Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor to join you at this UPR session and make a presentation on behalf of the Chinese government. I am confident that under the excellent leadership of the president, the Council's review on China will progress smoothly.
The Chinese government takes the UPR very seriously. To prepare China's national report, we established an inter-agency task force last December composed of nearly 30 national legislative, administrative and judiciary departments. To produce a report that is as comprehensive, objective and authoritative as possible, we held consultations with more than 20 representative NGOs and academic institutions, and published the draft report on the Foreign Ministry website to solicit public opinion. Moreover, the Chinese government has sent an inter-agency delegation to this review. We in the Chinese delegation stand ready to engage in interaction and dialogue with all parties in an open, candid and responsible manner.
China is a big developing country with over 1.3 billion people and 56 ethnic groups. For all its remarkable achievements in economic and social development, there are 85 million people with disablilities, 65 million "stay-behind" children in rural areas and 194 million senior citizens in China, all of whom need our care and support. What's more, China has just begun the process of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization; nearly 100 million of its rural population still live in poverty and every year, six to seven million university graduates and 25 million people need to find jobs. One may imagine, or it is simply beyond one's imagination, how daunting the task is and how many challenges China faces to promote and protect human rights given the complex conditions of the country and the crucial and historical stage it is in.
During the first UPR four years ago, the Chinese government accepted 42 recommendations made by other countries, including making greater efforts to improve people's lives, reduce poverty, deepen the reform of the judicial system, protect the rights of ethnic minority groups, and help other developing countries achieve the right to development. The Chinese government also made a solemn commitment: when China undergoes the next review, the world will see a China with a more prosperous economy, improved democracy and the rule of law, a more harmonious society and people living in greater happiness. Now four years have passed, and I want to tell you that the above recommendations either have been implemented or are being carried out, and our commitment has been basically fulfilled.
The notion of promoting and safeguarding human rights has long been incorporated into China's Constitution, its national economic and social development plans and the Constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In November last year, the 18th CPC National Congress identified the fully respecting and protecting human rights as one of the goals in the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. On the basis of completing the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010) as scheduled, the Chinese government formulated and published the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015) in June 2012.
Economy is the foundation for promoting and protecting human rights. The level of human rights protection cannot be divorced from a country's stage of economic and social development. Considering China's development stage and its basic national conditions such as a large population and limited resources, top priority must be given to the rights to subsistence and development for the 1.3 billion Chinese people. Over the past four years, China continued to make development its top priority, effectively responded to the impact of the global financial crisis and realized 9.3 percent of average annual GDP growth in spite of widespread slowdown among other major economies. In 2012, China became the second largest economy in the world.
The Chinese government has worked to increase both the national strength and people's wealth. It has taken concrete steps to improve people's well-being and share the fruits of reform and development among the people. From 2008 to 2012, rural and urban income increased by 9.9 percent and 8.8 percent annually. The government formulated and vigorously implemented the Outline of Development-Oriented Poverty Reduction for China's Rural Areas (2011-2020), leading to a drastic decline in the number of rural population living in poverty.
Employment is crucial to people's well-being. From 2008 to 2012, the Chinese government earmarked 197.3 billion yuan to help 28 million university graduates find jobs. In 2012, 12.66 million urban jobs were created and 260 million rural migrant workers found jobs in cities. China adopted various measures to safeguard the rights and interests of workers, including the general establishment of a minimum wage adjustment mechanism. Last year alone, 25 provinces adjusted their minimum wage standards, with an average increase of 20.2 percent.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to ensuring people's right to education. From 2008 to 2012, the ratio of government spending on education to GDP increased from 3.31 percent to 4.07 percent. Since 2011, free nine-year compulsory education has been accessible throughout the country. In 2012, people above the age of 15 had nine years of schooling on average. By the end of 2012, China had the world's largest student community in institutions of higher learning with 33.25 million on campus.
China has basically established a nationwide primary medical insurance system and over 1.3 billion people have joined various medical insurance schemes. The subsistence allowance program has basically covered all urban and rural areas. By the end of 2012, 21.425 million urban residents and 53.41 million rural residents had benefited from the program and the government spending on the program rose to 132.6 billion yuan, up by 56.9 percent from 2009. The average life expectancy reached 75 years.
People work with content only when they live in comfort. Therefore, the Chinese government attaches great importance to ensuring peoples' right to housing. From 2009 to 2012, the government set aside over 450 billion yuan in assistance funds to build government-subsidized urban apartments and renovate shanty areas. A total of 29 million units of government-subsidized urban housing were under construction and 17 million of them have been completed. In recent years, China has won the UN-HABITAT Award 21 times.
