Full Text: Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China

Human Rights
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China on Sunday published a white paper titled "Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China."

XinhuaUpdated: September 23, 2019

V. Protecting the Rights of Special Groups

Over the 70 years since the founding of the PRC, China has, based on its conditions, adopted targeted measures to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic minority groups, women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, ensuring their equal status and giving them the equal opportunity to participate in social life and enjoy the fruits of the country's material and cultural progress. 

China effectively guarantees ethnic minority rights in administering state affairs. All 55 ethnic minority groups have deputies at the NPC and members in the CPPCC National Committee. The 13th NPC has 438 deputies from ethnic minority groups, accounting for 14.7 percent of the total number of deputies. In recent years, among the candidates passing the national civil service admission examination, ethnic minority candidates made up more than 13 percent, higher than the ethnic minority population ratio in the country (8.49 percent). The ethnic autonomous areas enjoy the right of autonomy in a wide range of fields as prescribed by law: politics, economy, education, science and technology, culture and health. In addition to the powers assigned to local authorities, the people's congresses of ethnic autonomous areas also have the power to enact regulations on the exercise of autonomy and other separate regulations in the light of the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the ethnic group or ethnic groups in the areas concerned. 

The standing committees of all the people's congresses in the 155 ethnic autonomous areas have members of ethnic groups exercising regional autonomy acting as director or deputy director. The chairpersons of autonomous regions, governors of autonomous prefectures, and heads of autonomous counties are all citizens from the ethnic groups exercising regional autonomy of the said areas. 

The ethnic minorities and ethnic minority areas have leapfrogged in social and economic development. Over the last 70 years, the state has treated the social and economic development of ethnic minorities and ethnic minority areas as an important element of national development. Through a series of strategic measures such as large-scale development of western China, actions to enrich border areas and their residents, efforts to develop smaller ethnic groups, efforts to preserve and promote ethnic minority style villages and towns, paired-up assistance, and special planning for ethnic minority undertakings, the Chinese government has increased its investment in the fight against poverty in ethnic minority areas, which has given a significant boost to local social and economic development. The total GDP of the five autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia and Xinjiang, and the three provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai where there are a large number of ethnic minorities reached RMB9.06 trillion in 2018, an increase of 7.2 percent over 2017, which was 0.6 percentage point higher than the national average. The impoverished population in these regions dropped to 6.03 million, with the incidence of poverty reduced to 4 percent. Infrastructure, public services, and living conditions in ethnic minority areas are seeing rapid progress. 

Education for ethnic minorities and in ethnic minority areas has developed rapidly. China has adopted a series of measures to improve educational equality and ensure ethnic minorities' right to education. These measures include: opening schools for students from ethnic minority groups, opening preparatory courses and special classes for ethnic minorities at colleges and schools in other provinces and municipalities, giving preferential treatment to students from ethnic minority groups when they take exams to enter higher levels of education, running residential schools in farming and pastoral areas, and prioritizing ethnic minority areas in higher education development. Nine-year compulsory education (elementary and junior high schools) is universal in ethnic minority areas. In Tibet Autonomous Region and south Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, students are exempt from charges for education for a total of 15 years from preschool to senior high school. In Xinjiang in 2018, the gross preschool education enrolment rate reached 96.86 percent and the net primary education enrolment rate was 99.94 percent.

The freedom of ethnic minorities to use and develop their own spoken and written languages is fully protected. In China, with the exception of the Hui and Manchu peoples who generally use Han Chinese, the other 53 ethnic minorities have their own spoken languages, and 22 groups use a total of 28 written scripts. The state protects by law the legitimate use of the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities in the areas of administration and judicature, press and publishing, radio, film and television, and culture and education. It has established a database for the endangered languages of ethnic minority groups, and initiated the Program for Protecting China's Language Resources. As of March 2019, there were 714 radio and television stations in ethnic autonomous areas. The broadcasting stations across the country run 46 television channels and 56 radio programs in ethnic minority languages. The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region publishes newspapers, books, audios, videos, and electronic publications in Han Chinese, Uygur, Kazakh, Kyrghyz, Mongolian and Xibo languages, and uses various spoken and written languages in radio and television programs. The state provides bilingual education in ethnic minority areas, forming a basic bilingual education system that extends from preschool to senior high school. In 2018, there were 6,521 primary and middle schools catering to ethnic minority students in China, giving courses in both Han Chinese and ethnic minority languages, with 206,000 full-time teachers teaching such courses to 3.09 million students.

