Photo from tea rose’s Flickr photostream. Used under a Creative Commons license.
The Chinese government yesterday released a white paper on human rights in the country in 2009, highlighting economic, social and judicial improvements, as well as the role of the Internet in helping to safeguard citizens’ civil and political rights.
Titled Progress in China’s Human Rights in 2009, the white paper claims “the overall cause of human rights has been promoted in an all-round way.” Internet freedom is a big theme of the document, which argues Chinese netizens’ right to freedom of speech online has been protected, with the Internet becoming a new channel for the Chinese government to gauge public opinion and actively engage with citizens. The report also cites the ongoing task of making government affairs more transparent, such as through the setting up of websites run by government agencies allowing the public to report instances of corruption amongst officials.
The report adds that Chinese people’s standard of living has improved socially and economically, with per capita incomes of both rural and urban residents increasing by 8.5% and 9.8% respectively between 2008 and 2009. Economic successes were on the rise:
In 2009, China appropriated 42 billion yuan to create new jobs, an increase of 66.7 percent over the previous year.
In 2009, 11.02 million new jobs were created and 5.14 million laid-off workers were reemployed in urban areas. The registered unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in urban areas.
The report makes note of changes in the country’s justice system, such as the recent passing of a law prohibiting police brutality. Pressure has been mounting for more effective regulation of the police’s disciplinary actions, with state-owned paper China Daily calling for an end to “inhuman behaviour against criminal suspects” following the expose last May of convicted murderer Zhao Zuohai’s torture at the hands of the authorities.
Speaking to the New York Times, Joshua Rosenzweig of the Hong Kong-based human rights group, the Dui Hua Foundation, said China “deserves credit for taking that step of making new rules where they didn’t exist before.”
He adds, however, that “that can’t stand for actual results. The legislation itself needs to be enforced before you can measure its impact.”