SCIO briefing on the launch and implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2021-2025)
Beijing | 2 p.m. Sept. 14, 2021

The State Council Information Office (SCIO) held a press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday about the launch and implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2021-2025).

Speakers

Li Xiaojun, director for publicity of the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the State Council Information Office

Li Xiaomei, special representative for human rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Bie Tao, director general of the Department of Laws, Regulations and Standards of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment

Chang Jian, professor of human rights studies at Nankai University and director of the Human Rights Research Center of Nankai University

Chairperson

Xing Huina, deputy director general of the Press Bureau of the State Council Information Office (SCIO) and spokesperson of the SCIO

Read in Chinese

Speakers:

Li Xiaojun, director and second-level inspector of the Publicity Department of the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the State Council Information Office (SCIO) 

Li Xiaomei, special representative for human rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Bie Tao, director general of the Department of Laws, Regulations and Standards in the Ministry of Ecology and Environment

Chang Jian, professor and director of the Research Center for Human Rights of Nankai University 

Chairperson:

Xing Huina, deputy head of the Press Bureau of the SCIO and spokesperson of the SCIO

Date:

Sept 14, 2021

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Xing Huina:

Friends from the media, good afternoon. Welcome to today's briefing held by the State Council Information Office (SCIO), which will expound on the Human Rights Action Plan of China (2021-2025). The speakers at today's briefing are Mr. Li Xiaojun, director and second-level inspector of the Publicity Department of the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the SCIO; Ms. Li Xiaomei, special representative for human rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Bie Tao, director general of the Department of Laws, Regulations and Standards in the Ministry of Ecology and Environment; and Chang Jian, professor and director of the Research Center for Human Rights of Nankai University. The speakers will first give you a brief rundown and then take your questions. First, I will give the floor to Mr. Li Xiaojun. 

Li Xiaojun:

Friends from the media, good afternoon. The realization of all-round moderate prosperity is an extraordinary human rights achievement that China has made and a new starting point on the country's quest for human rights. The National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2021-2025) is born of the times. It is a phased policy document for the Chinese government to implement the principle of "respecting and protecting human rights" from the Constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Constitution, and to implement "promoting comprehensive progress in human rights" as proposed during the Fifth Plenum of the 19th CPC Central Committee. It is the first declaration and road map to respect and protect human rights on the new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country. This is the fourth national human rights action plan issued and implemented by the Chinese government.

This action plan highlights characteristics and favorable conditions of advancing the cause of human rights in China. It has four main features.

First, the formulation and implementation of the action plan is guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. We have implemented General Secretary Xi's important expositions on human rights and stayed committed to a people-centered philosophy of development, believing that a happy life for the people is the most important human right. We defined new objectives and missions to meet new expectations in a new stage, working to resolve the most pressing difficulties and problems which are of great concern to the people. For example, in protecting the right to health, the plan proposes providing a complete range of health services to the people throughout their lifespan; it sets new targets and tasks to meet the people's ever-growing cultural needs after the realization of moderate prosperity; and it protects the right to education for ethnic minority groups and promotes standard spoken and written Chinese in ethnic minority areas while protecting their right to learn, use and develop their own spoken and written languages. 

Second, it reflects characteristics of the all-round development of China's human rights cause in the new era. Covering multiple areas, the action plan includes eight sections: introduction, economic, social and cultural rights, civil and political rights, environmental rights, protecting the rights of particular groups, education and research on human rights, participating in global human rights governance, and implementation, supervision and assessment. Nearly 200 objectives and tasks are proposed. Compared with the previous edition, the length of the fourth action plan has been greatly increased, and nearly 30 objectives and tasks have been added, of which indicators with obligatory objectives account for approximately one third. The new action plan reflects China's characteristics, favorable conditions and confidence in human rights theories, systems for respecting and protecting human rights, the human rights development path, and human rights culture.

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Third, it highlights the eco-environmental rights. Protection of the ecology and environment is an important part of Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization and an integral part of building China into a modern socialist country. People's demands for a beautiful environment are growing, and the international community is also very concerned about that. This action plan sets out a separate section on "environmental rights," which was included in the "economic, social and cultural rights" section in the previous three action plans.

Fourth, the action plan is easy to implement. The action plan has put forward different targets and tasks for different categories of human rights. There are both qualitative and quantitative indicators, both binding and non-binding ones, and both periodic and long-term ones. It focuses on the continuity and operability of implementation. For example, there are long-term targets such as connecting poverty alleviation with rural vitalization; continuously upgrading reading services; promoting on-campus education, specialized research, and training on human rights as well as public understanding of human rights. The action plan also sets the tasks of establishing three more national human rights education and training bases and launching three new national research bases for human rights.

