State Council hails China's success on human rights

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 July, 2011, 12:00am


Beijing yesterday hailed what it's calling a successful implementation of the country's first human rights action plan, saying citizens' overall living conditions have been improved and their rights safeguarded, even though rights groups say abuses continue unabated.

'The fulfilment of all targets ... shows that the cause of human rights in China has entered a new stage,' the assessment report released by the State Council said. 'This is a significant achievement made by the Chinese government.'

The two-year plan was published in April 2009 and promised protection for a wide range of civil liberties, including the right to a fair trial, the freedom to be heard by the government and religious freedom.

The assessment report highlighted the government's efforts to maintain growth amid the global financial crisis and its efforts to narrow regional and social inequality by increasing incomes and providing social security and health care.

It also mentioned successes such as the abolition of the death penalty for 13 types of economic crimes, as well as measures taken to prevent illegal detention and the extraction of confessions through torture.

The report has come amid the harshest crackdown on dissent in years. Amnesty International says more than 130 activists and lawyers have been detained since February.

Despite the progress claimed by the government, rights groups say it has continued to violate many of the rights mentioned in the plan. 'Over that two-year period, the Chinese government took unambiguous steps to restrict rights to expression, association and assembly,' Phelim Kine, a researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said.

'It sentenced high-profile dissidents to lengthy prison terms on spurious state-secret or 'subversion' charges, expanded restrictions on the media and internet freedom, as well as tightened controls on lawyers, human rights defenders and NGOs.'

Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific deputy director for Amnesty International, said: 'Sadly, progress on paper does not amount to greater protections in practice.'

State Council Information Office director Wang Chen told China Daily this week that the government was drawing up a new four-year human rights plan (2012-2015).