Full text: Progress in China's Human Rights in 2012

Updated: 2013-05-14 12:45


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II. Protection of Human Rights in Political Construction

The socialist road of political development with Chinese characteristics is the fundamental guarantee for the realization of civil rights and political rights in China. In recent years, China has actively yet prudently pressed ahead with political restructuring, expanded socialist democracy, accelerated the building of a socialist country under the rule of law, and developed socialist political civilization. China endeavors to improve the system of democracy, diversify the forms of democracy, expand citizens' orderly participation in political affairs, and ensure that citizens exercise their democratic rights as prescribed by the law. China continues to deepen the reform of the administrative system, push forward the reform of the judicial system and work mechanisms, and ensure that people enjoy a wide range of rights and freedoms in accordance with the law. China continues to improve its legal system that protects human rights. Establishing a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics and protecting human rights in accordance with the law are the important foundation for China's human rights development. Thanks to unremitting efforts over the years, by the end of 2010 a multi-level socialist legal system with specific Chinese characteristics had been established. This system is based on the realities of China, adapts to the needs of reform and opening up and the socialist modernization drive, epitomizes the will of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people, centers around the Constitution, takes as its mainstay the Constitution-related laws, civil and commercial laws, administrative laws, economic laws, social laws, criminal laws, and litigation and non-litigation procedural laws of different categories, and comprises administrative and local regulations. By the end of 2012 China had enacted 243 active laws, including the current Constitution, 721 administrative regulations and 9,200 local regulations, which are complete in range and cover all relations in the society. Basic and major laws of each category have been formulated and supported with corresponding administrative regulations and local regulations, forming a legal system that is internally scientific, well-coordinated and unified. The formation of the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics is an important milestone in the development of China's human rights cause, and it ensures that the country's human rights protection is done within the framework of the law. In recent years, the state has paid great attention to proceeding from the requirement of protecting human rights to amend relevant laws and regulations. In 2012 "respecting and protecting human rights" was added to the newly amended Criminal Procedure Law and attention was paid to see it that the spirit of this clause was implemented in amendments and revisions made in the clauses regarding evidence, defense, compulsory and investigatory measures, review and prosecution, trial and execution, as well as newly added stipulations. This is a major progress in China's human rights cause, and of great significance in punishing crimes, protecting the people and safeguarding the citizens' litigation and other lawful rights. The 2012 amended Civil Procedure Law offers further protection to the litigation rights of parties to a lawsuit, and improves such procedures as prosecution and handling, preparation for trial, summary, trial supervision, execution of sentence, preservation, evidence and open documents of judgment. It also adds the system of public interest litigation and the remedial procedure for the infringed parties indirectly related to a current case.

The Chinese people effectively exercise the state power through people's congresses at all levels. The system of people's congress is a fundamental political system of China. It is via the National People's Congress (NPC) and local people's congresses at different levels that the Chinese people are involved in managing state affairs and exercising the state power. The people's congresses exercise such functions and powers as legislation, supervision, decision-making, appointment and removal. Since 2010 the NPC and its Standing Committee have enacted and amended 45 laws, including the Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Electoral Law of the People's Republic of China on the National People's Congress and Local People's Congresses, Law of the People's Republic of China on Deputies to the National People's Congress and Deputies to Local People's Congresses, State Compensation Law, Organic Law of the Villagers' Committees, and Administrative Compulsion Law, further improving the country's legal system for protecting human rights. In March 2010 the NPC approved the decision to amend the Electoral Law of the People's Republic of China on the National People's Congress and Local People's Congresses, stipulating that the same percentage of deputies be elected in both urban and rural areas to the people's congresses to ensure that they are as widely representative as possible. This measure has further improved the electoral system, making it give better expression to equality among the people, between regions and among ethnic groups. China's legislature ensures the public's wide participation in legislation through multiple forms, such as releasing the draft of a law and holding hearings, demonstration meetings and symposiums. In 2011 when the Law of Personal Income Tax was being amended, China's legislature made the draft amendment to the public and sought the people's opinions. In just a little more than a month, a total of 230,000 opinions were collected. Of the people who expressed their opinions via the Internet, 83 percent said that they hoped to see the tax exemption threshold further raised appropriately on the basis of the initial plan. The NPC Standing Committee revised the draft by increasing the monthly tax exemption threshold from 2,000 yuan to 3,500 yuan. Since 2010 the NPC and its Standing Committee have intensified their supervisory efforts and enhanced the pertinency and effectiveness of such supervision. Since 2010 the NPC Standing Committee has launched 13 rounds of supervision over law enforcement, and reviewed 31 work reports on special topics from the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, and made nine inquiries over specific topics.