Cultural heritage and relics of ethnic minorities are effectively protected. Traditional ethnic minority cultures are important components of Chinese culture, and the common cultural wealth of the whole nation. The Chinese government has promulgated laws, established specialized government bodies, and increased spending to inherit, pass on, and develop the cultures of ethnic minority groups. The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace of Lhasa, Old Town of Lijiang, Site of Xanadu, Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, and Tusi Sites are all included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Of all the cultural items from China included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, 21 are related to ethnic minorities. At national level, 492 (36 percent) of the 1,372 cultural items included to date in China's intangible cultural heritage list are related to ethnic minorities. Of the 3,068 representative trustees of China's intangible cultural heritage, 862 (28 percent) are from ethnic minority groups. China has set up 21 national-level cultural preservation experimental areas, 11 of which are located in ethnic minority areas. Twenty-five provinces and equivalent administrative units have institutions that catalogue and study ancient classics and recordings of ethnic minorities. By 2018, about one million privately-held ethnic minority ancient classics and recordings (excluding books collected in museums and temples), including many rare editions, some of which only had a single extant copy, had been rescued and catalogued. China has launched the compilation of Collection of Ancient Classics and Recordings of Chinese Ethnic Minorities, including about 300,000 books. 

Religious freedoms of ethnic minority groups are protected. Normal religious activities and religious beliefs of ethnic minorities are protected by law, and their normal religious needs are satisfied. China has published translations of the religious classics of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and other religions in multiple languages. Tibet Autonomous Region has 1,787 venues for practicing Tibetan Buddhism, and over 46,000 resident monks and nuns. The state has issued the Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism. The Living Buddha reincarnation is a succession system unique to Tibetan Buddhism, and is respected by the state and governments at different levels of the autonomous region. Tibet now has 358 Living Buddhas, 91 of whom have been approved and confirmed through historical conventions and traditional religious rituals. The system whereby Tibetan Buddhist monks study sutras has been improved. The state has issued the Measures on the Conferment of Academic Titles in Tibetan Buddhism (Trial). By 2018 a total of 117 monks from Tibet had received senior academic titles in Lhasa and 68 from the High-level Tibetan Buddhism College of China, Beijing. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has 24,800 venues for practicing religious activities, including 24,400 mosques, and 29,300 clerical personnel. Students can receive undergraduate education in Xinjiang Islamic Institute. More than 1.76 million copies of the Quran and Selections from Sahih of al-Buhari have been distributed. The hajj is well planned, organized and conducted to ensure a safe and orderly pilgrimage.

The protection of women and children is improving. The Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests and the Law on the Protection of Minors lay the legal foundations in this area. The Chinese government has enacted three guidelines on women's development and three on children's development, advocating and ensuring gender equality and strengthening the protection of children's rights. It works harder to protect the rights and interests of women employees, such as the right to work and to safety at work, and maternity benefits. It forcefully punishes sexual assaults on and maltreatment of minors, and trafficking of women and children. It promotes mechanisms preventing sexual criminals from engaging in restricted occupations, and compulsory reporting of campus sexual assaults. The state has promulgated the Anti-Domestic Violence Law, which protects the legal rights and interests of woman and other family members through compulsory reporting, admonition from public security organs, personal protection order, emergency protection and other measures. The government makes every effort to ensure school safety, punishing school violence and bullying. It intensifies supervision over the duties of the parents or other entrusted guardians of left-behind children whose parents work in other places and takes strict action on any crimes against this group of children. China makes full use of advanced technologies like the internet to rescue abducted children. It has established a DNA bank for abducted children, set up a missing children information release platform managed by the Ministry of Public Security, and activated a joint urgent rescue mechanism for missing children.

The protection of women and children's right to health is improving. Before the founding of the PRC in 1949, the maternal and perinatal mortality rate was over 1,500 per 100,000, the infant mortality rate was 200 per 1,000, and the anticipated life expectancy of women was only 36.7 years. After 1949, the situation improved considerably. The anticipated life expectancy of women in 2015 rose to 79.43 years. In 2018 the maternal and perinatal mortality rate dropped to 18.3 per 100,000, and the infant mortality rate fell to 6.1 per 1,000. Nutritional improvement projects for children in impoverished areas were launched in 2012, benefiting 7.22 million children from 715 impoverished counties in 14 national contiguous impoverished regions of 21 provinces and equivalent administrative units. The government has launched a program of free cervical and breast cancer checkups for women, and brought the two into the scope of national subsidies for serious illnesses. By 2018 China had provided free cervical cancer checkups for 100 million and free breast cancer checkups for 30 million, and subsidized 132,200 impoverished rural women with diseases using over RMB1.3 billion collected through public welfare lotteries and social funds, to the sum of RMB10,000 each person. It has increased the investment for health care of women and children in rural, remote or border areas, and has subsidized more than 74 million rural women for their expenses of hospitalization during childbirth. The government has initiated the "Water Cellar for Mothers" program to provide reliable sources of drinking water for people, especially women, in the western regions of China, and the "Health Express for Mothers" program to provide medical and health services to the women and children in impoverished areas.

