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China issues first human rights protection plan

[JURIST] The government of China [official website] on Monday issued its first national plan [text] aimed at protecting human rights. The Information Office of the State Council [official website] published the National Human Rights Action Plan of China, which sets forth the government's human rights policy for 2009 and 2010. Academic, legal, and civil-rights groups helped government officials draft the plan, which states that the government is striving to protect people's rights to "education, employment, medical and old-age care, and housing." The plan aims to protect ethnic minorities, promote gender equality, guarantee suspects the right to an impartial trial, and prohibit illegal detentions and the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects. Under the plan, China will also seek to provide basic nationwide health care, slow its greenhouse-gas emissions, and protect "normal religious activities." The plan is framed by the Chinese constitution [text] and is based on principles [Xinhua report] found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], which the government has signed [accession chart] but not ratified [JURIST report].

The Information Office announced in November [JURIST report] that China would draft a human rights plan in response to calls from the UN. The UN has criticized China for the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects, and for the mistreatment of prisoners [JURIST reports]. In February, the Chinese delegation to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] defended [JURIST report] China's human rights record while presenting a report [text, PDF] in compliance with the UNHRC's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [official website] process. Ambassador Li Baodong said that China has been taking steps to improve its legal system, promote democracy, and encourage non-governmental organizations.

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