With their right to freedom of speech on the Internet protected by the law, Chinese citizens can voice their opinions in a wide variety of ways on the Internet. The Internet is given full scope in China, and has become an important channel for people to obtain various types of information and voice their opinions. By the end of 2009 the number of Chinese netizens had reached 384 million, meaning 28.9 percent of the total population had access to the Internet, higher than the world's average level. In the same year there were 3.23 million websites running in China. China's websites attach great importance to providing netizens with services that enable them to express their opinions, with over 80 percent of them providing electronic bulletin service. In China there are over 1 million bulletin board services (BBS) and some 220 million bloggers. According to a sample survey, each day people post over 3 million messages via BBS, news commentary sites, blogs, etc., and over 66 percent of Chinese netizens frequently place postings to discuss various topics, and to fully express their opinions and represent their interests. At the same time, the Internet has become a new channel for the Chinese Government to get to know the public opinion and amass the people's wisdom, and consequently exercise governance for the people and improve its work in this respect. The leaders of China frequently log onto the Internet to get to know the public's wishes, and sometimes have direct online communication with netizens to discuss state affairs and answer their questions. It has become a common practice for governments at all levels to consult the public via the Internet before formulating policies of particular importance. For each of the past three years, as many as several million items of advice and suggestions have been received through the Internet, providing valuable reference for the government to improve its work.
The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the Internet's role in supervision. Governments at all levels are required to investigate and resolve in a timely manner all problems reported to the government by the public via the Internet, and to inform the public of the action taken and the results. The great majority of government websites carry relevant email addresses and telephone numbers, so that the governments can be informed of problems in their work. Over the past few years, a great number of the problems reported through the Internet have been resolved. In order to facilitate the public's reporting of corruption, dereliction of duty, etc., among officials, the central discipline inspection and supervision authorities, the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and other relevant bodies have set up special websites.
Citizens have the right to make criticism and suggestions, bring to the attention of relevant state organs complaints or charges of illegality against any state organ or functionary. Through various channels, such as Green Post, special telephone lines, online complaints and agencies, the Chinese Government makes it convenient for the people to petition, report problems and offer suggestions. Leading officials of all levels of the Party and government are required to read and reply to letters from the masses, open their offices to complaints from visitors on a regular basis, take responsibility for the cases they handle and be held responsible for any dereliction of duty, so as to guarantee the people's legitimate rights and interests. In 2009 the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council issued three new documents: Opinions on the Regular Reception by Leading Officials of Citizens Who Come to Make Complaints, Opinions on the Regular Organization of Officials from Central Departments of the Party and Government to Visit Grassroots Localities, and Opinions on the Systematization of the Efforts to Sort Out, Check and Resolve Conflicts and Disputes. In accordance with the new guidelines, people with complaints not only have access to secretaries of county Party committees but also leading officials of departments at all levels. In addition, visits of officials from central departments and state organs to grassroots localities have been standardized, and the efforts to sort out, check and resolve conflicts and disputes have been systematized. In this way, the legal system safeguarding the voicing of public complaints has been further improved. In 2009 the number of letters from and visits of the people for petition dropped by 2.7 percent over the previous year, a decrease for the fifth consecutive year.
III. Judicial Guarantee of Human Rights
In 2009 China took a further step in improving its judicial system to strengthen the protection of human rights in law enforcement and judicial practices.
China has cracked down on various criminal offenses in accordance with the law to protect citizens' life and property and their other human rights. In 2009 China's procuratorial organs ratified the arrest of 941,091 suspects in criminal cases and instituted legal proceedings against 1,134,380 people. The people's courts at all levels settled trials of first instance of 767,000 criminal cases, in which 997,000 criminals received prison sentence, and cleared 3,407,000 old cases. These actions protected the victims' legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law.
Adhering to the principle of "enforcing law in the interest of the people," China's public security organs have actively adopted measures convenient for and beneficial to the people as a standard practice of law enforcement. In October 2009 the Ministry of Public Security enacted the Rules on Law Enforcement of Public Security Organs, which clearly specifies the standards for handling administrative and criminal cases by public security organs to prevent abuse of power and infringements upon citizens' rights. In light of their actual conditions, public security organs at all levels formulated law-enforcement standards and laid down specific requirements for human rights protection in law enforcement activities. In December 2009 the Ministry of Public Security issued the Decision on the Amendment to the "Regulations on the Application for and Use of Motor Vehicle Driving Licenses." The Decision loosened the restrictions on the physical conditions of people with lower limb, finger and hearing disabilities so as to meet their demand to drive motor vehicles. The Regulations on the Disciplines for People's Police Forces of Public Security Organs, which went into effect on June 1, 2010, is China's first systematic departmental ordinance regarding punishment of breach of discipline by the public security organs and people's police forces. Disciplinary measures are clearly defined for physical punishment and abuse of suspects and people in custody, and other targeting people of public security work.
