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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China pledges to improve human rights

April 14, 2009

AFP
April 13, 2009

BEIJING (AFP) -- China pledged Monday to improve
human rights throughout the country, in a highly
publicised plan issued ahead of the 20th
anniversary of the deadly crushing of the Tiananmen democracy protests.

The "National Human Rights Action Plan," the
first-ever such document to be issued and
approved by the cabinet, promised Chinese
citizens more legal protection, better
livelihoods and greater political rights.

"The realisation of human rights in the broadest
sense has been a long-cherished ideal of mankind
and also a long-pursued goal of the Chinese government and people," it said.

"Governments and government departments at all
levels shall make the action plan part of their
responsibilities, and proactively implement it."

Rights groups said it was encouraging the
government had made the effort to put the
document out, but noted that similar pledges had
been made before with little change.

The 52-page plan acknowledged problems in the
current system, but pointed out China was a developing country.

"China still confronts many challenges and has a
long road ahead in its efforts to improve its
human rights situation," said the plan, announced
through the official Xinhua news agency.

It vowed to improve social security, health care,
unemployment and wages, while pledging to
safeguard a wide range of rights ranging from education to a clean environment.

The plan also said China's communist rulers would
allow greater democracy, while urging officials
to better listen to criticism from ordinary citizens and the media.

"The state will guarantee citizens' rights to
criticise, give advice to, complain of, and
accuse state organs and civil servants," it said.

However, China's leaders have repeatedly stated
that China will not adopt Western-style
democracy, and the document gave no signal that
this policy would change or that it would loosen
controls on the state-run media.

The document also pledged to crack down on
government corruption and police brutality,
especially prison beatings, illegal detention and torture.

The plan comes ahead of the anniversary of the
crushing of the Tiananmen Square democracy
protests on June 4, 1989, when troops killed
hundreds if not thousands of unarmed citizens.

China's rulers have insisted the crackdown
ensured 20 years of political stability that
allowed spectacular economic growth.

But while the country has undoubtedly enjoyed
many benefits of the economic boom, human rights problems continue to flare.

Domestically, a recent spate of deaths in custody
has thrown the spotlight on alleged police
brutality, while tens of thousands of protests
occur each year over a vast array of grievances.

Internationally, China's communist rulers have
faced pressure from vocal critics and some
foreign governments over its treatment of
minority groups in Tibet and Xinjiang, high rates
of executions and the jailing of dissidents.

Joshua Rosenzweig, of the Dui Hua Foundation, a
US-based group that monitors China's human
rights, said Beijing had vowed to improve its
rights record for years but routinely failed to
implement protections enshrined in its own laws.

"I don't see enough in there to convince me
things will be that different in terms of their
ability to actually implement these goals," Rosenzweig told AFP.

"The proof in China is always going to be in the
implementation and that is where the problem lies."

Phelim Kine, a Hong Kong-based researcher with
Human Rights Watch, said the lack of
participation by the Chinese police in the drafting of the plan was a worry.

"We were concerned that the agencies that are
most responsible for rights abuses were not at
the table when it was drafted," Kine told AFP.

"This is a huge weakness, you need them on board
if this is going to be meaningful."

China published a list of government departments
and institutions involved in drafting the plan,
but it did not mention the police.

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