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China's human rights 'action plan' short on any action, say rights groups

China's National Human Rights Action Plan of the the past two years amounts to 'a series of unfulfilled promises,' Human Rights Watch says in a review of the plan's impact published Tuesday.

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A two-year government “action plan” to protect human rights in China has proved to be “largely a series of unfulfilled promises,” a leading international human rights watchdog has found.

Over the past two years, when the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) was in force, “the government has systematically continued to violate many of the most basic rights the document addresses,” says Human Rights Watch in a review of the plan’s influence published Tuesday.

Local human rights activists agree. “There has been no improvement in the Chinese human rights situation over the past two years,” says Teng Biao, an activist lawyer and teacher. “On the contrary, things have been going backwards.”

The Information Office of the State Council, China’s cabinet – the body that drew up the NHRAP in April 2009 – did not respond to requests for comment on its implementation.

When it was first published, some rights activists saw the plan as an encouraging sign that the Chinese government was recommitting itself to rights enshrined in China’s constitution and law.

Just a PR exercise?

Instead, it has turned out to be “more of a public relations exercise than a meaningful tool for protecting and promoting human rights” says Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director.

It did not protect over 100 activists who were detained, put under house arrest, or subjected to police surveillance after imprisoned writer Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize, the report points out.

That wave of repression “shows the chasm between the aspirations embodied in the NHRAP and the government’s actual behavior,” says the report. “The government has in fact significantly rolled back key civil and political rights.”

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