Consultative democracy enables citizens to have more extensive rights in the management of state affairs. Socialist consultative democracy is an important form of democracy for the Chinese people. In recent years, China has continued to improve the consultative democracy and its work mechanisms, promoting its extensive, multi-level and institutionalized development. Through various channels, the CPC and the Chinese government conduct extensive consultation to pool wisdoms of the people over major issues in economic and social development and problems of immediate concern to the people's interests. Efforts are being made to adhere to and improve the CPC-led multi-party cooperative and political consultative system, and give full play to the people's political consultative conferences as an important channel of consultative democracy, incorporating political consultation into the decision-making procedure and making consultation an important part of decision-making. From 2008 to 2012, the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) launched more than 420 consultative activities. Since 2010 the CPPCC National Committee has received 16,743 proposals, among which 882 came from the central committees of non-Communist parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce; the CPPCC National Committee has held six standing committee meetings and a number of consultative meetings on special topics, and went on 296 investigation tours. Political consultation with non-Communist parties is being constantly strengthened. Before making any major decisions, the CPC Central Committee invites major leaders of non-Communist parties and representatives of personages without party affiliation to democratic consultative meetings, small heart-to-heart meetings, or symposiums, giving them a briefing, listening to their opinions and discussing state affairs together with them. The CPPCC National Committee conducts investigations and research on the most specific problems of the utmost and immediate concern to the people. Its proposals on protecting the legitimate rights and interests of migrant workers, people left behind in the countryside as caretakers, the disabled, and employees of reorganized state-owned enterprises go a long way to promoting the people's livelihood. The CPPCC National Committee has made follow-up investigations on the poverty-reduction work in the Wuling mountains and some other regions that suffer from abject poverty, and then proposed increasing financial input in these regions' rural infrastructure, establishing and improving such mechanisms as capital input, ecological compensation and regional cooperation. These proposals were highly valued and adopted by the CPC Central Committee. Their proposals also played an important role in helping formulate and release the Regional Development and Poverty-reduction Planning for the Wuling Mountainous Area.

Full guarantees are given to ethnic autonomous areas to exercise autonomy. Regional ethnic autonomy is one of the basic political systems of China and also the basic policy for settlement of domestic ethnic issues. Ethnic autonomous regions have been basically established in areas where people of ethnic minority groups live in compact communities. In recent years, the Chinese government has made unswerving efforts to continuously adhere to and improve this basic system, adopt effective measures to respect and protect the right of the organs of self-government in ethnic autonomous areas to exercise autonomy, and take into full consideration the realities of the ethnic minority groups and ethnic autonomous areas when formulating policies. Earnest studies have been made on new problems arising in the implementation of the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy. In accordance with provisions of this law, the state loses no time in formulating supporting laws, regulations, measures and methods and formulating or revising autonomy-related regulations and other special regulations, thus gradually bringing into place a complete system of laws and regulations concerning ethnic affairs with Chinese characteristics. By intensifying inspection and supervision over the implementation of the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy and targeted studies on and settlement of difficult issues and other outstanding problems of common concern to officials and people of various ethnic minority groups, the real virtues of the system of regional ethnic autonomy have been brought into full play. At present, all the 55 ethnic minority groups have deputies to the National People's Congress and members to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. An ethnic group having a population over one million has members on the NPC Standing Committee. Meanwhile, proactive efforts are made to train officials of ethnic minority origin and appoint them to the right posts. The central and local organs of state power as well as administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs have certain percentages of officials of ethnic minority origins. The chairpersons or vice-chairpersons of the standing committees of the people's congresses of all 155 areas where regional ethnic autonomy is exercised, as well as the heads of government of autonomous regions, prefectures, counties or banners are citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the areas concerned.

