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UPDATED: May 21, 2013 NO. 21 MAY 23, 2013
Extending Protection
White paper acknowledges environmentalism as key to human rights protection
By Yuan Yuan

In 2012, "respecting and protecting human rights" was added to the amended Criminal Procedure Law. The white paper described the addition as an example of major progress in human rights protection and of great significance in punishing criminals, protecting the public and safeguarding citizens' right to litigation.

In the judicial field, China has enforced strict controls over and prudently applied the death penalty. Thirteen economic and non-violent crimes were no longer designated as capital offenses in 2011, reducing the number of crimes for which a defendant could be sentenced to death by nearly 20 percent.

By the end of 2012, nearly 2,400 of detention centers had established a security risk assessment and ranking mechanism for detainees, and over 2,500 had set up channels for handling complaints. These figures respectively represent 89 and 94 percent of China's total number of detention centers.

"The supervision of powerful departments, such as detention centers, should be enhanced to avoid abnormal deaths of detainees," said Zhang Wanhong. "There are lawyers' offices in some detention houses that provide judicial aid for the detainees in some regions, and such practices should be encouraged."

Livelihood improvement

Marked improvement has been made in public services, education and social security. Medical care coverage has been expanded and cultural services have been made more equitable, according to the white paper.

In 2012, the annual per-capita net income for both urban and rural residents increased, hefty investment was directed to poverty reduction programs, housing conditions were improved for both urban and rural residents and the state made proactive efforts to boost employment.

The country has realized full coverage of basic old-age insurance and basic medical care for both urban and rural residents.

On average, the basic pension for each enterprise retiree has been raised from 700 yuan ($114) in 2004 to 1,721 yuan ($280) per month last year.

More needy people in rural areas and members of ethnic minority groups have benefited from the government's poverty reduction efforts.

The government raised the national poverty line to an average annual per-capita income of 2,300 yuan ($374) in 2011, and by this criterion more low-income people have been included in poverty reduction programs.

In 2012, the Central Government spent almost 300 billion yuan ($49 billion) on comprehensive poverty reduction programs, and by the end of 2012 the size of the impoverished population in rural China had decreased to 99 million according to the new criterion, 23 million fewer than that at the end of 2011.

Medical insurance of various types covers over 1.3 billion people. Now 190 million people have access to national work-related injury insurance, an increase of 13 million people compared with 2011.

In 2012, while introducing pilot medical care programs for eight serious diseases such as uremia and childhood leukemia, the state also listed 12 other serious diseases such as lung, esophageal and gastric cancers into the pilot medical care programs, with the maximum reimbursement rate reaching 90 percent.

China has amended a number of laws related to workers' rights including the Labor Contract Law and the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Occupational Diseases.

More trade unions have been established, involving more employees. From 2009 to September 2012, the number of grassroots trade unions increased by 35 percent to 2.67 million, covering 6.17 million enterprises and public institutions, an increase of 43 percent.

China also upholds a policy of freedom of religious belief and ensures this freedom as an important part of its citizens' human rights.

From 2010 to 2012, the government constructively participated in UN human rights activities and made active efforts to meet the obligations stipulated by the international human rights conventions it has joined, said the white paper.

Moreover, China is taking an active part in formulating international human rights instruments and related rules, and working to increase mutual understanding and learning through human rights dialogues with other countries.

In the past three years, China has held human rights dialogues with the United States, the European Union, Britain, Germany, Australia and Switzerland.

From 2010 to 2012, the China Society for Human Rights Studies held the third, fourth and fifth sessions of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, and the forum has become an important stage for international human rights dialogues and exchanges involving both developing and developed countries.

Email us at: yuanyuan@bjreview.com

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