China Should Ensure that its “National Action Plan” Amounts to More than a Publicity Stunt

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China Should Ensure that its “National Action Plan” Amounts to More than a Publicity Stunt

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, November 7, 2008) –The Chinese government announced on November 4 that it is to draft its first “national action plan to protect human rights”. Although CHRD welcomes the initiative, it is concerned that the plan will fall short of its stated objective of protecting human rights due to the following reasons:

  • The plan, as outlined thus far, is vague. It lacks details such as a concrete timetable for implementation of the plan or precisely the kind of actions that it will involve.
  • It is unclear why the State Council Information Office (responsible for publicizing official information domestically and promoting the Chinese government abroad) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (responsible for foreign relations) will be heading the government panel that drafts the plan.
  • The government panel will be advised by “ten human rights experts from key universities and academic institutions” and “NGOs”. CHRD is concerned that these experts and organizations will only be those carefully hand-picked and controlled by the government. CHRD is particularly concerned that the drafting process excludes consultation with the wider public, especially independent human rights activists and genuinely independent NGOs.

The facts that the plan as currently outlined is vague and that its drafting is to be led by government agencies involved in promoting China’s image abroad and advised by individuals who lack independence raise the suspicion that Chinese government has initiated the plan not to promote human rights but to placate the international community at a time when China is being reviewed by the UN Committee Against Torture (November 7 and 10) and will soon be reviewed by the Human Rights Council in its Universal Periodic Review mechanism in February 2009.

CHRD believes that a concrete national action plan could genuinely and effectively promote human rights if:

  • the Chinese government invites members of the public and civil society, especially independent human rights activists and groups, to participate in the drafting process;
  • the Chinese government makes a draft of this plan available to the public, involves it in a thorough process of consultation, and incorporates the public’s opinion into the finalized plan;
  • the drafting panel is headed by the National People’s Congress (NPC), the legislative body that is vested with the power to make laws that could effectively protect human rights;
  • the plan includes the establishment of a national human rights body, such as an independent National Commission on Human Rights, as exists in many other countries, to ensure that the plan will be implemented and effectively monitored; and
  • the plan addresses, among other areas of concern, the following five requests CHRD has made to the Chinese government and asked the UN Human Rights Council to consider during its Universal Periodic Review of China in February 2009:

(1) Take effective measures to implement the Convention against Torture.
(2) Abolish all systems of arbitrary detention.
(3) End the criminalization of freedom of speech and of the press.
(4) Cease Party and government control of the judiciary.
(5) Honor its commitment to protect human rights defenders.

For more information, please see:

Xinhua: China to outline first national action plan to protect human rights (November 4)
Persistent Torture, Unaccountable Torturers (November 5)
“Black Jails:” China’s Growing Network of Illegal and Secret Detention Facilities
(October 19)
Dancing in Shackles A Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in China (2007) (May 1)
Silencing Complaints: Human Rights Abuses Against Petitioners in China (March 14)
“Inciting Subversion of State Power”:A Legal Tool for Prosecuting Free Speech in China (January 8)

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