China's human rights action plan has set a new and good example globally. Although more than 60 countries around the world have formulated national human rights action plans, only China, Indonesia, and Mexico have made such action plans for four consecutive terms. Countries such as the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, and Japan haven't formulated any national action plan on human rights yet. I hereby call on countries that engage in loud, empty talks on human rights to formulate their own national action plans based on international standards and make solid efforts to protect the human rights of their own people.

Looking forward, we believe that, with the efforts of the over 40 member parties of the action plan's joint meeting mechanism, the implementation work of all local governments, and the joint efforts of all sectors of society, the Human Rights Action Plan of China (2021-2025) will achieve the goal of "promoting comprehensive development of the human rights cause" and will become a highlight in China's new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country. Thank you.

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Xing Huina:

Thank you, Mr. Li Xiaojun. Next, I'll give the floor to Ms. Li Xiaomei.

Li Xiaomei:

Friends from the media, good afternoon. It is a great honor to participate in this briefing on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Based on the newly issued human rights action plan, in the next five years, China will open a new chapter in international exchanges and cooperation on the human rights cause.

First, China will earnestly fulfill its international human rights obligations. China attaches great importance to the role international human rights instruments play in promoting and protecting human rights. China incorporates the principle of universality of human rights into its national conditions, continuously promotes economic and social development, improves the people's wellbeing, promotes social equity and justice, and strengthens legal protection for human rights. As the world's biggest developing country, the development of China's human rights cause itself is already the country's biggest contribution to the international human rights cause. China is willing to share its practices on human rights with the world. It will submit its performance reports concerning human rights treaties in a timely manner, participate in the relevant review process, join in constructive dialogue with human rights treaty bodies, and adopt and implement suggestions that are reasonable and feasible in the Chinese context.

Second, China will engage substantially in the work of the United Nations (UN) human rights bodies. China plans to campaign for 2024-2026 membership of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It advocates that UN human rights bodies uphold the principle of being impartial, objective, and non-selective, promote all kinds of human rights in an equal and systematic manner, explicitly oppose the politicalization of human rights issues and double standards, and continue to encourage the promotion of human rights through peace, development, cooperation, and equity. China will earnestly implement the proposals it accepted during the UNHRC's third round Universal Periodic Review for China and participate actively in the fourth round review. China will continue to recommend Chinese experts to apply for the posts of the Special Procedures of the UNHRC and advance efforts to address the imbalance in the geographical representation of experts of the special procedures.

Third, China will carry out constructive dialogue and cooperation in human rights. China is committed to engaging in human rights dialogue and consultations and promoting international human rights exchanges and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, openness, inclusiveness, communication, and mutual learning. China will continue to host international and regional human rights forums and symposiums to enhance mutual understanding, exchanges, and mutual learning among different parties on the issue. China will also continue to cooperate with the UN's human rights mechanisms and encourage them to fulfill their duty in an objective and fair manner and to pay attention to the concerns of developing countries.

Fourth, China will participate substantially in global human rights governance. Promoting and protecting human rights is a shared cause of all countries. In this sense, global human rights governance requires the joint consultation of all countries, and the results of human rights development should be shared by all people around the world. China will continue to encourage all parties to adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and respect the rights of a country to independently choose its human rights development path that suits its national realities. China will continue to actively engage in creating rules and setting international agendas in the fields of human rights to advocate a fair, just, reasonable, and effective international human rights system.

Standing at the historic confluence period of the "Two Centenary Goals" and facing the world's profound changes unseen in a century, China will work to promote the comprehensive development of human rights, contribute its ideas and solutions to the human rights development around the world, advocate the shared human values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, at a new historical point. Thank you.

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Xing Huina:

Thank you, Ms. Li. Next, I'll give the floor to Mr. Bie Tao.

Bie Tao:

Friends from the press, good afternoon. The Human Rights Action Plan of China (2021-2025) is the fourth successive edition of its kind issued by the Chinese government. Environmental rights have been included in all four editions of the plan since the first edition was issued 12 years ago. Mr. Li Xiaojun just mentioned that the protection of environmental rights is an important feature of China's human rights protection.  

