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China: NPC Should Scrap State Secrets, Hukou Laws

March 5, 2010

For Immediate Release
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
March 4, 2010

Law on Guarding of State Secrets and Household Registration System
Undermine Rule of Law and Social Justice

(New York, March 4, 2010) -- China's National People's Congress (NPC)
should reject a revised draft law on state secrets and abolish the
household registration, or hukou system, in order to strengthen human
rights protections, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao today. The congress, which meets annually and is
attended by more than 3,000 delegates, will begin its 8-10 day
session on Friday, March 5.

"The NPC, on occasion, has acted like a legislature should, by
rejecting unpopular government proposals," said Sophie Richardson,
Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "So this year's agenda
should include radically revising the draft law on state secrets to
protect freedom of expression, and setting a timetable for abolishing
the discriminatory household registration system."

An NPC vote on the approval of the Law on Guarding State Secrets is
likely during the upcoming plenary session. The revised draft law
fails to address the dangerously wide and ambiguous criteria for
classification of state secrets. Instead, the revisions focus mainly
on securing confidential information stored on computers or
transmitted via the internet. In its current form, the draft revised
law will continue to pose a threat to Chinese citizens, particularly
dissidents, civil society activists, and outspoken academics for whom
the law has long been a tool of repression and intimidation.

China's hukou system, which links government services to citizens'
birthplaces, chronically deprives China's estimated 150 million
migrant workers of social welfare protection such as the
unemployment, medical, and education benefits that are guaranteed to
registered urban residents and is a source of deep resentment in
China. The Chinese government has stated repeatedly that it plans to
eventually eliminate the hukou system, but has failed to provide any
timetable for that abolition. On Monday, March 1, 2010, 13 daily
newspapers in China published a joint editorial calling for the
government to abolish the hukou system.

"If the National People's Congress has any independence at all and is
serious about protecting the rights and freedoms guaranteed by
China's own constitution, it should take these essential steps to at
the upcoming session," Richardson said.

To read Human Rights Watch's letter to Premier Wen Jiabao, please
visit (see below):
http://www.hrw.org/node/88913

To read the March 2009 Human Rights Watch news release "China:
Congress Should End Migrant Discrimination," please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/03/03/china-congress-should-end-migrant-discrimination

To read the July 2009 Financial Times commentary by Human Rights
Watch researcher Phelim Kine, please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/23/beijing-s-peculiar-definition-state-secrets

To read the March 2007 Human Rights Watch news release "China:
National People's Congress Should Adopt Human Rights Reforms," please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/03/06/china-national-people-s-congress-should-adopt-human-rights-reforms

For more information, please contact:

In New York, Phelim Kine (English, Mandarin): +1-212-216-1213; or
+1-917-543-0829 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
+1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-7908-728-333 (mobile)
In New York, Elaine Pearson (English): +1-212-216-1213; or
+1-646-291-7169 (mobile)
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