Democracy building at the grassroots level further expands citizens' right to participate. Democracy at the grassroots level is an effective form for people to be masters of the country. It ensures the extensive and direct participation of all citizens in various social affairs via grassroots democracy mainly in the forms of villagers' self-government in rural areas, community residents' self-government in urban areas and congresses of workers and staff in enterprises and public institutions. Elections of rural villagers' committees and urban community residents' committees have been institutionalized and standardized and conducted in line with established procedures. In October 2010 the NPC Standing Committee amended the Organic Law of the Villagers' Committees, further improving and standardizing the election and removal procedures for their members. By the end of 2012, eight or nine rounds of elections for new rural villagers' committees had been held in most of the country' s provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. Direct elections had been held for over 98 percent of the villagers' committees across the country, with villagers' participation reaching 95 percent. The proportion of female members in the villagers' committees increased slightly. Over 95 percent of villages had made their village affairs transparent; more than 90 percent of the counties had drawn up a list of village affairs that must be made known to all the villagers; and 91 percent of villages had set up bulletins where village affairs were made known to the public. Each year across the country about 1.7 million village officials report their performance to their fellow-villagers; more than 230,000 village officials have been subjected to audit of economic accountability; and nearly 2.09 million village officials have their performance commented by their fellow-villagers. Between 2010 and 2012, another round of elections for community residents' committees were carried out in most communities of Chinese cities, with the rate of direct elections topping 30 percent. The proportion of female members on urban community residents' committees reached 49.62 percent. Through such forms as consultation and democratic hearing at the residents' meetings, every member of a community is ensured to participate in public affairs and democratic decision-making on an equal footing.

Practical measures are taken to ensure citizens' right to know and right to be heard. With the deepening of reform and the rapid development of information technology, the Chinese people's scope of the right to know has been expanded, and so has the room for them to express their will. With the Regulations on Government Information Disclosure, the country's system for government information disclosure has basically taken shape. In 2003 China began to implement a system of announcement for audit results, and since 2010 governments at all levels have promoted the work of fiscal budget disclosure. In 2012 a total of 97 departments of central government publicly disclosed their budgets, 98 made public their final accounts, and 98 disclosed their expenses on official receptions, vehicles and overseas trips. In 2011 the various central government organs and departments took the initiative to disclose more than 1.49 million pieces of government information; the government organs of the 31 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) made public over 28.85 million pieces of government information. In 2011 the various central government organs and departments handled more than 3,000 applications requesting disclosure of relevant government information, and over 70 percent of these applications were granted in accordance with relevant regulations. And the government organs of the 31 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) handled in total more than 1.3 million applications from the public requesting the disclosure of related government information, and of these applications over 85 percent were granted in accordance with relevant regulations. The CPC continues to press ahead with making Party affairs public, and has established a spokesperson system for Party committees. In 2012 the Party and government agencies above the provincial level held in total more than 2,200 press conferences. Meanwhile, the Internet has become an important channel for citizens to exercise their rights to know, participate, be heard and supervise, as well as an important means for the government to get to know the public's opinions. To safeguard online information security and protect the legitimate rights and interests of the citizens, legal persons and other organizations, the NPC Standing Committee approved the Decision on Strengthening Online Information Protection in December 2012. By the end of 2012, microblog users in China reached 309 million. According to a survey of China's top ten websites, each day more than three million forum messages and news comments are posted online, while over 200 million messages are posted and forwarded by microbloggers. The people's governments at all levels take concrete measures to implement the Regulations on Petition Through Letters and Visits, continuing to keep unblocked the channels of complaint through letters and visits and standardize such channels, handling such letters and visits conscientiously, and promoting and standardizing the use of green post, online complaint letters and visits, telephone hotlines, the handling of complaint visits via video, and complaint letters and visits handled by proxy, in order to guarantee and protect the people's right of expression. The construction and promotion of a national information system for complaint letters and visits are to be strengthened; the building of a national complaint-handling center is to be accelerated; and a comprehensive platform for rapidly and effectively handling people's complaints is to be built.