Mankind has but one Earth to live on. A sound ecological system is vital to the future of mankind. We have put forward the strategic goal of building a beautiful China. We have made the reduction of major pollutants a mandatory target in economic and social development and taken steps to improve mechanisms, strengthen supervision and resolve outstanding environmental problems.
The Chinese government pays unprecedented attention to people's right to life. Saving people's lives and upholding their interests is the government's top consideration in every earthquake or flood relief. Chinese citizens can feel the care from the motherland even when they are away from China. During the Libyan turmoil in 2011, the Chinese government evacuated about 36,000 Chinese citizens in a matter of 12 days. In recent years, protection from the government can be seen wherever the Chinese citizens go.
It requires strong legal support to realize human rights to the full. China has put in place a socialist legal system with Chinese features. It is committed to democratic legislation, and encourages greater public involvement in the legislative process by publishing draft laws and holding hearings, discussions and forums. Take the revision of the Individual Income Tax Law in 2011 for example. Altogether 230,000 opinions were received in just over a month's time after the draft was put out for public comment. Corresponding revisions to the draft were subsequently made based on reasonable suggestions from the majority of the public. The National People's Congress (NPC) is now deliberating on a draft amendment to the Environment Protection Law and it has sought public opinions twice on the NPC website since August last year.
The political rights of the Chinese citizens have been better upheld. The Amendment to the Electoral Law made it clear for the first time that deputies to the people's congresses are to be elected based on the same population ratio in both urban and rural areas. The Amendment to the Law on Deputies to the National People's Congress and Deputies to the Local People's Congresses more clearly defined the rights and duties of the deputies. Revisions to the Organic Law of the Villagers' Committees improved the electoral and dismissal procedures for villagers' committee members as well as the democratic management and supervision system. Direct election is held for more than 98 percent of villagers' committees in China, and over 95 percent of villagers turn out to vote on average.
The Chinese government has strengthened the judicial system and set enhanced human rights protection as an important target. All 60 tasks of the judicial system reform launched in 2008 have been completed. The Amendment Ⅷ to the Criminal Law abolished death penalty for thirteen economic and non-violent crimes, which had accounted for 19.1 percent of the total death penalty crimes. The procedures for the review of death penalty and the system to exclude the use of illegal evidence were improved in the newly revised Criminal Procedure Law. It also standardized the application of coercive measures: for example, interrogation shall be carried out in detention houses and audio-video recording is required. Relevant authorities are studying a specific plan on the reform of reeducation-through-labor and will announce it in due course.
China has redoubled efforts in raising judicial transparency. The systems of open trial and open enforcement were improved. Practices such as live broadcast of trials on TV and online and putting verdicts online were promoted. The systems of court spokespersons and people's assessors were improved.
The Chinese government has taken concrete actions in protecting people's freedom of speech and freedom of religious belief in accordance with law. By the end of December 2012, the number of netizens in China reached 564 million. People can express views freely through microblogs, postings and other means in accordance with law. It is estimated that there are now over 5,500 religious organizations, nearly 100 religious universities and 140,000 sites for religious activities in China. Tibet alone is home to over 1,780 temples.
The level of protection of the human rights of special groups is an important yardstick in measuring the cultural progress of a country. Over the past four years, the Chinese government has made great efforts to ensure the rights of special groups. It has put the Law Against Domestic Violence on its legislative agenda. Mechanisms designed to assist and guarantee the rights of orphans, children with disabilities, HIV/AIDS-affected children, children from poor families and vagrant children have been improved. From 2008 to 2012, nearly 12.2 million people with disabilities were rehabilitated to varying degrees. We strived to ensure that each and every senior citizen is being looked after and has someone to rely on. By 2012, old-age insurance schemes had covered all rural areas and non-working urban residents, with the participation of 790 million people, achieving the targeted goal eight years ahead of the schedule.
The Chinese government ensures that minority ethnic groups in China enjoy extensive human rights. They participate in the management of state and local affairs as equals with the Han ethnic group. The ratio of leading officials with ethnic background is growing in ethnic minority areas. Their freedom of religious belief and the right to use and develop their spoken and written languages are fully respected and guaranteed. State investment in ethnic minority areas has kept expanding.
The Chinese government advocates and takes an active part in international exchanges and cooperation on human rights. China has joined 26 international conventions on human rights and worked hard to implement them. Every year, China holds human rights dialogues or consultations with nearly 20 countries, and it has technical cooperation on human rights with Australia and others. China has done what it can to provide economic and technical assistance to other developing countries to help them realize their right to development.
