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White Paper on Peaceful Development
Special> White Paper on Peaceful Development
UPDATED: October 13, 2010 NO.41 OCTOBER 14, 2010
Progress in China's Human Rights in 2009
Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China September 2010, Beijing


The year 2009 was the most difficult one for China's economic development since the beginning of the new century. In 2009, facing the great impact of the international financial crisis, and grave and complicated economic situations, the Chinese Government, sticking to the Scientific Outlook on Development characterized by putting people first, combined the countermeasures to the international financial crisis with the maintenance of a stable yet rapid economic development and the promotion of China's human rights, and carried out a series of policies and measures to maintain economic growth, restructure the economy, promote reforms and improve people's livelihood, thus effectively curbing the economic slowdown, becoming one of the few countries making a turnaround in the economy, and promoting new and notable progress in China's human rights.

In 2009 the Chinese Government promulgated and implemented the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010). This was the first national action plan in China with human rights as the theme. It is a programmatic document for directing and promoting the comprehensive development of China's human rights. The Action Plan applies the Constitutional principle of respecting and protecting human rights to the various fields of politics, economy, culture and social construction, and the various links of legislation, law enforcement, judicature, governance and administration. The document expressly stipulates the objectives and concrete measures of the Chinese Government in promoting and protecting human rights. Over the past more than one year, the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010) has been effectively implemented, the Chinese people's consciousness of human rights has been enhanced, and the overall cause of human rights has been promoted in an all-round way.

China is a developing country with a population of 1.3 billion. Due to its inadequate and unbalanced development, there is still much room for improvement in its human rights conditions. The Chinese Government is taking effective measures to promote the sound development and social harmony with a view to building a more just and harmonious society and ensuring that the people enjoy a more dignified and happier life.

To help the rest of the world gain a better understanding of the human rights situation in China, we hereby give an overview of the developments in the field of human rights in China in 2009.

I. The People's Rights to Subsistence And Development

In 2009, to overcome the impact of the international financial crisis, the Chinese Government invested 4,000 billion yuan in the improvement of the people's livelihood, economic growth and restructuring, and steady yet rapid socioeconomic development. Remarkable results have been achieved in those fields. According to statistics, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 exceeded 34,000 billion yuan, an increase of 9.1 percent over the previous year. The grain output hit a historical high of 531 million tons, an increase for the sixth consecutive year. Thus the Chinese people's general standard of living has been further improved on the basis of economic and social development.

The general standard of living of the people continued to rise. In 2009 the per-capita net income of rural residents was 5,153 yuan, and the per-capita disposable income of urban residents was 17,175 yuan, an increase of 8.5 percent and 9.8 percent respectively over the previous year. The Engel coefficient (i.e. the proportion of food expenditure in the total consumption spending) per rural and urban household was 41 percent and 36.5 percent, respectively. In 2009 China allocated a special fund for construction totaling 55.056 billion yuan, built 2 million housing units for low-income residents, and renovated 1.3 million housing units in run-down areas in forest and reclamation areas, coalmining regions and part of the run-down urban areas. The housing conditions for urban and rural residents steadily improved over the past year. By the end of 2009 car ownership had reached 31.36 million, an increase of 28.6 percent over the previous year, among which 26.05 million were private cars, an increase of 33.8 percent. The combined number of fixed and mobile phone users reached 1,061.07 million, an increase of 79.47 million over that at the end of the previous year. There are now 79.9 telephones for every 100 people. The number of domestic tourists last year was 1.9 billion person/times, and the number of Chinese citizens traveling abroad reached 47.66 million person/times, increases of 11.1 percent and 4 percent, respectively, over the previous year.

In the meantime, China is taking further steps to promote agricultural development and construction in the rural areas, and to increase farmers' incomes. In 2009 the state adopted the Opinions on Promoting the Stable Development of Agriculture and Sustainable Increase of Farmers' Incomes in 2009 and the Opinions on Promoting the Stable Development of Agriculture and Sustainable Increase of Farmers' Incomes at Present. The appropriation from the central budget in this regard totaled 725.3 billion yuan, an increase of 21.8 percent over the previous year. The farmers' living conditions have effectively improved. In 2009 China renovated 800,000 dilapidated houses in the countryside, and helped build permanent housing for 92,000 nomadic families. The drinking water problems for 60.69 million rural residents were resolved. From 2000 to 2009, China solved the drinking water problems for 225 million rural residents, and reached the target in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of "reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015," six years ahead of schedule.

China attaches great importance to improving the production and living conditions of the impoverished population. In 2009 the state's input of money for poverty reduction programs in rural areas increased by 3 billion yuan over the previous year to 19.73 billion yuan, with additional input of 25.2 billion yuan in the form of credit funds through interest subsidies for the same purpose. In 2009 the state raised the poverty level to 1,196 yuan per person per year on average, and by this criterion there were 40.07 million people living under the poverty level in China. By the end of 2009 the size of the impoverished population in rural China had decreased to 35.971 million, making up 3.8 percent of the rural population. The per-capita annual income of farmers in the counties which are key targets of the government's poverty reduction work increased from 2,611 yuan in 2008 to 2,842 yuan in 2009, a higher increase rate than that of the average level in China's rural areas.

