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China to Outline 1st National Action Plan to Protect Human Rights

China planned to draft its first national action plan to protect human rights, said the State Council Information Office on Tuesday.

The action plan would cover aspects such as improving government function, expanding democracy, strengthening the rule of law, improving people's livelihood, protecting rights of women, children and ethnic minorities and boosting public awareness of human rights, said a statement of the office.

The action plan will be drafted by a panel from the office and Foreign Ministry, joined by more than 50 departments, public associations and non-governmental organizations, including the country's legislature, top political advisory body, supreme court, supreme procuratorate and the National Development and Reform Commission.

More than 10 human rights experts from key universities and academic institutions would form a group to advise the panel, the statement said.

Once the plan was done, it would guide China in the development of human rights, it added.

"As the first of its kind, the plan will leave important effect on the country's human rights development in the future," said Dong Yunhu, vice president and secretary general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.

"As this year marks the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, the release of the plan bears great significance," he said.

"In the past three decades, China made great progress in protecting human rights practically and theoretically but it still needs a nationwide plan to guide where the cause should go."

"It is based on all the progress we made in this field that we began to make such a plan."

The Chinese government issued the first white paper describing the country's human rights situation in 1991, officially adopting the concept of "human rights" in its political strategy.

Since then, the country has issued 40 such documents on human rights protection but never a state action plan on what it is going to do in this field.

"Those white papers revealed the past and the present situation. But through this plan, we look on the future," Dong said.

The plan embodies the government's effort to carry out the country's "constitutional principle of respecting and safeguarding human rights", which was adopted in 2004, and the development concept of putting people first, he said.

"The panel will carefully plan the human rights development in details and put forward practical policies and measures," said Wang Chen, minister in charge of the State Council Information Office.

But he did not release the timetable of drafting and when the plan would be implemented.

(Xinhua News Agency November 4, 2008)

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