The Chinese Government released a white paper on its human rights in 2009 on September 26, highlighting the role of Internet freedom and the country's efforts in safeguarding citizens' legitimate civil and political rights.
"The overall cause of human rights has been promoted in an all-round way," says the white paper, published by the Information Office of the State Council, China's cabinet, under the title Progress in China's Human Rights in 2009.
The white paper is the ninth report on human rights since the country began releasing such documents in 1991.
Chinese citizens' right to freedom of speech on the Internet was protected by law in 2009 and netizens can voice their opinions "in a wide variety of ways on the Internet," it says.
In China, there are more than 1 million bulletin board services (BBS) and some 220 million bloggers. According to a sample survey, each day people post more than 3 million messages via BBS, news commentary sites and blogs. And more than 66 percent of Chinese netizens frequently place postings to discuss various topics, and to fully express their opinions and represent their interests.
"The Internet has become a new channel for the Chinese Government to get to know public opinion and amass the people's wisdom, and consequently exercise governance for the people and improve its work in this respect," says the white paper.
The Chinese Government makes it convenient for the people to petition, report problems and offer suggestions through channels including hotlines and online agencies, it adds.
Governments at all levels are required to investigate and resolve all problems reported to the government by the public via the Internet and to inform the public of the actions they have taken and the results of their actions, it notes.
In 2009, the Chinese Government promulgated and implemented its first national action plan with human rights as the theme.
The National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-10), which applies the Constitutional principle of respecting and protecting human rights for politics, economy, culture and social construction, has been "effectively implemented," according to the white paper.
The Chinese public's standard of living "has been further improved on the basis of economic and social development" after the country put forward a 4-trillion-yuan ($585.65 billion) stimulus package in the wake of the international financial crisis, it says.
In 2009, the per-capita net income of rural residents was 5,153 yuan ($754.47), and the per-capita disposable income of urban residents was 17,175 yuan ($2,514.64), an increase of 8.5 percent and 9.8 percent respectively over the previous year.
However, nearly 36 million rural residents, or 3.8 percent of China's rural population, still lived under the poverty line at the end of 2009, according to the white paper.
Nationally, there were 40.07 million Chinese living under state poverty level, which was raised to 1,196 yuan ($175.11) per person per year in 2009, it says.
In 2009, the state's input of money for poverty reduction programs in rural areas amounted to 19.73 billion yuan ($2.89 billion), an increase of 3 billion yuan ($439.24 million) over the previous year, the white paper says.
The total health care expenditure in 2009 reached 1.72 trillion yuan ($251.83 billion), making up 4.96 percent of China's GDP, and the per-capita health care expenditure was 1,192 yuan ($174.52), it says.
The number of people participating in basic medical insurance last year topped 1.2 billion, a national coverage rate of over 90 percent, it says.
From January 2009 to March 2010 the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee examined 25 laws and draft decisions concerning laws, and adopted 18 of them. They amended eight laws, including the Electoral Law, and further guaranteed human rights through legislation.