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Healthy environment vital, says white paper

By An Baijie (China Daily) Updated: 2013-05-15 07:49

Healthy environment vital, says white paper

Environmental protection was an entire chapter for the first time in the central government's white paper on human rights progress.

The government has worked hard to ensure that people can enjoy a good ecological environment, according to the white paper, entitled Progress in China's Human Rights in 2012.

The white paper, released on Tuesday by the Information Office of the State Council, is China's 10th human rights-themed white paper since the first was released in 1991.

The level of fine particles, known as PM2.5 particles, has been monitored in the air quality index since 2012, the white paper says.

A total of 3,340 sewage plants had been built nationwide by the end of 2012, and the rate of processed wastewater in urban areas has been raised from 52 percent in 2005 to 84.9 percent in 2012, according to the white paper.

This is the first time environmental protection was highlighted as an individual chapter in the white paper.

Zhang Wanhong, a law professor at Wuhan University, said this reflects the central government's determination to protect the environment amid economic development.

"The human right of enjoying a healthy environment is one of the basic rights guaranteed by various laws and regulations," he said.

Protests and lawsuits concerning the environment have been more frequent in recent years, and the government should make the decision-making process more transparent when dealing with environmental issues, Zhang said.

Zhang Yonghe, a professor of human rights research at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, said that highlighting environmental protection guarantees the human rights of not only the current generation but also future generations.

In the other five chapters, the white paper focused on human rights progress in the economic, political, cultural, social and international communication sectors.

"Respecting and protecting human rights" was added to the Criminal Procedure Law amended in 2012, which marks great progress in China's human rights protection, the white paper said.

A number of laws, such as the Labor Contract Law and the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Occupational Diseases, have been amended to guarantee workers' rights, the white paper said.

There were 2.67 million trade union organizations nationwide by the end of September, and the number of trade union members reached 280 million.

There are about 360,000 religious staff and 140,000 registered religious venues, which met the basic demands of religious believers from about 5,500 religious organizations, according to the report.

The central government spent 300 billion yuan ($49 billion) last year on poverty reduction programs, and the number of people in poverty decreased to 98.99 million, 23.39 million fewer than in the previous year, the white paper said.

Growth in individual incomes outpaced GDP growth, and rural residents' incomes grew faster than those of their urban counterparts, said the economic chapter.

Zhang Wanhong, the law professor, said that judicial authorities should improve the human rights of suspects and detainees.

The supervision of powerful departments, such as detention centers, should be enhanced to avoid the abnormal death of detainees, he said.

"There are lawyers' offices in some detention houses that provide judicial aid for the detainees in some regions, and such practices should be encouraged," he said.

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