Visiting Scholar Writes Book on Human Rights & Constitutionalism in China
Yu Haocheng completes massive treatise on democratic politics and the rule of law in China
Yu Haocheng, a distinguished Visiting Scholar with the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies, has completed a massive (616 page) book, in Chinese, Human Rights and Constitutionalism (Renquan yu xianzheng; Boston: Foundation for China in the Twenty-first Century; copyright 2000, but issued in 2003).
The fruit of decades of thought and study, the book is a sweeping and magisterial analysis of the main issues in governance in China over the past half century and a passionate argument for the rule of law. It treats, among other subjects, human rights and other legal safeguards, constitutionalism and the rule of law, the Chinese Communist Party’s one-party dictatorship, political reform in China, and federalism in China.
In his English-language foreword to the book, Andrew Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University, writes:
A hundred years ago, all patriotic thinking Chinese agreed that constitutionalism was the accepted way to save the nation. Today, that idea is much less widely accepted. . . . Yet Mr. Yu believes this is still the right idea of China. As he never ties of pointing out, China has many healthy principles of government written into its present constitution and laws. . . What is lacking is the commitment by those in power to obey their own system of laws. How can that problem be solved? The role of thinkers like Yu Haocheng is crucial to continuing to remind the rulers and the public of how the leaders are breaking the law and how the law should be kept. This is still the best route of development for China to grow peacefully out of its current political troubles into a stable future.
Yu Haocheng is one of several Chinese thinkers, both abroad and within China, who are convinced China must take the road to constitutionalism. In February of this year, Yu and three other prominent proponents of constitutionalism — Liu Junning, Wang Juntao, and Wang Dan — held a public forum at UCLA on constitutionalism and political reform in China .
Mr. Yu worked as a translator and interpreter during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and in 1956 he was assigned the task of establishing a publishing house for the Ministry of Public Security. For the next thirty years, he was the president and editor-in-chief of Qunzhong (The Masses) Press, in Beijing. In the hysteria of the Cultural Revolution, he was accused of liberalism, and in 1969 was thrown into Qingcheng Prison, the place for high-level victims of Mao’s political campaigns. Yu was released in 1971, but did not regain his post in the Masses Publishing House until 1978. In 1986 he was dismissed again, this time for writing a critique of the Chinese legal system in a Hong Kong magazine. Mr. Yu then edited two journals, Legal Inquiry (Falü zhi xun) and Legal Science, and in the few years of liberalism leading up to the tragedy in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, he became a leading voice on behalf of human rights and the rule of law.
After the crackdown in June 1989, Mr. Yu was again deprived of his right to speak and publish. In 1994, Mr. Yu came to the United States.
Published: Saturday, May 03, 2003