China has maintained sound cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the special procedures. It has made donation to the OHCHR every year. In 2011, China successfully co-hosted a judicial symposium with the OHCHR and in 2010, it received the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Here I wish to announce the following: from 2014 to 2017, China will increase its annual donation to the OHCHR from 50,000 to 800,000 US dollars; China is ready to receive the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice this year; and China would like to invite the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt to visit China next year at a mutually convenient time.
We believe that there is always room for improvement in the field of human rights and that there is no end to the promotion and protection efforts. We are soberly aware that China still faces many difficulties and challenges in promoting and protecting human rights. Unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development remains an acute problem. Too many people still live under the poverty line and a balanced income distribution structure is yet to be put in place. Basic medical and health service still cannot fully meet peoples' needs. Resources and environment are laying growing restraints on economic development. The development of social programs in parts of the ethnic minority regions are generally lagging behind. Judicial injustice exists. The human rights awareness of the law enforcement personnel and their ability to conduct administration in accordance with law still need to be improved.
At present, the entire Chinese nation is working to realize the Chinese dream, which is about economic prosperity, national renewal and people's happiness. Ultimately, it is a people's dream: the dream of each and every Chinese to pursue and lead a happy life, and also a dream of human rights. We have set out two goals for ourselves: to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society by the centenary of the founding of the CPC in 2021 and to build China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by the centenary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2049. With the realization of the Chinese dream and the two centenary goals, I am sure the human rights cause in China will witness even greater achievements.
Since the last review, human rights in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) continue to be fully protected by the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other local legislation.
Progress made in terms of legislation include amending the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance in 2012, and the full implementation of the Race Discrimination Ordinance and the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance in 2009.
In addition, relevant law was enacted by the HKSAR Government in 2012 to substantially enhance the screening and appeal mechanism for torture claims. The HKSAR Government has also been providing government funded legal aid services to torture claimants throughout their different stages of appeal.
In terms of people's livelihood, the HKSAR implemented the Statutory Minimum Wage in 2011. Earlier this year, a Standard Working Hours Committee was also formed. The Commission on Poverty, re-established at the end of 2012, also announced information concerning the first setting of a poverty line and analysis on the poverty situation in Hong Kong at the Poverty Summit held last month. Such information would provide a scientific policy tool to assist the Administration in quantifying the poverty problem, enhancing the policy formulation process and reviewing the effectiveness of the poverty alleviation measures.
In terms of constitutional development, the HKSAR completed the Chief Executive and Legislative Council elections smoothly in 2012. It will implement the work in relation to the 2016 Legislative Council and 2017 Chief Executive elections in strict accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant explanation and decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
The HKSAR continue to enhance the protection of the rights of the disabled, women and children, and provide support to individual groups such as people with ethnic minority background or different sexual orientation. The HKSAR will sustain its effort in enhancing protection of human rights, and ensure that the measures to be implemented could suit the practical need of the region.
The Basic Law of the Macao Special Administration Region of the People's Republic of China safeguards the rights and freedom of the Macao SAR residents at the constitutional level and the protection of all human rights is concretely implemented through the laws of the Macao SAR.
Since the Macao SAR Government accepted the first round of the Universal Periodic Review in 2009, they have continued expanding resources for the optimisation of all policies and measures in the area of livelihood on the basis of their existing work, for instance, the social protection system, medical treatment and education, including free education for 15 years and the subsidisation of residents for continuing education; the enhancement of society's knowledge and protection of human rights through education, propaganda and promotional activities and the consolidation of protection for the elderly, children, the disabled and the underprivileged; and the implementation of the construction of 19,000 public houses for assisting residents in solving their housing problems. In addition, the Government has been formulating multiple laws and statutes for the sake of building a responsible, highly effective and honest administrative team for the Government and expanding the construction of an honest administration for safeguarding social justice.
The Macao SAR Government will continue to promote the stable development of the whole economy and ensure that the lawful rights and interests of the residents and protected.
The governments of the Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions have respectively written their parts of the national report and have sent high-level representatives to today's session. They will answer questions related to Hong Kong and Macau respectively in the interactive dialogue.
Given the limited time, it is impossible for me to elaborate on all the efforts China has made over the past four years in promoting and protecting human rights, nor can I go through each and every challenge and difficulty we face. In the upcoming interactive dialogue, the Chinese delegation is ready to answer questions from all countries in a sincere and candid manner, including the advance questions from the Troika. We also encourage you to carefully read China's National Report on Human Rights, the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015) and the white paper on the Progress in China's Human Rights in 2012 and visit the Photo Exhibition on the Achievements of China's Human Rights outside the meeting hall to get more information about the development of the human rights cause in China.
Thank you, Mr. President.