eighth Route Army, the New Fourth Army and other anti-Japanese armed forces. Historical facts have already proved that the human rights protection laws in these bases were comprehensive and concrete and were truly implemented under the leadership of the CPC and that the human rights in these bases were genuinely protected.

V.

The victory of the war of resistance against Japanese aggression removed one of the major obstacles to the independence and emancipation of the Chinese nation. The Chinese people, who had suffered from many years of war, longed for a peaceful environment in which they could recover from the trauma of the war. The CPC, representing the will of the people, advocated that all patriotic and democratic forces in China should unit and seize the rare historical opportunity to build China into an independent, democratic, and prosperous new country, and to help Chinese people to get rid of oppression and poverty and to enjoy a free and happy new life. However, the situation did not develop according to the good will of the people. Chiang Kai-shek, who had adopted a policy of compromise towards Japanese imperialists, who had been ever on the retreat before the Japanese forces during the eight-year war of resistance, and who holed up all his main forces in a small corner of southwest China during the final years of the war, came out of his hiding place posing himself as a “hero of resistance against Japanese invasion” after the surrender of Japan and tried to seize the fruit of victory. Since his main military force was too far away from the frontline, Chiang and his backstage boss—the American imperialists—adopted two unusual steps: first, the U.S. government “tried to use Japanese armies to hold back the communists”. It ordered the Japanese invaders, whose hands were stained with the blood of Chinese people, to continue to maintain the so-called order in the occupied areas and forbade them from surrendering to the people’s armed forces led by the CPC, thereby actually allowing them to continue oppressing the Chinese people. Second, Chiang Kai-shek used the collaborationist Chinese armies as garrisons “to be responsible for effective defense” against the recovery of occupied Chinese territories by people’s armies, took the opportunity to incorporate half a million collaborationist Chinese troops into the KMT armies as “underground armies” or “vanguards”, and ordered them to attack liberated areas. The Military Committee of the KMT even went as far as appointing Zhou Fohai, the President of the Executive Yuan of Nanjing puppet government, as the General Director of the Campaign Headquarters of Shanghai Municipality. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government, in the name of repatriating Japanese POWs and helping the KMT government to take over occupied areas, transported KMT armies by air and sea from Southwest and Northwest China to North China, East China, Central China and Northeast China, and order the U.S. marines to enter and be stationed in coastal port cities and large inland cities to help KMT armies to grab strategic areas.

What happened at that time was exactly what China had repeated experienced during the 100 years since 1840: the foreign invaders could realize their invasion of China only with the help of their agents in China whereas the reactionaries in China could put to good use of their despotic power only by relying on their foreign backstage bosses. After the end of the World War II, the U. S. government, in order to “contain the Soviet influence” and “establish the dominant position of the U.S. in the world”, tried to gain control over China and, for some historical and practical reasons, it had chosen Chiang Kai-shek and his KMT government as the piece on its chessboard. As the U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson later admitted, the method adopted by the U.S. at that time was to enhance the strength of KMT government and “to help it establish its power in as broad areas as possible.” Thus, Chiang Kai-shek and his reactionary KMT government, acting in collusion with the U.S. government, became the biggest obstacle to the achievement of national dependence and full enjoyment of human rights by Chinese people after the World War II. Faced with complicated new situation and seemingly formidable enemy, the CPC, as always, stood together with the Chinese people, and carried out persistent struggle against KMT reactionaries and their backstage boss—the U.S. imperialists.

1. Defeating KMT reactionaries through the people’s war of liberation, thereby realizing national independence and emancipation

After winning the victory of the war of resistance against Japanese invasion, the Chinese people were eager to re-build their own country in peace and to realize genuine national independence, freedom and prosperity. On August 25, 1945, the Central Committee of the CPC pointed out in the Declaration on the Current Situation of China that: “The main tasks of the Chinese nation today are to strengthen national unity, ensure domestic peace, realize democracy, improve people’s livelihood, so as to realize the unification of the country and establish an independent, free and prosperous new China based on peace, democracy, and solidarity.” To achieve this goal, Mao Tse-tung, “with tremendous courage” and in complete disregard of his own safety, personally went to Chongqing to negotiate with Chiang Kai-shek. On October 10, 1945, after more than one and a half months of hard negotiation, a Summary of Conversations Between Representatives of the KMT and the CPC (namely the so-called “Double Tenth Agreement”) was signed. According to the Agreement, the KMT accepted the basic policy of peaceful state building, promised to “take peace, democracy, solidarity, and unity as the basis, make concerted efforts to avoid civil war, and build an independent, free, and prosperous new China”. The Double Tenth Agreement also required the KMT government to convene a political consultative conference participated by representatives of all political parties and non-party personages in the country to discuss plans for state building, end the “Political Tutelage” as soon as possible, realize political democratization, recognize people’s democratic rights and freedoms and the lawfulness and the equality all political parties, abolish secret services, release political prisoners, and hold general election.

