China says progress made on human rights

China said it has made progress on human rights, pointing in particular to improved living standards, but an international rights group quickly described the government`s assessment as unrealistic.

Beijing: China said on Sunday it has made
progress on human rights, pointing in particular to improved living standards, but an international rights group quickly
described the government`s assessment as unrealistic.

Human Rights Watch said the government failed to
mention that since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China has gotten
tougher on freedom of speech, has stepped up restrictions on
the media and Internet and cracked down on lawyers and
activists.

In a report released today titled "Progress in China`s
Human Rights in 2009," the government highlighted its 4
trillion yuan (USD 586 billion) economic stimulus package that
helped the country bounce back from the global financial
crisis.

It said per capita income rose 8.5 per cent in 2009
for rural residents and 9.8 per cent for urban dwellers and
that spending on health services and education has increased.

It acknowledged that more needed to be done.

While the report focused less on increasing freedoms,
it claimed Chinese people were able to exercise freedom of
speech on the Internet, which it said has become an important
channel for communication between the authorities and the
people

Human Rights Watch`s Asia advocacy director Sophie
Richardson said the report "is at best a missed opportunity
and at worst a clumsy whitewash by failing to render a
realistic assessment of China`s human rights problems."

Richardson said China needs the political will to
enforce the human rights already guaranteed by law and not
tolerate officials who trample over those rights.

The group noted that last year, the government
targeted several high-profile dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo,
who wrote Charter 08, a daring appeal for expanded political
freedom. Liu and other dissidents have been prosecuted and
jailed on charges of inciting subversion or possession of
"state secrets."

China, which is ruled by a one-party authoritarian
regime, has long faced international criticism for falling
short on basic rights like freedom of speech, religion and the
right to a fair trial, even as it has aggressively promoted
economic development.

PTI

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