New progress is made in human rights protection in the judicial field. To effectively enforce the amended Criminal Procedure Law, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate have jointly issued the Rules on Several Issues Concerning the Enforcement of the Criminal Procedure Law; the Supreme People's Court has worked out the Interpretation Concerning the Application of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China; the Supreme People's Procuratorate has promulgated the revised Rules of Criminal Procedure for the People's Procuratorates (Trial); the Ministry of Public Security has fully amended the Rules of Procedure for Public Security Organs to Handle Criminal Cases. The people's procuratorates have continuously strengthened legal supervision over litigation activities. In 2012 the people's procuratorates gave suggestions for correction on law violations in the investigation of 55,582 cases, lodged 6,196 protests against criminal verdicts that they deemed to be wrong, and put forward suggestions for correction on law violations in criminal proceedings in 11,799 cases. China enforces strict controls over and prudently applies the death penalty. In February 2011 the NPC Standing Committee examined and approved Amendment VIII of the Criminal Law, which removed death penalty from 13 economic and nonviolent crimes, thus reducing the death penalty charges by nearly one fifth. The Amendment also adopted a restrictive regulation for the application of death penalty to offenders aged 75 or above at the time of the trial. In June 2010 the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate jointly issued the Rules for Reviewing and Judging the Evidence in Handling Death Penalty Cases, adopting more rigorous standards for reviewing and judging the evidence in death penalty cases. The amended Criminal Procedure Law requires that all trials of second instance for death penalty cases be held in public and the supervision over the review of death sentences be tightened. Efforts are made to enlarge the scope of judicial openness and intensify legal supervision. In October 2010 the Supreme People's Court issued the Decision on Designating Model Courts of Open Judicial Practice, which designated 200 courts throughout the country in two batches as "model courts of open judicial practice" and released the criteria for such model courts. In October 2012 the Ministry of Public Security promulgated the Rules for Open Law Enforcement by Public Security Organs, which regularizes in a comprehensive way the open law enforcement by the public security organs, opens up the channels and enriches the ways for open law enforcement.

China protects the rights of detainees. In 2011 the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Health jointly issued the Basic Standards for Establishment of Clinics in Detention Centers to improve the accommodation, living and medical conditions of detainees. By the end of 2012, a detainee security risk assessment and ranking mechanism had been established in 2,391 detention centers, or 89.1 percent of the national total; psychological counseling rooms for detainees had been established in 1,774 detention centers, or 66.1 percent of the national total; two-way online video meetings for inmates had been established in 1,893 detention centers, or 70.5 percent of the national total; and a complaints handling mechanism had been set up in 2,532 detention centers, or 94.3 percent of the national total. This mechanism had been employed in handling 2,633 complaints from the detainees. In addition, guest supervisors had been hired in 2,664 detention centers, or 99.2 percent of the total. In 2012 the procuratorates raised 32,165 suggestions for correction on law-breaking activities in penalty execution and in custody. The systems of lawyers and legal assistance keep improving. The amended Criminal Procedure Law clearly defines the role of lawyer as defender in litigation and requires that in the course of the investigation, prosecution and trial, if there is a lawyer, his or her advice should be sought and attached to the case files. This requirement has enlarged the scope of application of legal assistance to criminal proceedings. After the revision, legal assistance is offered not only at the trial stage but is extended to all the processes of investigation, prosecution and trial, and to more recipients. In 2012 more than 2.3 million lawsuits and 280,000 legal assistance cases were handled by lawyers acting on behalf of the parties concerned. In 2012 more than one million legal assistance cases were handled in China, and 5.68 million people received legal counseling, up 56.4 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively as compared to 2009.