This Agreement, if implemented earnestly, could have avoided civil war, realized the plan of peaceful state building, and safeguarded people’s democratic rights and freedoms. However, the negotiation with the CPC and the signing of the Double Tenth Agreement was only a stalling tactics adopted by Chiang Kai-shek to achieve the ultimately objective of eliminating the CPC and the revolutionary forces led by it. On September 29, 1945, while still in the process of negotiating with the CPC, Chiang Kai-shek sent a secret telegram to commanders-in-chief of various theaters of operations, which stated that: “The purpose of the current negotiation with the treacherous Communist Party is to find out its demands and purposes and to reduce international pressure on us. You should take this opportunity to rapidly take over the major cities in occupied areas. Once the National army has gained control over strategic areas and lines of communication and completed the acceptance of the surrender of the Japanese armies, we will conduct concrete negotiation with the treacherous Communist Party on the basis of our military advantages. Should the CPC refuse to submit itself to the unified political and military rule of the government, we will eliminate them as bandits.” Meanwhile, He Yingqin, the Commander-in-Chief of the KMT army, also sent secret orders to various theaters of operations to print and distribute the Manual on the Suppression of Bandits, compiled by Chiang Kai-shek during the "encirclement and suppression" of the red armies in 1933, and required the commanders of the KMT armies to “supervise and encourage those under your command to make arduous effort to complete as soon as possible the task of suppressing bandits”. According to the secret order and deployment of Chiang Kai-shek, the KMT armies launched attacks on liberated areas. The people armies led by CPC were forced to fight back, wiping out near 110,000 KMT troops in areas of Shangdang, Suiyuan, Handan, Xuzhou and Jinan. On October 1, 1946, the KMT reactionaries were forced to sign a “Truce Agreement” with the CPC.

It turned out that the “Truce Agreement” was just another stalling tactic employed by Chiang Kai-shek after the “Double Tenth Agreement”. He needed time to deploy troops and strategic materials with the help of the American imperialists. As for the U.S., it realized that the KMT at that time “has absolutely no ability to suppress the CPC by military force” and that Chiang Kai-shek’s launching of a civil war without sufficient preparation “might result in the control of the entire China by the CPC”, thereby putting the U.S. in an disadvantaged position in the struggle with the Soviet Union for sphere of influence. Both the U.S. government and Chiang Kai-shek took their own interest as the starting point of their actions and totally ignored Chinese people’s aspiration for peace. Soon afterwards, blinded by the lust for gain, they believed that they were ready for the war and consequently started war machine. In the second half of 1946, they started a full-scale civil war by launching large-scale attacks on liberated areas. The CPC armies, supported by the Chinese people, rose in defense of themselves and, after fierce battles, quickly turned the tides in their favor. In a little more than three years, they defeated the KMT reactionaries who had been so arrogant and overbearing only a short while ago and drove them out of the Chinese Mainland.

(2) The United Front and Democratic Movement led by the CPC: the second front of the struggle for human rights

While launching armed attacks on the liberated areas, the KMT reactionaries also suppressed the democratic movement undertaken by democratic parties and patriotic teachers and students in areas under its control. On January 31, 1946, in order to safeguard human rights in a state of emergency, the Political Consultative Conference participated by various political parties decided to establish a Committee on the Protection of People’s Rights. In a speech at the preparatory meeting of the Committee, the CPC representative, Mr. Dong Biwu, called on all Chinese people to unit and take joint actions to protect their own human rights. In the next day, the KMT reactionaries sent special agents to a meeting celebrating the successful convening of the Political Consultative Conference and beat up 60 participants of the meeting, including Guo Moruo, a representative to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Mr. Li Gongpu, the Chairman of the Conference, Activists Shi Fuliang and Zhang Naiqi, as well as many news reporters. Thereafter, the KMT had created a series of incidents in which many revolutionaries were beaten up or murdered and their homes or offices smashed or looted. However, the more severe the regime’s repression, the more people resisted. The KMT’s retrograde act of stubbornly launching the civil war by relying on its American master had sparked widespread protests both in China and abroad. Various political parties, mass organizations, and overseas Chinese organizations sent circular telegrams or published declarations to call for the implementation of democracy, for the stop of the civil war and for the U.S. government to cease interfering in China’s internal affairs.