The procuratorial organs perform their legal supervision functions conscientiously to protect citizens' rights. In 2009 the procuratorial organs performed their supervision duties by requesting the public security organs to investigate 19,466 additional cases, and to cancel 6,742 cases. They made decisions to arrest 21,232 additional criminals and suspects and cancel the arrests of 123,235 people. They also brought suits against an additional 18,954 people and canceled the prosecutions of 33,048 people. The procuratorial organs urged the correction of unlawful procedures during the investigation of 25,664 cases, protested what they believed to be wrong judgments in 3,963 criminal cases, and put forward rectification opinions for unlawful procedures in 4,035 criminal trials. The procuratorial organs resolutely prosecuted crimes infringing citizens' human rights committed by officials making use of their positions, and investigated 478 state functionaries suspected of illegally taking people into custody, sabotaging elections, retaliation and false accusation.
Judicial transparency has increased. In 2009 the Supreme People's Court issued the Six Provisions on Judicial Openness, which applies the principle of openness to every procedure of trial and law enforcement, improves the regulations on the release of judgment documents on the Internet and live broadcast of court hearings, requires openness of the judicial process and results, adopts a regular press-release system, and expands the scope and depth of judicial openness. In the same year, the Supreme People's Court enacted the Disciplinary Regulations for Staff Members of People's Courts. On the basis of this ordinance, 795 staff members of people's courts at all levels were investigated and punished for breaches of law or discipline. Among them, 137 were transferred to judicial organs for investigation. A total of 303,000 letters voicing grievances from ordinary people were addressed by the courts and 1,055,000 complainants were received.
The legal aid system has achieved remarkable results, effectively protecting the legitimate rights and interests of people with financial difficulties. In June 2009 the Ministry of Justice organized activities with the theme "Legal aid services for the convenience of the people," and promoted 10 measures nationwide to help ordinary people with legal affairs. The coverage of legal aid has been expanded throughout the country, and issues including health care, employment, education, work remuneration and social security which are closely related to the people's well-being have been incorporated as supplements into the coverage of legal aid for the protection of citizens' rights and interests. More and more regions in China have adjusted the "financial difficulty level" to 1.5 to 2 times the minimum living standard of the region in question so that more people with financial difficulties can enjoy the benefit of legal aid. The legal aid network is being continuously consolidated. By the end of 2009 some 3,274 legal aid organizations and 58,031 legal aid service centers had been set up at the provincial, city and county levels nationwide, providing convenient access to legal aid services. In 2009, over 640,000 legal aid cases were handled, and legal consultancy services were extended to 4.84 million people, effectively protecting the legitimate rights and interests of people with financial difficulties.
The role of lawyers in protecting human rights through judicial means has been increasingly strengthened. In 2009 China formulated regulations and rules in this respect, specifying relevant stipulations in the Law of the People's Republic of China on Lawyers. These detailed regulations facilitate the implementation of stipulations in the Law on lawyers' rights to consult with clients, to read case records, and to investigate and collect evidence, advancing the development of litigation on the part of lawyers and creating a strong legal guarantee for lawyers to carry out their responsibilities and play a larger role in judicial procedures. In 2009 lawyers throughout the country undertook over 1.96 million litigation cases of all types, effectively protecting the legitimate rights and interests of their clients and promoting judicial justice.
The legal rights and interests of people in detention and prison are protected by law. In 2009 the Ministry of Justice enacted and implemented the Assessment Measures for the Work on the Rehabilitation of Criminals in Prison to popularize the performance assessment system of rehabilitation work in an all-round way. It also carried out a campaign focusing on "regulating law enforcement actions and raising the level of law enforcement" in an attempt to solve the problems in law enforcement. A rehabilitation mode of "5+1+1," namely five days of rehabilitation through labor and one day of classroom education, plus one day of rest every week has been widely adopted in prisons. Measures have been taken to ensure that prisoners' standard of living and health care levels always keep up with the country's social and economic development. In 2009 the procuratorial organs urged the correction of the excessive detention of 337 people, and put forward rectification opinions on 22,268 cases of unlawful actions. In the same year the procuratorial organs joined hands with the public security organs in launching a special inspection of supervision and law enforcement at detention houses throughout China. This campaign discovered and punished 2,207 prisoners who bullied other inmates, and 123 of them were prosecuted for their acts involving criminal offences. The procuratorial organs and the Ministry of Justice jointly carried out a campaign to "check for possible hidden dangers of accidents and improve the safety of detention houses and prisons." As a result improvement was made in safety measures and supervision work in order to protect the legitimate rights and interests of criminals.
Meanwhile, the people's mediation system has been strengthened. By the end of 2009 a total of 823,000 people's mediation committees with 4,938,000 mediators from among ordinary people had been established throughout China. In 2009 these committees mediated 7,676,000 disputes, prevented 48,000 civil disputes from escalating into criminal cases, and stopped 18,000 people from committing suicide in civil dispute cases.
