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China Celebrates First Constitution Day

Government workers stand under a banner that reads "Tsinghua-affiliated Chaoyang School, The Law and me together, legal series of talks" as they observe a student meeting on legal matters on Constitution Day in Beijing, Dec. 4, 2014.

China celebrated its first Constitution Day on Thursday as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to promote the rule of law.

Xi kicked off the events with a call for more awareness of the constitution in Chinese society.

The new holiday was commemorated with nationwide activities in schools, government offices and state-owned companies. The nation’s schoolchildren were also told to read the constitution as part of their studies, according to state-run media reports.

The holiday came as Xi has been engaged in a high-profile anti-corruption campaign aimed at improving the country's legal system as well as government transparency. Scores of current and retired officials have been detained on corruption charges.

Critics, however, say Chinese officials often interpret the constitution and other laws to suit the needs of the Communist Party. Michael Davis, a law professor at Hong Kong University, told VOA that Beijing was using the holiday to emphasize and gather support for the ruling leadership.

“In a way, I think this whole idea [of] promoting the constitution just becomes a kind of way to legitimize the party control and a kind of party discipline that everyone [is] supposed to follow the leadership," Davis said.

China has enacted four constitutions since the Communist Party took control in 1949. The current version, adopted in 1982, reserves exclusive leadership rights for the Communist Party.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.

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