As for the relationship between human rights protection and environmental rights and interests, I would like to give some of my basic personal judgments for your reference from the perspective of environmental protection. First, the comprehensive protection of human rights includes the protection of the public's environmental rights. Second, effective protection of environmental rights is impossible without sound and law-based environmental governance. Third, China's legislation, administration and judicature have always attached importance to the protection of environmental rights and interests. Fourth, since the 18th CPC National Congress, many laws have been revised. We revised the Environmental Protection Law in 2014, and we have modified the Law on Atmospheric Pollution Prevention and Control, the Law on Water Pollution Prevention and Control and the Law on Solid Waste Pollution Prevention and Control in recent years. We have also revised the Law on Soil Pollution Prevention and Control, with the revision of the laws on noise pollution prevention and control and on nuclear safety, the formulation and revision of other relevant laws underway. It's fair to say that nowadays, China's legislation, law enforcement and judicial system have provided just, fair and effective protection. Areas of protection include: substantive environmental rights, like fresh air, clean drinking water and unpolluted soil; procedural environmental rights, such as the right to know, to participate and to supervise regarding the environment; preventive environmental rights, including environmental impact assessments for plans and public participation in hearings; remedial environmental rights, such as consultation, litigation and other procedural rules; the environmental rights of individual citizens concerning their personal interests; and the collective environmental rights of NGOs and other environmental social organizations.

Just now, Mr. Li Xiaojun mentioned the word "confidence", with which I quite agree. Today, we can say with confidence and pride that after nearly 50 years of efforts since the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was adopted in 1972, China no longer lags behind any other countries in terms of the legal protection of environmental rights.

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Regarding the legal safeguards for environmental human rights, China has effectively safeguarded the public's environmental rights by taking a series of actions including tackling climate change, controlling ecological deterioration and preventing and controlling environmental pollution. After 12 years of continuous endeavors, national human rights action plans have yielded remarkable results in environmental rights protection. This mainly includes improving the law-based governance on the ecological environment, ensuing the public's environmental rights and interests, solving livelihood-related environmental issues, enhancing the ecological environment quality, and effectively safeguarding public health. All of these have notably increased the public's sense of gain, happiness and security in the ecological environment, which constitutes a highlight in China's human rights protection.  

The new five-year Human Rights Action Plan (2021-2025) includes "environmental rights" as a separate chapter, right after the chapters of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights. At the same time, the regulations on environmental rights in the new action plan have also been expanded and enriched. We have reviewed previous action plans and found that the "one aspect, seven tasks" of environmental rights set out in the first edition in 2009 have been expanded to "six aspects, 18 tasks" in the latest fourth edition. You are welcome to glance over them. The contents of the new action plan are richer with more systematic and comprehensive deployments, and they play a pioneering and guiding role, which I think is of great practical significance.  

The new Human Rights Action Plan has not only modified its structure and chapters, but also updated its contents. The action plan demonstrates that the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core holds that ecological conservation is of fundamental importance to the sustainable development of the Chinese nation, adheres to the people-centered development philosophy, vigorously promotes innovation in theory, practice and system involving ecological progress, and forms Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization. This thought serves as the fundamental basis for us to safeguard the public's environmental rights and interests.  

Now we are all studying Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization, especially those of us in environmental protection departments. I have learned that ecological protection work in the new era is closely related to environmental rights and interests, which, in my opinion, is mainly reflected in the following four aspects.

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First, people's livelihoods. We say that the environment is the basis of people's livelihoods. Developing the economy is for people's well-being, and so is protecting the environment. We should not only create more material wealth to meet people's ever-growing needs for a better life, but also provide more high-quality ecological products to meet people's ever-growing needs for a beautiful ecological environment. In particular, we are exploring new methods for the environment and health to enhance each other and address prominent environmental problems that undermine people's health. The revised Environmental Protection Law makes protecting public health its purpose. Apart from the general principles, the law stipulates in its specific rules that the country should establish and improve the monitoring, investigation and risk assessment mechanism of the environment and health, carry out studies about the impacts of environmental quality on health, and prevent and control various environment-related diseases. The country has also formulated, published and adjusted the lists of toxic and harmful pollutants according to the latest risk assessments of their impacts to the environment and human health. 

Second, fairness. A good ecological environment is the fairest public product and provides inclusive wellbeing for the people. Therefore, we need to coordinate eco-environmental protection in rural and urban areas. We will take further actions to tackle atmospheric pollution in cities, such as PM2.5 intensity that has concerned many people. We will pay attention to resolving water pollution in river basins and regions, including odor pollution and black and fetid water bodies. We will also speed up to tackle pollution from non-point source and soil pollution that has affected people's living environment in rural areas. By doing these, equal access to basic public environmental services between urban and rural areas will be promoted, which embodies fairness in environment.