Women's rights to participation in the administration of public affairs and social and economic development are protected. Women are guaranteed the right to participate in the administration and deliberation of state affairs. The 13th NPC has 742 female deputies, accounting for 24.9 percent of the total, 12.9 percentage points higher than the figure for the First NPC in 1954. And the 13th CPPCC National Committee has 440 female members, making up 20.4 percent of the total, 14.3 percentage points higher than that for the First CPPCC National Committee in 1949. Since the 1990s, every CPC National Congress has attached importance to training and selecting female officials. The number of female civil servants was 65,000 in 1950; this figure had increased to 1.93 million, or 26.8 percent of all civil servants, by 2018. 

The mechanism for protecting the rights and interests of the elderly is improving. China works to ensure the interests of the elderly, and advocates the virtues of respecting, providing for and assisting the elderly. In 2018, some 249 million Chinese were aged 60 or above, accounting for 17.9 percent of the total population. China formulated and amended the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, forming a legal and policy framework for old-age care.

Many of China's elderly were cared for in nursing homes previously. Now, a new system for the elderly is taking shape, where the elderly are provided with home care, taken care of by community and supported by social services, featuring a combination of nursing at home and mutual help. In March 2019, China had 168,100 institutions and facilities with 7.32 million beds to provide old-age services, in contrast with just 7,000 in 1978. In 2018, 29.72 million senior citizens received advanced age subsidies, 748,000 nursing subsidies, 5.2 million old-age service subsidies, and 30,000 other old-age subsidies.

The social security system for persons with disabilities is improving. China has established a subsidy system to provide for the living expenses of disabled persons in need and to pay the nursing costs of persons with severe disabilities. In 2018, this system benefitted over 21 million. A total of 25.61 million persons with disabilities were covered in old-age insurance schemes in both urban and rural areas, with 10.24 million receiving old-age pensions, and 9.25 million people with disabilities received urban or rural minimum living subsidies. And 5.76 million (96.8 percent) out of the 5.95 million people with severe disabilities received insurance subsidies from the government, which paid for their premiums. The government also paid fully or partly for premiums for another 2.98 million people with mild or moderate disabilities. 

Rehabilitation is universally available to persons with disabilities. China makes concerted efforts in preventing disability, and works hard to improve rehabilitation services, in pursuit of the goal that "everyone in need has access to rehabilitation services". The government has enacted the Regulations on the Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, built up rehabilitation centers and fostered professionals capable of delivering consistent quality services. In 2018, there were 914 rehabilitation facilities at the provincial, city and county levels, and 9,036 rehabilitation service centers for persons with disabilities employed a team of 250,000 workers, and community rehabilitation services were provided in 2,750 counties (cities or districts). An assistance mechanism for providing rehabilitation services to children with disabilities has been established. In 2018, 79.8 percent of persons with disabilities were covered by rehabilitation services. Some 10.75 million disabled children and persons with certified disabilities received basic rehabilitation services. 

The right to employment of persons with disabilities is guaranteed. China has established offices to serve persons with disabilities seeking employment. In 2018, there were 2,787 such offices with a staff of 15,000. The government has launched a program on employment skills training for persons with disabilities, setting up 500 national-level and 350 provincial-level vocational training bases. In 2018, another 494,000 persons with disabilities took part in training sessions. In recent years the number and the profile of disabled persons in employment have remained stable, with over 300,000 entering the workforce each year. In 2018, 367,000 persons with certified disabilities found jobs, of whom 118,000 were from urban areas and 249,000 from rural areas. That year, 9.48 million persons with certified disabilities were employed in urban and rural areas.

China gives strong support to creating an accessible environment and providing assistive appliances. The Chinese government enacted the Regulations on the Building of an Accessible Environment in 2012. To this end, 1,702 cities and counties are making efforts to improve accessibility and remove barriers, and among comprehensive service facilities in villages or communities across the country, 75 percent of entrances and exits, 40 percent of service counters, and 30 percent of restrooms have been equipped or upgraded for accessibility. Between 2016 and 2018, the government helped almost 3 million families with disabled members adapt their homes. 

The government is also promoting information accessibility. By 2018, over 500 government departments had built accessible public service platforms, and more than 30,000 websites on government affairs and public services had removed barriers for persons with disabilities. 

Local governments have formulated subsidy measures and subsidized those who purchase or supply assistive appliances and adaption services. In 2018, 3.19 million persons with disabilities benefited from adaption services for assistive devices such as white canes, visual aids and artificial limbs. 

The government has relaxed the restrictions preventing persons with disabilities from applying for a driving license, and 279,000 people with physical or hearing disabilities have gained driving licenses, which grants them further mobility and improves their ability to participate in social life. 

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