China is also striving to improve the public health care system and the people's health in general. In 2009 the total health care expenditure in China reached 1,720.481 billion yuan, making up 4.96 percent of China's GDP, and the per-capita health care expenditure was 1,192 yuan. The state allocated a special fund of 21.7 billion yuan for building the medical services system at the grassroots level, supporting the construction of 986 county-level hospitals (including hospitals of traditional Chinese medicine), 3,549 hospitals in central towns and townships and 1,154 community health service centers. The state also allocated 1.73 billion yuan in subsidies to medical institutions at the grassroots level for the purchase of medical equipment. In 2009, 11.26 million rural pregnant women and women in labor received government subsidies so that they could give birth in hospitals, 11.86 million women in the countryside were provided gratis with folic acid three months before they got pregnant or three months into pregnancy, 2 million rural women received cervical cancer screening, and more than 28 million children aged under 15 years received vaccinations against hepatitis B. In 2009 more than 210,000 cataract operations were carried out for impoverished patients, and monitoring of drinking water quality was carried out at 30,000 rural water-supply projects. By the end of 2009 HIV/AIDS treatment was available in 31 of China's provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government), and 79,946 AIDS patients and 1,793 children with AIDS had received treatment. Also in 2009, China launched the emergency response mechanism to Influenza A (H1N1) virus, and effectively prevented the spread of the disease. At present, China has 289,000 health-care institutions, 5.22 million medical professionals, 3.96 million hospital and clinic beds and 910,000 beds at township hospitals. The average life expectancy of the Chinese people was 73 years in 2009, and the mortality rate of women in childbirth was reduced to 31.9 per 100,000, with infant mortality rate dropping to 1.38 percent.

China is strengthening legislation and supervision of production safety. In 2009 China issued 12 related departmental rules including the Interim Provisions on Supervision and Administration of Occupational Health at Workplaces, enacted and amended 53 standards of production safety, including special ones for the coal industry, and further strengthened workplace safety protection for employees. In 2009 a total of 18 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) assigned special production safety law-enforcement personnel, all prefecture-level city governments and 97 percent of the county-level governments set up production safety supervisory and regulatory agencies, and 75 percent of the towns, townships and sub-districts established full-time or part-time production safety agencies. At the same time, five more coal mine safety sub-bureaus were set up within the supervision system, and nationwide 29,880 people were held accountable and punished for work-place accidents in 2009. In 2009 the number of workplace accidents and fatalities shrank by 34,930 and 7,980, respectively, down 8.4 percent and 8.8 percent over the previous year. The number of major workplace accidents and fatalities dropped by 50 percent and 56.1 percent, respectively, over the previous year. The number of deaths per 100 million yuan GDP was 0.248, down by 16.7 percent over the previous year. On March 28, 2010, an accident took place at the Wangjialing Coal Mine in Shanxi Province, and 153 miners were trapped underground. After an ordeal of eight days and eight nights, 115 of them were rescued, a remarkable feat in the history of Chinese mine rescues.

II. Citizens' Civil and Political Rights

In 2009 the Chinese Government continued to regard the protection of citizens' civil and political rights as an important part of the building of political civilization, and further strengthened democracy and the rule of law. It endeavored to widen the scope of citizens' orderly political participation and to safeguard their rights of being the masters of their own country.

In China the National People's Congress (NPC) and the local people's congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power. The NPC and its Standing Committee exercise the legislative power of the state. From January 2009 to March 2010 the NPC 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 the Postal Law, and further guaranteed human rights through legislation. Among the laws newly adopted, the Food Safety Law built a legal protective screen for food safety in an all-round way, and provided legal grounds for guaranteeing food safety, and people's health and security. The Tort Liability Law explicitly prescribed the fundamental principle that whoever infringes upon other people's civil rights and interests will be held liable for the injuries caused, as well as the ways of assuming liability, thus further improving the legal guarantee of Chinese citizens' personal right and property right. The amendments to the Electoral Law adopted at the Third Session of the Eleventh NPC held in March 2009 stipulated that the election of deputies to people's congresses shall be based on the same population ratio in both urban and rural areas, which broadened the representation of deputies to people's congresses. The amendments better embodied the equal rights of all citizens, regions and ethnic groups, and further improved the electoral system and expanded people's democratic rights. Now, China has 234 laws, more than 690 administrative regulations and more than 8,800 local regulations. A comparatively complete legal system with the Constitution at the core that guarantees human rights is now in place.

The NPC and its Standing Committee have effectively exercised their right of supervision, and their supervisory effect has further been enhanced. In 2009 the NPC Standing Committee examined and deliberated upon 14 work reports of the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate on the response to climate change, on the promotion of employment and reemployment, on the improvement of enforcement in civil cases, and on the enhancement of supervision of dereliction of duty and rights infringement. It examined the implementation of three laws, including the Food Safety Law and the Trade Union Law. It also carried out special investigations on some major public investment projects of the Central Government concerning livelihood of the people such as projects of housing for the low-income people, of education and public health construction, and urged the departments concerned to perform their official duties in accordance with the law, ensure an impartial judicature and properly handle issues of general concern and related to the interests of the general public.

Multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are basic to the political system of China, which is a new type of political party system with distinctive Chinese characteristics and conforming to China's actual conditions. This system plays a significant role in China's political life. The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) participates in the discussion of state affairs, puts forward opinions, suggestions and criticisms, and performs its functions of conducting political consultation, exercising democratic supervision and taking part in and managing state affairs through its regular work of making proposals, inspections, carrying out special consultations and investigations, and reporting public opinions. In 2009 the CPPCC National Committee filed 5,820 proposals, of which 5,218 were placed on file; it compiled and reported to the central leadership 267 reports on social conditions and public opinions, and conveyed 1,435 comments and suggestions involving the people's livelihood; it submitted 12 reports on its inspections and investigations on the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and on the economic and social development of areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, communicated with relevant ministries about the adoption and implementation of the inspection results, and endeavored to establish a sound system at the feedback stage. The CPPCC National Committee convened the Standing Committee meetings deliberating special political issues, and consultative conferences on major issues concerning the economy and people's livelihood such as "focusing on increasing domestic demand and maintaining rapid yet steady economic development," "speeding up the transition of the economic growth mode, the adjustment of economic structures, and enhancing sustained economic development," and "guaranteeing and improving the people's livelihood and promoting social harmony." In 2009 the special committees of the CPPCC National Committee put forward opinions and suggestions for the improvement of China's legislation and law enforcement. For instance, they proposed the establishment and improvement of the legal system and policies corresponding to the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, based on an in-depth investigation of the implementation of the law, in order to better implement the law; they also proposed improvement of relevant laws and regulations, clarification of the legal concept of "abnormal appeals to higher authorities" and the "principal body for liability," so as to bring "appeals to higher authorities for help" within the jurisdiction of the law. In addition, they proposed amendments to drafts of laws and regulations on social construction submitted by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council and other government departments.

Self-government at the grassroots level is a fundamental political system that ensures people exercise their democratic rights. In 2009 the State Council issued the Notice on the Strengthening and Improvement of Elections of Villagers' Committees, laying down standard requirements for election preparations, procedures, post-election work, organization and management. The notice was significant for guaranteeing just and orderly elections of villagers' committees, ensuring villagers' direct exercise of democratic rights in accordance with the law and promoting democracy at the rural grassroots level. In 2009 elections for new villagers' committees in 12 provinces and elections for new neighborhood committees in 16 provinces took place. Rural China's 604,000 villagers' committees have a total of 2.3 million members, selected through democratic elections in accordance with the law. China is working to promote the project of "making village affairs known to villagers," improve democracy in villages beset with long-standing difficulties in democratic management, and solve the problems arising from land requisition, house demolition and land contracting that may impair local people's legitimate rights and interests. China is also endeavoring to improve community service systems in both urban and rural areas so as to constantly improve the urban and rural communities.

The Chinese Government is working actively to make government affairs public, improve the official spokesman system and information transparency, and legally equip its citizens with more rights to know about, supervise and participate in public affairs. Since the promulgation and implementation of the Outline for Promoting Law-based Administration in an All-round Way in 2004, China has made great progress in promoting law-based administration. The Chinese Government is attaching more importance to legislation concerning social management and public service; it also puts more emphasis on public participation and certifying by experts. Administrative policy-making has become more scientific, democratic and institutionalized. The country is further standardizing law enforcement and promoting the responsibility system of administrative law enforcement in a vigorous manner. In 2009 the people's governments at different levels actively implemented the Provisions on the Disclosure of Government Information, and explored new platforms for government information disclosure by administrative organs. Governments at all levels also improved their press release systems. In 2009 the State Council Information Office, ministries, commissions, and provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) held a total of 1,646 press conferences, and Chinese media and netizens actively participated in discussions of public policies, and supervised and criticized government actions. In March 2010 eight organs under the Central Government, including the Ministry of Finance, changed the traditional way of financial operation of administrative departments by disclosing their own budgets for the fiscal year on their websites. The public hailed the new move as an important step towards political civilization.

The Chinese Government supports enterprises' and public institutions' efforts to improve the democratic management system with employees' conferences as the basic form, to make known enterprise affairs to employees, and supports employees' participation in management and safeguards their legitimate rights and interests. By the end of 2009 a total of 22 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) had issued 27 local regulations on making known to the employees the affairs of enterprises or public institutions and on democratic management. By the end of September 2009 there had been 1.752 million enterprises and public institutions with trade union organizations and a system of disclosing enterprise and public institution affairs to their employees, involving 127.512 million employees; and the number of enterprises and public institutions practicing the employees' conference system had reached 1.839 million, involving 133.387 million employees. The total number of grassroots trade union organizations had increased to 1.845 million, involving 3.959 million enterprises and public institutions; and the number of trade union members nationwide had risen to 226.3 million. Over the past five years the number of trade union members has been increasing by more than 15 million per year on average, and the increase in the number of trade unions and members has hit an all-time high.

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