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

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.