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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314116 China / Congress
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/15/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=CHINA / CONGRESS (L ONLY)

NUMBER=2-314116

BYLINE=LUIS RAMIREZ

DATELINE=BEIJING

INTRO: The amendment of China's constitution to include the protection of private property rights is being hailed as an important step in the country's transition from a socialist system to a free-market economy. But as V-O-A's Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing, some analysts question whether the amendment will bring about any true changes.

TEXT: The vote by the National People's Congress put private property guarantees on paper for the first time since China was taken over by the Communists, who once labeled landowners and capitalists as running dogs.

Under the changes, entrepreneurs are being invited to join the Communist Party and they are now officially one of the main productive forces in Chinese society.

Analysts say the changes are important because the government is showing its support for private property rights and greater support for rights in general.

However, there are questions about whether the rights can be enforced. Law Professor Michael Davis at the Chinese University of Hong Kong says few changes can be expected unless China makes a determined effort to improve the rule of law. He said China's constitution already guarantees a number of individual rights, but enforcement has been largely non-existent.

/// DAVIS ACT ///

A long list of rights are provided there, but for the most part, Chinese people have never fully enjoyed those rights and part of the reason is because there's no democratic check on government. The Communist Party monopolizes power in China.

/// END ACT ///

Professor Davis says China's courts are not sufficiently developed and independent to be able to overturn legislation that violates private property rights.

At a briefing following the close of the annual session of the National People's Congress Sunday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said battling corruption and strengthening rule of law are among his government's top

concerns.

/// WEN ACT IN CHINESE, FADES ///

The heart of the anti-corruption struggle, Mr. Wen says, is the very survival of the Communist Party and the country.

The comment was a repeat of remarks stated previously by former President Jiang Zemin and other Communist Party officials who have warned that corruption is a threat to the party's survival. Mr. Wen announced no new initiatives to battle corruption.

/// REST OPT ///

Professor Davis says Chinese leaders tend to view the Constitution more as a statement of aspirations, and not as the supreme law of the land. He says that because of this, it will be difficult for any new amendment to bring true change.

/// 2ND DAVIS ACT ///

The reality is that the Communist party leadership dictates the most important policies in China and they have been reluctant over the years to surrender to control by law. So the answer the Prime Minister should have offered is we have to better develop rule of law.

/// END ACT ///

He says it remains to be seen whether the Chinese government truly moves to develop rule of law and democracy. At the end of the day, he says, human rights depend on these two ingredients. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/LR/KBK



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