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China plans 'human rights action'

By Vaudine England
BBC News, Hong Kong

Chinese police patrol on Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China, Mar 09
Chinese police patrol regularly on Tiananmen Square, Beijing

China has released a human rights action plan, following international criticism of its rights record.

The two-year plan promises the communist government will do more to prevent illegal detention and torture, and to protect minorities and women.

It also states that a primary goal remains ensuring Chinese people have the right to make money.

Amnesty International welcomed the plan but noted a number of "important omissions".

"While respecting the universal principles of human rights, the Chinese government in the light of the basic realities of China, gives priority to the protection of the people's rights to subsistence and development," said an introduction to the document released by the official Xinhua news agency.

Action plan

The action plan was promised by China when it appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this year.

It sets specific goals, which analysts said was a new departure for the Chinese government.

It also promises to "raise the level of ensuring people's civil and political rights" through improving democracy and the rule of law.

The 54-page document outlines, among other things, that the corporal punishment, abuse, and insulting of detainees or the extraction of confessions by torture will be strictly prohibited.

A man tries to stop Chinese tanks in 1989
It is almost 20 years since the crackdown in Tiananmen Square

Use of the death penalty will be strictly controlled and prudently applied, it said, and the right to a fair trial guaranteed.

It makes sweeping promises that journalists and bloggers will be allowed to collect information freely, in accordance with the law, and the government will be more transparent.

Omissions

Amnesty International said the release of the action plan was a positive step.

Roseann Rife, deputy director for the Asia Pacific programme of Amnesty International told the BBC the action plan signified China's recognition of the need to engage with world opinion on its rights record.

But the goals might not be implemented, and a number of rights issues had been omitted, she said.

"There is an emphasis on economic and social rights at the expense of civil and political rights; several civil and political rights have not been addressed," she said.

She listed the lack of attention to the use of administrative detention and of education through labour, and the continuing vulnerability of human rights defenders.

"So there are a number of important omissions," she said.

The government admitted that "China has a long road ahead in its efforts to improve its human rights situation", despite its "unremitting" efforts.



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