The democratic movement began in the city of Kunming, where a large number of universities and colleges were located at that time. In the evening of January 25, 1945, over 6,000 students held an assembly in Southwest Associated University, in which anti-civil war speeches were given by such famous professors as Mr. Qian Duansheng, Mr. Fei Xiaotong, Mr. Pan Dakui and Mr. Wu Qiyuan. The KMT troops surrounded the gathering and fired shots to scare its participants. On December 26, over 30,000 students in more than 30 universities, colleges and high schools declared a general strike and published a declaration, demanding an immediate stop to the civil war, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from China, the establishment of a democratic confederate government, and genuine protection of people’s rights and freedoms. The students also established a General Strike Committee to lead the struggle against KMT reactionaries. Under the leadership of CPC Yunan Provincial Committee, members of the CPC and of the Youth Democrat Union played a key role in the strike. On December 29 and 30, the students of the city held a demonstration. On December 1, the KMT government sent a large number of special agents and soldiers to Southwest Associated University and Yunnan University to beat up and throw grenades at students, resulting in the death of four students, two of them were members of the CPC. The incident, later became known as “December 1 Massacre”, shocked the whole country. On December 23, 1943, eleven members of the Shanghai Association against Civil War and for the Promotion of Democracy, including Mr. Ma Xulun, Mr. Yan Baohang, Mr. Hu Juewen and Ms. Lei Jieqiong, went to Nanjing to submit a petition to the KMT Government. They were beaten up by KMT reactionaries as soon as they arrived at the Xiaguan Railway Station of Nanjing City and many of them were wounded. On July 11 and 15, 1946, special agents of the KMT in Kunming murdered two members of the Central Committee of China Democratic League—Mr. Li Gongpu and Mr. Wen Yiduo—who were against the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek and actively advocated peace and democracy. On December 24 of the same year, a female student of Peking University, Ms. Shen Chong, was raped by an American soldier. The incident further enraged the Chinese people. The unprincipled protection by the KMT controlled media of the American soldier added more fuel to the fire. The protest spread from Peking University to Yanjing University and Tsinghua University, and from Beijing to other large and medium-sized cities, including Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Kunming, Wuhan, Kaifeng, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Guilin, and Taipei, developing into a large-scale anti-American patriotic movement that had lasted for several months.

The KMT reactionaries, while brutally repressing the intellectual circle, also intensified the plunder and exploitation of Chinese people. As a result of war, peasants’ land laid waste and agricultural production dropped; and as a result of the dumping of American commodities in China, Chinese national industries were on the brink of bankruptcy. In order to carry on with the civil war, the KMT government increased the land tax rate and intensified press-ganging of soldiers and civilian workers. The decrease in the industrial and agricultural production had resulted in the shortage of goods, the raise in commodity prices, and devaluation of currency. The deepening of economic crisis led to the general and drastic decrease in educational expenditure. Teachers in universities, colleges, and primary and secondary schools were on the brink of starvation and the masses of people found it hard to live on. Under such circumstances, workers and peasants quickly joined the intellectuals in the democratic movement. Between the second half of 1946 and 1947, “rice riot” had broke out in over 40 cities and towns in the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi, Suiyuan, Jiangxi and Canton. Peasants rose up to resist rent, tax, and press-ganging. In May 1947, a democratic movement against civil war, hunger, and persecution broke out. The democratic movements in KMT areas, although peaceful, had shaken the foundation of the reactionary rule of the KMT. As Mao Tse-tung pointed out: “Now a second front has emerged, that is, the sharp struggle between the great and righteous student movement and the reactionary Chiang Kai-shek government. The slogan of the student movement is "Food, Peace, Freedom" or "Against Hunger, Against Civil War, Against Persecution".”

