- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - China released its first human rights action plan Monday, pledging to improve the treatment of minorities and do more to prevent detainee torture and address concerns that have sparked international outcries.

The two-year plan promises the communist government will do more to prevent illegal detention and torture, and to boost the overall living standard of minorities, women, the unemployed and the disabled.

But it also states that a primary goal remains ensuring Chinese people have the right to make money.

“While respecting the universal principles of human rights, the Chinese government in the light of the basic realities of China, gives priority to the protection of the people’s rights to subsistence and development,” said an introduction to the document released by the official Xinhua News Agency.

China has been criticized by other governments, the United Nations and activists for aggressively promoting economic reform over the past few decades while falling short on basic human rights such as freedom of speech, religion and the right to a fair trial.

The government responds to such criticism by pointing to its accomplishments in raising living standards for hundreds of millions of people.

China drew up the plan as part of preparations for its first examination before the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this year.

Joshua Rosenzweig, research manager for the Dui Hua Foundation, a U.S.-based human rights group, said the plan was notable because it seemed to have more input from academics, activists and other elements of civil society than the government’s previous human rights reports.

He also said issuing a plan with benchmarks, instead of a report summing up past progress, was also an “important step.”

But he criticized the government for setting modest goals and not including more specifics.

The plan reiterates many of China’s existing policies, such as opposition to torture and illegal detention but doesn’t outline how it will combat those problems.

“They have set some pretty soft targets for themselves,” Rosenzweig said.

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