But experts say the move is meaningless without an independent judiciary Protection of human rights is to be included in the constitution under a resolution passed by leading members of the Communist Party. The approval came at the third plenum of the 16th Communist Party Congress this month, Procurator General Jia Chunwang said. Central committee members met this month and discussed amendments to the constitution along with other issues. In an article published in the Study Times, Mr Jia, who heads the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said the members had agreed to add a clause to the constitution stating: 'The state respects and protects the rights of its people.' Study Times is a magazine published by the Central Party School. The official media reported that the National People's Congress Standing Committee has already met to discuss the amendments which will be put to a vote in March at the annual conference. In his article, Mr Jia called the resolution 'a great step forward in the protection of human rights and social progress in our country'. Political scientists and rights experts welcomed the move but were sceptical of its practical value. 'The new leadership want to present themselves as reformers,' said Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University in Hong Kong. 'And such programmes will also boost China's international image.' But he said the move would yield little result. 'China already has a good constitution. The problem is that you can't implement it without an independent judiciary and free media,' he said. His view was echoed by Nicholas Becquelin, research director of Human Rights in China. 'On paper, the constitution already has some protection for human rights. But the problem is that it is very self-contradictory. It says you have freedom of expression and freedom of assembly here, but in the same document, it talks about dictatorship of the party.' He said adding new clauses into the constitution would do little to bring real improvement to human rights in China. 'You can have a perfect constitution but there is no mechanism to check whether the law is in conformity with the constitution. That is the missing element.' He said many government regulations and laws contradicted the constitution, which is largely ignored at local level. 'That's a lot of excitement about the constitution changes ... but it will absolutely have no impact on ordinary people's lives,' he said. Mr Becquelin suggested a practical and effective way to protect people's rights was to allow every detained person to have free access to a lawyer. Professor Cheng said an independent judiciary committee within the National People's Congress and a free press were essential.