3. Building continuously expanding liberated areas into strongholds of people’s war of liberation and model regions of human rights protection

As the Chinese say goes, “A just cause enjoys abundant support while an unjust cause finds little support.” Chiang Kai-shek’s retrograde act of relying on the support of the U.S. government to launch civil war met with strong opposition by people throughout the country. With the material and personnel support from the U.S., the KMT’s large-scale attack on liberated areas reached its climax when the troops led by Hu Zongnan captured Yanan on March 19, 1947. From then on, the People’s Liberation Army had turned the table on the KMT armies, went from victory to victory, and continuously expanded the liberated areas. To support the people’s war of liberation, and to enable people in liberated areas to further enjoy their rights, a series of reform had been carried out under the leadership of the CPC. Firstly, on the basis of summarization of past rural land policy, the Outline Land Law of China, adopted in September 1947 and promulgated in October of the same year, abolished the exploitative feudal and semi-feudal land system, and implemented a “land-to-the-tiller” system. The land reform in the vast liberated areas enabled over 100 millions peasants, or one fourth of the total peasant population in the whole country, to become land owners. An American author pointed out that “The New Draft Agrarian Law was destined to play as important a role in China’s Civil War of 1946-1950 as the Emancipation Proclamation played in the American Civil War of 1861-1865.” Actually the land reform in China was of much larger scale and more profound than the emancipation of the black slaves in the U.S. because it enabled the poor peasants who had been enslaved in the past to become the owner of their land and master of their own country. Secondly, while carrying out land reform in old liberated areas, the CPC implemented the policy of reducing rent and lowering the interest rate in newly liberated rural areas and the policy of protecting national industry and commerce in newly liberated cities. On the basis of the human rights protection law which had already existed in the revolutionary bases, the CPC adopted a series of new regulations, including the Administrative Program of the Autonomous Government of Inner Mongolia, the Announcement of the Government of Special Municipality of Harbin on the Prohibition of Unlawful Detention, Arrest, and Interrogation and Other Violations of Human Rights, the Order of the Administrative Office of Henan-Anhui-Jiangsu Border Region Instructing Governments at Various Levels to Truly Protect Human Rights and Strictly Prohibit Arbitrary Arrest, Corporal Punishment and Extorting a Confession by Torture, and the Revised Regulations of Bohai District on the Protection of Human Rights—all of them contained further stipulations on the protection of human rights. Thirdly, the work of building democratic government was carried out in various liberated areas after the completion of the land reform. The main purposes and tasks of such work was to support the People’s Liberation Army in eliminating KMT forces in these areas and in establishing a stable social order; to establish political power at various level on the basis of democracy, to develop production, to invigorate the economy, to safeguard people’s political, economic and cultural rights, to give full support to the troops in the front line, to defeat the KMT reactionaries and liberate the whole of China. The North China People’s Government was the first government established in main liberated areas. The experience accumulated, the laws adopted and the various institutions established by this government laid a foundation for the establishment of a central government of the new China.

Under the combined impact of the offensives by the People’s Liberation Army, led by the CPC and supported by the people of revolutionary bases and liberated areas, and the magnificent upsurges of democratic movement in KMT areas, the once ferocious and arrogant KMT reactionaries were finally defeated. On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was established, opening a new chapter in the development of the human rights cause in China.

Although human rights are beautiful and lofty ideas, the struggle for human rights is an arduous task, and the struggle for human rights for hundreds of millions of Chinese people who had suffered from oppression, exploitation and humiliation at the hands of imperialists and colonialists for over a century was an even more arduous task. Just as mentioned above, the CPC had undertaken this historical task with Marxism as its guidance from the day of its birth in 1921 and, after 28 years of efforts, finally achieved great victory in 1949. From the perspective of human rights protection, the history of the CPC can be summarized as the followings:

Firstly, the CPC had put an end to the invasion of China by imperialists and colonialists and achieved national independence. Beginning from 1840, as a result of invasions by imperialists, China had been reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. At the gunpoint, the Chinese government was forced to sign a series of unequal treaties under which large pieces of Chinese land were ceded to or divided up as sphere of influence among various imperialist powers, many Chinese cities were forced to be open as trading ports, large areas in some Chinese cities were designated as foreign concessions, and Chinese people had become “second-class citizens” in their own country and suffered oppression and humiliation. From the date of its establishment, the CPC had taken the resistance of the imperialist aggression and oppression as its task, and fought bloody battles first against British, U.S., French, German and Japanese colonialists, then against Japanese militarists, and finally against American imperialists and its agents in China and ultimately driven all of them from Chinese Mainland, thereby realizing national independence. To Chinese people who had suffered the oppression by imperialists and colonialists, the realization of national independence was the most important human right.

