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China publishes national human rights action plan

THE Chinese government published its first-ever working plan on human rights today, pledging to further protect and improve the country's 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 various human rights goals that would be implemented in less than two years.

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-pursued goal of the Chinese government and people," the document stated.

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


The death of a Chinese man at a police station in Yunnan Province two months ago aroused public outcry for enhancing transparency and supervision of the country's detention system.

Their 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.

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.

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 persons 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 opinions, 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.

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.

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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