China on Monday touted "tremendous achievements" in human rights, citing legal improvements, poverty alleviation, freedom of speech and protection for minorities, even as campaign groups point to a tough crackdown on dissent and civil society.
"The tremendous achievements China has made in its human rights endeavours fully demonstrate that it is taking the correct path of human rights development that suits its national conditions," said the report."Progress in China's Human Rights in 2014" was issued by the State Council Information Office, a think tank under China's Cabinet.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, the report has been released 12 times since 1991. It last came out in 2013.It was released as China has made more robust efforts in recent years to deflect foreign criticism of its rights record, such as issuing its own report on human rights in the United States as a rebuttal to the US State Department's assessment of the situation in China.
China, under the rule of the Communist Party, has traditionally stressed the collective nature of human rights as opposed to the largely individual approach of Western-style democracies.International economic organisations including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have lauded Beijing for strides made in lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty in the more than three decades since it embarked on economic reform and opening up.
Human rights groups have lambasted China for a harsh crackdown against critics of the ruling party that has seen scores of journalists, lawyers and academics detained and dozens jailed as well as taken it to task over what Human Rights Watch (HRW) on May said was "appalling" torture carried out by Chinese police on criminal suspects.The report said that legal and judicial reforms were proceeding and stated flatly that: "The rights of the accused, detainees and criminals are protected".
It cited as an example the use of audio and video recordings of interrogations. HRW said in May, however, that such videos are prone to manipulation. "Progress in China's Human Rights in 2014" relies on copious data to back up progress, such as citing as evidence of improved living standards a slew of figures including last year's annual economic growth of 7.4 % though does not mention that it was the slowest rate of increase since 1990.
The report also cites the establishment of a "China Poverty Alleviation Day" in a section on reducing poverty, and included what it described as efforts to build "138 bridges to replace ropeways in seven provinces and regions" as progress.Regarding freedom of speech, the report provided figures for the numbers of newspapers, magazine and books published, as well statistics for Internet and social media users.
But it did not mention what monitoring groups and governments decry as a vast network of online censorship and control dubbed the Great Firewall of China. In terms of minority rights, the report cited the numbers of places for religious worship in Tibet and figures for the number of Chinese Muslims who made the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia last year as examples of how the right to worship for minorities is guaranteed.