Secondly, the CPC had led the Chinese people in overthrowing imperialism, feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and achieving genuine emancipation. Before 1840, China was a feudal monarchy dominated by the landlord class. After the invasion by imperialists, the feudal class, imperialists and bureaucratic capitalists acted in collusion with each other to exploit and oppress the Chinese people. Together they became “the three big mountains” weighing on the backs of the Chinese people. Long period of plunder and years of war had turned the once fertile land of China into a desolated wasteland. The peasants had no land to till or home to return to. They had never been able to get enough food and clothing. Many of them were forced to leave their native homes and die in foreign land. Workers were oppressed by domestic and foreign capitalists and feudal bosses, some even became indentured laborers and the tools used by big capitalists to obtain exorbitant profit, and there was no place where they could get redress for injustice. With the victory of people’s revolution in 1949, the Chinese people had finally overthrown the “three mountains”, liberated themselves from economic exploitation, and achieved political emancipation.

Thirdly, national independence and emancipation of the people had laid a sound foundation for the development of the new China and for the full enjoyment of human rights by Chinese people. In the 60 years since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the CPC have defeated aggressions and harassments by imperialists, and crushed their plot to strangle the newly-born People’s Republic while it was still in the crib. Under extremely difficult conditions, in which China was blockaded, contained, and encircled by western countries led by the U.S. and Japan, China has succeeded in implementing democratic reform and socialist revolution and construction. Especially during the thirty years since the “reform and opening up”, the socialist market economy has developed rapidly, Chinese people have enjoyed unprecedented level of protection of their human rights, and the Chinese nation has enjoyed high prestige in the international community.

The entire modern history had shown that no oppressor class would easily return to the people the rights they have grabbed from them. As a result, the struggle for human rights is not like drawing or embroidery, and could never succeed by sitting down on a table and prattling about general principles. When imperialists, feudalists and bureaucratic capitalists use violence against the Chinese people, the only way for Chinese people to save themselves was to use revolutionary violence against counterrevolutionary violence. In such life-and-death struggles, the older generation of revolutionaries, chanting the slogan “for a new China”, charged weave up weave towards enemy positions with fearless heroism and sacrificed their lives without hesitation. We should never forget that the monument of victory of revolution was cast with the lives and blood of countless revolutionary martyrs and men and women with lofty ideals. Today, good-hearted people might feel sad when seeing such historical images of revolution, even think that such revolutions were too cruel, and they can hardly link the bloody life-and-death struggle with the protection of human rights. Actually, the realization of human rights in any country has been achieved through long and bitter struggle and the adoption of harsh measures against enemies who stubbornly resist revolution. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution, was the result of the long struggle by the French people and of the 1789 Uprising by the revolutionaries in Paris. In order to implement the content of the Declaration, the French people had to fight continuous battles against royalists who tried to restore the feudal rule. Struggle was not over even after the French people guillotined Louis the XVI, who tried to suppress the revolution by colluding with foreign powers. The American people fought two wars with British colonialists in order to gain independence. And after gaining independence, again fought a four-year war against southern slave-owners in order to emancipate the black slaves and to realize the human rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

The struggle for independence, emancipation and human rights by Chinese people was carried out in conditions even harsher, more complicated and more difficult than those in which the French and American revolutions were carried out. China is a country with a huge population, vast territory, and very unbalanced development in different regions. And Chinese people were faced with the oppression by many imperialist powers and their Chinese agents who were armed to the teeth. When enemies came towards the Chinese people with butcher’s knife, the Chinese people would have helplessly waited for their death like lamb to the slaughter were it not for the CPC, which led them in a resolute struggle against the enemies. Today, when recalling this period of history, we cannot but feel proud and fortunate that Chinese people had such a brilliant leader as the CPC at that time. Of course, today China still has many problems to be solved and many tasks to be accomplished with respect to the protection of human rights. However, looking back in history, we should be confident that, as long as we are under the leadership of the CPC and continue on the path opened up by older generations of revolutionaries, we will be able to bring socialism with Chinese characteristics and human rights protection cause in China to a new level.

(This article was originally published in Oriental Law, No.3, 2011)