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China publishes national human rights action plan (04/13/09)

BEIJING, April 13 (Xinhua) -- China published its first working plan on human rights Monday, pledging to further protect and improve human rights conditions.

The National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010), issued by the Information Office of the State Council, or Cabinet, highlighted goals that would be implemented in less than two years.

This action made China one of 26 countries that have responded to the United Nations' call to establish a national human rights plan since 1993.

The 54-page document is divided into five sections: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Civil and Political Rights; Rights and Interests of Ethnic Minorities, Women, Children, Elderly People and the Disabled; Education in Human Rights; and Performing International Human Rights Duties, and Conducting Exchanges and Cooperation in the Field of International Human Rights.

"The realization of human rights in the broadest sense has been a long-cherished ideal of mankind and also a long-sought goal of the Chinese government and people," the document stated.

China plans to continue to "raise the level of ensuring people's civil and political rights" through improving democracy and the rule of law, it said.

CIVIL, POLITICAL RIGHTS TO BE GUARANTEED

The death of a Chinese man, Li Qiaoming, at a police station in Yunnan Province two months ago sparked a public outcry for enhancing transparency and supervision of the detention system.

These concerns were addressed in the second section of China's new human rights action plan, which stipulates principles for safeguarding detainees' rights and treatment.

Corporal punishment, abuse, insulting detainees or the extraction of confessions by torture will be strictly prohibited, according to the document.

"All interrogation rooms must impose a physical separation between detainees and interrogators," it stated, adding that a system for conducting physical examinations of detainees before and after an interrogation will be introduced.

Detainees, their families and society at large will be informed of detainees' rights as well as law-enforcement standards and procedures. Real-time supervision conducted by the people's procuratorate on law enforcement in prisons and detention houses will be intensified, according to the document.

"For detainees' convenience, complaint letter boxes should be set up in their cells and a detainee may meet the procurator stationed in a prison or detention house by appointment, if the former feels he has been abused and wants to make a complaint," it said.

Statistics from the Supreme People's Procuratorate show that Chinese procuratorates punished 930 government workers in 2006 who illegally took people into custody and extorted confessions by torture.

Regarding the death penalty, the action plan stated it will be strictly controlled and prudently applied.

"Every precaution shall be taken in meting out a death sentence," and judicial procedures for death sentences will be stringently implemented.

"China adheres to the basic principle of a legally prescribed punishment for each specified crime, suitable punishment for each crime, criminal law equally applicable to everyone, public trials and statutory procedures," it read.

It reiterated that all death sentences must be reported to the Supreme People's Court (SPC) for review and approval, in addition to those verdicts rendered by the SPC.

The SPC loosened its control over death penalty reviews in 1983amid a national crime crackdown. But it was found later that judges in different areas handled similar cases in varied ways. The SPC took back the power of reviewing death sentences from provincial courts in January 2007.

On the right to a fair trial, the document stipulated that "the information of open trials shall be fully released," and that courts "shall record or video their court sessions and major relevant trial activities, and establish audio-visual archives of trial work" for consultation.

"People's courts are required by law to give the reasons for cases that are not tried openly."

The action plan pledged to guarantee lawyers' rights to meet, correspond with and review files of people in custody, as well as to conduct investigations and collect evidence.

"The state also guarantees the personal rights of lawyers and their right to debate or defend when they carry out their duties, "the document stated.

It promised to improve government transparency through better disclosure of important information including revenue, expenditures and development plans.

On participation in political affairs, the government said the people's congress system, or legislative body, will be more widely represented by ethnic minorities, women, and farmers.

The government promised that "all channels are unblocked to guarantee citizens' right to be heard."

"Journalists' right to gather materials, criticize, comment and publish" will be ensured in accordance with the law. Citizens' right to use the Internet, in accordance with the law, will also be guaranteed.

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's leading political advisory body, will invite more social organizations to join to play a bigger role in reporting public opinion, according to the document.

"The channels for people to make complaints in the form of letters and visits will be broadened and remain unblocked," the document stated, vowing to establish a nationwide complaint information system and a state-level office to deal with complaints.

It reiterated the government's stance on freedom of religious belief, saying normal religious activities and religious believers' rights would be protected in accordance with the law.

RIGHTS TO DEVELOPMENT HIGH ON AGENDA

The government admitted that "China has a long road ahead in its efforts to improve its human rights situation," though unremitting efforts have been made to promote and safeguard human rights since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

As a developing country with a population of 1.3 billion, China must give priority to the protection of the people's rights to subsistence and development, such as the rights to employment, education, medical and old-age care and housing, the plan stressed.

Major goals to be achieved by 2010 included:

- To create 18 million new jobs for urban workers while helping18 million rural laborers move to cities and towns to find jobs by2010;

- To increase net annual income of some 800 million rural residents by 6 percent from the 4,761 yuan (696 U.S. dollars) recorded in 2008;

- To have more than 223 million people covered by the urban basic old-age pension insurance, 400 million people covered by basic medical care insurance, 120 million covered by unemployment insurance, and 140 million covered by workers' compensation insurance;

- To provide safe drinking water for 60 million rural residents;

- To invest more than 2 billion yuan to help areas inhabited by ethnic minorities to accelerate economic and social development.

The document also detailed what the government will do to "guarantee human rights in the reconstruction of areas hit by the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province" on May 12, 2008, in which about 87,000 people were confirmed dead or missing, more than 370,000 were injured, and at least 15 million people were displaced.

The government plans to complete housing reconstruction by the end of this year to ensure all quake survivors can move into new houses.

More than 1 million people in quake-affected areas, who were unemployed at present, will be helped to find a job, according to the document.

The government said its action plan was framed in response to the United Nations' call for establishing a national human rights plan. It was also based on the essentials of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

 


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