Third, openness or participation. Ecological civilization is a cause that all people participate in, work together for and benefit from. It requires us to turn the "Beautiful China" campaign into a voluntary action by all. Everyone should be a protector, builder, and beneficiary of the eco-environment, rather than a mere spectator, outsider, and critic. We will carry out public green actions and encourage the entire society to make more contributions to eco-environmental protection. This year, Chinese environmental protection authorities launched an activity with the theme of "Beautiful China: I'm a doer." And I'd like to ask you to follow its progress. China's Environmental Protection Law includes public participation as one of the basic principles in the general provisions. Its Chapter Five - Environmental Information Disclosure and Public Participation - stipulates the basic government responsibility on environmental protection, including disclosing environmental information to the public in a unified and scheduled manner. Every year, the State Council releases data from all government departments and compiles a communique on the environmental situation, as do all local governments. Environmental protection authorities and other relevant departments need to release public environmental information collected when they perform their functions, while enterprises are asked to disclose their environmental information affecting public rights, interests, and health. As economic entities, enterprises may discharge pollutants during operational activities, which may affect the public environment or cause hazards to public health. On these occasions, they have an obligation to disclose the type, quantity, concentration, and disposition of the pollutants. In particular, some listed companies, bond issuers, heavy-polluting units listed on the key supervision list, and enterprises punished for breaking the law must disclose their environmental information, including rectification plans. The current environmental protection inspection launched by the central government has fully disclosed environmental violations in typical cases and urged relevant polluters to make rectification plans to guarantee people's right to be informed, and to participate in and supervise environmental protection.

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Construction units are also asked to disclose environmental information and solicit public opinions if the construction projects affect public health or the environment. The public has the right to participate in the supervision and decision-making of relevant projects in accordance with the law, as well as apply for formal hearings and investigations in some major projects according to the law. We encourage the public to report environmental violations and promise to protect their information, safeguard their legal rights and interests, and severely punish the retaliation against informants. One thing to note particularly is that besides the mechanisms ensuring the public to know, participate, and supervise, we are also exploring a public interest litigation system. The system allows environmental protection organizations, even if not directly victimized, to file public welfare lawsuits against illegal enterprises in people's courts, and request state organs to order law violators to stop encroachment and repair the affected eco-environment.

Fourth, global mindset, which I won't give a further explanation on.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has implemented General Secretary Xi Jinping's instructions such as "protecting the environment requires the best institutional arrangements and the strictest rule of law" and "tackling pollution according to law," and maintained a people-centered approach to protect the environment. First, we have achieved prominent progress on high-quality legislation of eco-environmental protection, which consolidated the legal guarantee of public environmental rights and interests. Second, we have improved the ecological and environmental standard system. Third, we have deepened the reform of the compensation system for ecological and environmental damage. It's natural for enterprises to pursue interests when doing business, but they shall be liable for repair and compensation in accordance with laws if they damage the public environment, natural resources, and eco-environment or harm the interests of others.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), China's ecological and environmental system will continue to earnestly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization and Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law. We will meet the overall requirements of reducing pollution and carbon emissions, accelerate green and low-carbon development, further improve ecological and environmental quality, effectively protect public health, and safeguard the public's environmental rights and interests, thus contributing to building a beautiful China where humanity and nature harmoniously co-exist. Thank you.

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Xing Huina:

Thank you, Mr. Bie. Now, let's give the floor to Mr. Chang Jian.

Chang Jian:

Good afternoon, everyone. This action plan is the fourth of its kind and is characterized by the combination of comprehensiveness and emphasis, inheritance and innovation, and consolidation and improvement. Based on my own research, I will briefly analyze the highlights of this action plan on the aspects of civil rights, political rights, the rights of particular groups, and human rights education and research.

On civil rights, the action plan stresses improving guarantees for the right to life in emergencies, implementing the principle of injuncting any (imminent) infringement of the right to dignity, punishing "soft violence" as a crime, improving the legal system protecting personal information, and facilitating the participation of migrant populations in elections.

On political rights, the action plan stresses developing whole-process people's democracy, expanding the space for citizens' independent participation and free development, and creating a more solid democratic and legal foundation for achieving the free, well-rounded and common development of all individuals.

On the rights of particular groups, the action plan stresses reinforcing the equal protection of their rights and interests, providing them with extra assistance, and introducing a mechanism to protect their rights in both their everyday work and on special occasions. It also states that for behaviors undermining the legitimate rights and interests of a number of unspecified women, the prosecuting bodies can make procuratorial suggestions or initiate public interest lawsuits; corporal punishment in any form is not allowed against minors, and efforts should be made to prevent and stop cyberbullying and school bullying; and care should be provided for incapacitated elderly and people with dementia at an advanced age, elderly-friendly homes should be built, intelligent services should be provided for the elderly, and work should be done to ensure all have an equal share in the fruits of development.