IV. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
In 2009 the Chinese Government undertook the protection of the people's economic, social and cultural rights as a major task throughout the process of advancing the steady and rapid socioeconomic development of the country. To cope with the international financial crisis, it adopted effective measures, with emphasis on solving problems in such fields as employment, health care, social security, and education which affect the immediate interests of the people, and achieved remarkable results.
The right to employment is protected. In 2009 China appropriated 42 billion yuan for the increase of job opportunities, a rise of 66.7 percent over the previous year. In 2009, 11.02 million new job opportunities were created and 5.14 million laid-off workers were reemployed in urban areas of China; the registered unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in urban areas; the employment rate of that year's college graduates reached 87.4 percent; and the number of rural migrant workers totaled 145 million, an increase of 4.92 million over the previous year. The government helped 186,000 people in earthquake-stricken Wenchuan to find jobs, ensuring that at least one person in each household had a job.
China has developed vocational training to enhance people's employment qualifications. In 2009 the state issued the Notice on Implementing the Special Plan for Vocational Training. In accordance with the Notice, China decided to implement a special plan for vocational training from 2009 to 2010. The plan focused on addressing the employment needs of workers affected by the financial crisis and providing vocational training for four groups of workers, namely employees of crisis-stricken enterprises, rural migrant workers who had lost their jobs and returned to their hometowns, urban unemployed people, and new entrants to the job market. In 2009 the state gave vocational training to over 21.6 million person/times, including vocational training to 2.6 million person/times of enterprises with difficulties in their operation, new-job training to 11 million person/times of rural workers, reemployment training to 4.5 million person/times of urban unemployed people, preparatory training to 2.4 million person/times, and entrepreneurship training to 1.1 million person/times.
The legitimate rights and interests of workers are protected in accordance with the law. In 2009 the state formulated the Guiding Opinions on Responding to the Current Economic Situation and Stabilizing Labor Relations, giving full play to the tripartite labor relations mechanism to keep enterprises afloat, to ensure employment and to maintain social stability. In 2009 labor security supervision organs nationwide conducted inspections of 1.75 million employers, involving 90.298 million workers; investigated and addressed 439,000 cases of law violation regarding labor security; urged employers to sign labor contracts with 10.737 million workers; recovered 8.92 billion yuan of defaulted wages for 5.931 million workers; and demanded that employers pay 4.64 billion yuan in overdue social insurance premiums for their workers. Labor dispute arbitration organs at all levels filed and heard 684,000 cases of labor disputes and mediated 178,000 labor disputes. The settlement rate of such cases in that year was 10.8 percent higher than in the previous year, effectively contributing to the building of harmonious labor relations.
In addition, the social security system has been further improved. In 2009 the central treasury put 290.6 billion yuan into social security, 16.6 percent higher than in the previous year. By the end of 2009 the number of people participating in unemployment insurance had reached 127.15 million, an increase of 3.15 million over that of the end of 2008, while the number of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits was 2.35 million, a decrease of 260,000 from the end of 2008. In 2009 the number of people participating in basic medical insurance topped 1.2 billion, a national coverage rate of over 90 percent. An additional 83.25 million people participated in medical insurance for urban employees and urban residents, bringing the number of people in urban areas with medical insurance to over 400 million. The number of rural residents participating in the new rural cooperative medical service system reached 833 million, an increase of 16.3 million over 2008. The maximum payments by urban employees' medical insurance, urban residents' medical insurance and new rural cooperative medical service system equaled about six times the average wages of local employees, per-capita disposable personal income of local urban residents, and per-capita net income of rural residents, respectively. Moreover, the reimbursement rate of medical insurance has continued to increase. In 2008 and 2009 the state appropriated a total of 50.9 billion yuan to solve medical insurance problems for retirees of state-owned enterprises that had gone bankrupt or closed down. By the end of 2009 the number of people participating in basic pension insurance had reached 235.5 million, an increase of 16.59 million or 7.6 percent over 2008. The new rural social pension insurance system was implemented on a trial basis in 320 counties (county-level cities or districts) in 27 provinces and autonomous regions, and four municipalities directly under the Central Government, 11.8 percent of the administrative units of those areas. The pilot program covered 130 million rural residents, including 15.3 million people 60 years old and above. By the end of 2009 over half of the provinces in China were practicing the pooling of funds for work-related injury insurance at city level, and most of the provinces had established the reserve fund system for work-related injury insurance. The number of people participating in work-related injury insurance had reached 148.96 million, an increase of 11.09 million over the previous year. The 2009 figure included 55.87 million rural migrant workers, an increase of 6.45 million over 2008. In 2009 the number of people covered by maternity insurance was 108.76 million, an increase of 16.22 million over the previous year. In 2009 a total of 1.74 million people enjoyed the benefits of maternity insurance.