China drafts new human rights plan
China drafts new human rights plan
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[JURIST] The State Council Information Office (SICO) [official website, in Chinese] of China said Wednesday that they are in the process of drafting a new human rights plan to be fully implemented by 2015. Declaring the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (NHRAP) [text] of 2009 completed [press release, in Chinese], the director of SICO, Wang Chen, announced the development of the new plan [transcript text, in Chinese] in a speech to the NHRAP assessment review meeting. Although Wang praised China’s government for their new human rights stances, he also noted there are areas that could be improved under the new plan:

Of course, we are soberly aware that China is a developing country, China’s human rights is also a developing process. Unbalanced development and lack of coordination issues are still outstanding, such as resource and environmental constraints of economic growth, a greater gap in income distribution, inflation pressures, prices in some cities have risen too high, food safety issues are more prominent, higher quality education, a total lack of medical resources, uneven distribution of development between urban and rural areas, illegal land acquisition and other social conflicts caused by increased population. It should also be noted that in the protection of people’s democratic rights, China is still insufficient. By natural, historical, cultural, economic and social development and constraints, China’s human rights development still faces many difficulties and challenges, and enjoying full human rights to achieve the lofty goals remains to be done.

At the review meeting, further recommendations were made by committees on disabled persons, poverty, labor rights and protections, and the judiciary [speech transcripts, in Chinese], including creating better standards for applying the death penalty. China has consistently defined “human rights” as improving living conditions overall [WP report], rather than granting citizens greater freedoms, much to the criticism of the international community. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] declared that China had failed to achieve the goals it set out in the NHRAP [JURIST report], decrying 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.

Since then, there have been continuous allegations of human rights in China. The Chinese government implemented measures aimed at suppressing lawyers pursuing human rights cases [JURIST report], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] last month. Chinese lawyers and law firms undergo “annual assessments” which, the government claims, are conducted by independent lawyers associations. AI contends, however, that the lawyers defending human rights disproportionately fail the assessment and expressed general concern with the treatment of human rights lawyers in China. In May 2010, two Chinese human rights lawyers who have represented Falun Gong [group website; BBC backgrounder] defendants were permanently disbarred [JURIST report] after being accused of disrupting courtrooms. AI criticized the disbarment hearing [press release] calling it “absurd” and claiming that “[g]overnment authorities in China continue to harass and disrupt the work of lawyers taking politically sensitive cases.” In April 2009, the Information Office of the State Council [official website] published the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (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. 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.