BEIJING - The Chinese government Sunday released a white paper on human rights in China in 2009, highlighting the role of Internet freedom and the country's efforts in safeguarding citizens' legitimate civil and political rights.
"The overall cause of human rights has been promoted in an all-round way," says the white paper, published by the State Council Information Office under the title "Progress in China's Human Rights in 2009."
Chinese netizens' right to freedom of speech on the Internet was protected and the Internet has become a new channel for the Chinese government to gauge public opinion, and consequently improve its governance, the report reads.
It has become "common practice" for governments at all levels to consult the public via the Internet before formulating some policies, it says.
It adds government agencies have set up special websites to facilitate the public's reporting of corruption and dereliction of duty among officials.
Chang Jian, vice director of human rights research center of Tianjin-based Nankai University, said the government agencies have made marked progress in promoting transparency in public administration.
"Previously few government agencies were aware of the necessity to release public information, prompting the public to sue relevant government agencies, while today it has become a common practice of many government bodies to publicize information," said Chang.
In 2009, the Chinese government promulgated and implemented its first national action plan with human rights as the theme.
The National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010), which applies the Constitutional principle of respecting and protecting human rights to the various fields of politics, economy, culture, social construction, among others, has been "effectively implemented", according to the white paper.
Chang Jian said, the action plan, compiled by people from the government, academia and non-government organizations, will be a road map in implementing the constitutional principle of respecting and protecting human rights.
Chinese people's standard of living "has been further improved on the basis of economic and social development" after the country put forward a 4-trillion-yuan (596.6 billion US dollars) stimulus package in the wake of the international financial crisis, it says.
In 2009, the per capita net income of rural residents was 5,153 yuan, and the per capita disposable income of urban residents was 17,175 yuan, an increase of 8.5 percent and 9.8 percent respectively over the previous year.
China had further protected citizens' civil and political rights by strengthening democracy and the rule of law, according to the white paper.
From January 2009 to March 2010, the National People's Congress (NPC) and its Standing Committee examined 25 laws and draft decisions concerning laws, and adopted 18 of them.
"The Chinese government is working actively to make government affairs public, improve the official spokesman system and information transparency," and ensure its citizens have more rights to know about, supervise and participate in public affairs, it says.
In 2009, China took a further step in improving its judicial system to strengthen the protection of human rights in law enforcement and judicial practices, the white paper says.
China issued its first systematic departmental ordinance regarding punishment of breach of discipline by the public security organs and police forces.
The ordinance, which became effective on June 1, 2010, clearly defined disciplinary measures for physical punishment or abuse suspects and people in custody, among others.
Judicial transparency in China has also increased, according to the white paper.
In 2009 the Supreme People's Court issued the Six Provisions on Judicial Openness, which improves the regulations on the release of judgment documents on the Internet and live broadcast of court hearings and adopts a regular press-release system, it says.
China injected hefty investment into areas inhabited by ethnic minorities to promote social and economic development and the welfare of all ethnic minorities have improved in 2009, the document notes.
According to the white paper, by the end of 2009, 686 out of the 699 counties in ethnic autonomous areas provided nine-year compulsory education and had "basically" eradicated illiteracy among the young and middle-aged population.
The state is also strengthening the financial support for the maintenance, protection and collection of cultural relics in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, it says.
The ethnic minorities' rights to study, use and develop their own languages are protected. The state effectively guarantees the use of ethnic-minority languages in administrative and judicial work, news media and publications, broadcasting and film, culture and education, and other areas, it says.
Further,the white paper says citizens' right to employment is protected. In 2009, China appropriated 42 billion yuan to create new jobs, an increase of 66.7 percent over the previous year.
In 2009, 11.02 million new jobs were created and 5.14 million laid-off workers were reemployed in urban areas. The registered unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in urban areas, it says.
Citizens' right to education is guaranteed, the white paper adds.
By the end of 2009, about 99.7 percent of school-age population had access to nine-year compulsory education, and 99.5 percent of counties offered nine-year compulsory education.
Meanwhile, China has also improved the social security, developed education and provided better public service for the disabled, it notes.
On international exchanges, the document says China has joined 25 international conventions on human rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In 2009, China held human rights dialogues and consultations with the European Union, Britain, the Netherlands, Australia and Norway, and communicated with countries such as Russia and Laos.
"Through dialogue and communication with other countries, mutual understanding concerning human rights has been enhanced, gaps have been narrowed and consensuses have been reached," the white paper says.
Liu Jie, director of the human rights research center of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said Chinese governments at all levels remain focused on improving people's livelihood, while confronting with the impact of international financial crisis and various economic challenges.
"Chinese government gives priority to protecting peoples' rights and that shows the government's determination in safeguarding human rights and the progress that has been made," said Liu.
The white paper is China's 9th report on human rights since the country began releasing the document in 1991.
Facts and Figures about China's Progress in Human Rights
-- In 2009 the Chinese government promulgated and implemented the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010). This was the first national action plan in China with human rights as the theme.
-- In 2009 the per capita net income of rural residents was 5,153 yuan ($769.1), and the per capita disposable income of urban residents was 17,175 yuan, an increase of 8.5 percent and 9.8 percent respectively over the previous year.
-- In 2009 the China's input of money for poverty reduction programs in rural areas increased by 3 billion yuan over the previous year to 19.73 billion yuan ($2.93 billion).
-- In 2009 the total health care expenditure in China reached 1.72 trillion yuan ($0.23 trillion), making up 4.96 percent of China's GDP, and the per capita health care expenditure was 1,192 yuan.
-- From January 2009 to March 2010 the National People's Congress (NPC) and its Standing Committee examined 25 laws and draft decisions concerning laws, and adopted 18 of them. They amended eight laws, including the Electoral Law and the Postal Law, and further guaranteed human rights through legislation.
-- In China there are over a million bulletin board services (BBS) and some 220 million bloggers. According to a sample survey, each day people post over three million messages via BBS, news commentary sites, blogs, etc., and over 66 percent of Chinese netizens frequently place postings to discuss various topics, and to fully express their opinions and represent their interests.
-- In 2009 the number of letters from and visits of the people for petition dropped by 2.7 percent over the previous year, a decrease for the fifth consecutive year.
-- By the end of 2009 some 3,274 legal aid organizations and 58,031 legal aid service centers had been set up at the provincial, city and county levels nationwide, providing convenient access to legal aid services.
-- In 2009 China appropriated 42 billion yuan for the increase of job opportunities, a rise of 66.7 percent over the previous year.
-- In 2009 the number of people participating in basic medical insurance topped 1.2 billion, a national coverage rate of over 90 percent.
-- By the end of 2009 some 99.7 percent of the school-age population had access to nine-year compulsory education, and 99.5 percent of counties in China had provided nine-year compulsory education.
-- In 2009 China invested 1.24 billion yuan ($0.18 trillion), for the socioeconomic development of the areas inhabited by ethnic-minority people.
-- By 2009 there were 3,474 homes for people with disabilities in China, where 110,000 disabled people were taken care of.
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