World

China marks Constitution Day amid push to strengthen legal system, Communist Party powers

  • Students sit under a banner which reads "Tsinghua affiliated Chaoyang School, The Law and me together, legal series of talks" during a meeting coinciding with China's first Constitution Day at their school in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. China on Thursday marked its first Constitution Day as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to show that the country embraces rule of law while ensuring that ruling Communist Party holds on to its unrivaled authority. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Students sit under a banner which reads "Tsinghua affiliated Chaoyang School, The Law and me together, legal series of talks" during a meeting coinciding with China's first Constitution Day at their school in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. China on Thursday marked its first Constitution Day as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to show that the country embraces rule of law while ensuring that ruling Communist Party holds on to its unrivaled authority. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

  • Government workers stand under a banner which reads "Tsinghua affiliated Chaoyang School, The Law and me together, legal series of talks" as they observe a student meeting on legal matters coinciding with China's first Constitution Day at their school in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. China on Thursday marked its first Constitution Day as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to show that the country embraces rule of law while ensuring that ruling Communist Party holds on to its unrivaled authority. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Government workers stand under a banner which reads "Tsinghua affiliated Chaoyang School, The Law and me together, legal series of talks" as they observe a student meeting on legal matters coinciding with China's first Constitution Day at their school in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. China on Thursday marked its first Constitution Day as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to show that the country embraces rule of law while ensuring that ruling Communist Party holds on to its unrivaled authority. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

  • A student prepares to lead a discussion about Chinese law during China's first Constitution Day at their school in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. China on Thursday marked its first Constitution Day as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to show that the country embraces rule of law while ensuring that ruling Communist Party holds on to its unrivaled authority. The words at the back reads "The Law and me together." (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    A student prepares to lead a discussion about Chinese law during China's first Constitution Day at their school in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. China on Thursday marked its first Constitution Day as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to show that the country embraces rule of law while ensuring that ruling Communist Party holds on to its unrivaled authority. The words at the back reads "The Law and me together." (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

China is marking its first Constitution Day as part of President Xi Jinping's drive to show the country embraces rule of law while ensuring that ruling Communist Party holds on to its unrivaled authority.

The new holiday Thursday is being commemorated with nationwide activities in schools, government offices and state-owned companies.

It is part of Xi's campaign to institutionalize the party's powers while reducing corruption and improving government efficiency. Critics point to inherent contradictions in the campaign, including the party's refusal to accept independent oversight and honor constitutional guarantees such as the right to free speech and religious assembly.

China has enacted four constitutions since the communist state's founding in 1949, with the current version adopted in 1982. Its first article forbids any challenge to the country's socialist system.