[JURIST] China has failed to achieve the goals it set out in its first national human rights plan, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] declared in a report [text] released on Tuesday. In its assessment of the government’s National Human Rights Action Plan of China (NHRAP) [text], HRW decried China’s continued use of torture, illegal detentions, and the government’s overuse of the death penalty. HRW also noted China’s lack of commitment in cooperating with the international human rights community, as well as a number of human rights issues not slated for improvement in the NHRAP. The rights group did praise China for working to eradicate poverty, although conceded that further steps should be made.
At the same time as the Chinese government has pointed to the NHRAP as evidence of its commitment to human rights, the government has systematically continued to violate many of the most basic rights the document addresses. It has taken unambiguous steps to restrict rights to expression, association, and assembly. It has sentenced high–profile dissidents to lengthy prison terms on spurious state secrets or ‘subversion’ charges, expanded restrictions on media and internet freedom as well as tightened controls on lawyers, human rights defenders, and nongovernmental organizations. It has broadened controls on Uighurs and Tibetans, and engaged in increasing numbers of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, including in secret, unlawful detention facilities known as ‘black jails.’
The report also cited China’s reaction to Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] as a prominent concern. In a position paper [press release] published in September 2010, the Chinese government claimed to have increased human rights [JURIST report] by heightening Internet freedoms and improving civil and political rights.
China has had a well–known struggle with international criticism of its human rights record [JURIST news archive]. In April 2009, the Information Office of the State Council [official website] published the NHRAP [JURIST report], which aimed 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. China also sought to provide basic nationwide health care, slow its greenhouse-gas emissions, and protect “normal religious activities.” In February 2009, 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.