According to the plan, China will conduct extensive research, education and training in human rights, and build awareness in this field, and also create a social atmosphere of respecting and protecting human rights. The plan states that China will set up training centers for human rights teachers in normal universities on a trial basis, and carry out pilot programs to develop national human rights education and training bases in international education centers for human rights. China will support the establishment of national human rights institutions within the systems of social science academies and Party schools (academies of governance), explore methods to select outstanding agencies for training civil servants in human rights, and select model enterprises in human rights training. Thank you for your attention.

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Xing Huina:

Thank you, Mr. Chang. As the four speakers have finished their introductions, the floor is now open for questions. Please identify your media outlet before asking your question.

China Central Television:

Are there any specific goals or plans for consolidating the fruits of poverty alleviation and achieving common prosperity? Thank you.

Li Xiaojun:

Consolidating the fruits of poverty alleviation, implementing the rural vitalization strategy and carrying out rural vitalization construction are the prerequisites for achieving common prosperity for all. In particular, China will further support the development of formerly impoverished areas by ensuring access to affordable and safe housing, clean water, safe and secure supplies of food, and convenient transport.

In terms of employment, we will secure stable jobs for people raised out of poverty. For example, subsidized jobs in rural areas will be put to better use through improved coordination. On education, the responsibility system will be improved to prevent school dropouts and increase the completion rate of compulsory education. Conditions of small village schools and boarding schools in towns and townships will also be improved. The policy of financial aid for students from impoverished families and the nutrition improvement plan for rural students receiving compulsory education will continue. On medical care, the Healthy China initiative will be fully implemented to provide a complete range of health services to people throughout their lives.

We will improve care for the elderly and children. For people facing financial difficulties, such as those living on subsistence allowances, those who are severely impoverished, those who fell into poverty and those who have serious disabilities, the government will cover part or all of their premiums in the basic pension scheme. The government will also provide better care for orphans and abandoned children, as well as care and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities.

China will improve financial aid and support for severely impoverished rural residents through higher-quality relief services.

Moreover, to meet the demands of farmers and herdsmen for quality of life and cultural activities, we will improve the network of cultural infrastructure in rural areas, and build more comprehensive cultural stations in townships, as well as comprehensive cultural service centers in rural communities. Thank you.

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People's Daily:

As China's economy has moved to a stage of high-quality development, how will the action plan meet people's new pursuits for human rights.

Li Xiaojun:

This is a broad question. A happy life is the most important human right for the people. At its fifth plenary session, the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) stressed promoting the all-round development of the cause of human rights, which aims to ensure that all Chinese people can live a good life and to promote the free, well-rounded and common development of all individuals. Therefore, the action plan aims to resolve the pressing difficulties and problems which are of the greatest concern to the people, and ensure that they can enjoy better education, more stable jobs, more satisfactory incomes, more reliable social security, higher-levels of medical care, more comfortable living conditions, more practical democratic and political rights, as well as a better ecological environment. It is aimed at achieving common prosperity and meeting people's aspirations for a better life. The action plan guarantees the human rights of all people and provides special protection for particular groups such as ethnic minorities, women, children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. China not only engages in human rights affairs domestically, but is deeply involved in international human rights affairs, contributing to a better global human rights governance system that is fair, equitable, reasonable and inclusive, and a global community with a shared future. Thank you.

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Red Star News:

The action plan dedicates a special section to environmental rights with rich content. According to the plan, China will improve the eco-environmental damage compensation system. Has there been any progress in this respect? Are there any problems standing in the way? And what are the plans for the future? Thank you.

Bie Tao:

I will answer this question. I have mentioned several judgments during the introduction. I would like to reiterate one of them: the comprehensive improvement on human rights requires the comprehensive improvement on environmental rights as well. For further expounding, any damage, infringement, or sabotage to the environment should be effectively restored, managed, and claimed for compensation in accordance with the law. A strict system of accountability must be well established. As such, your question coincidently involves aspects of environmental rights. 

As part of the efforts to address the issues of damage to both environment and public interests, the CPC Central Committee has launched the eco-environmental damage compensation reform. This reform started its trial implementation in seven cities at the beginning of 2016. After two years of practice, the pilot reform was expanded nationwide in 2018, including 31 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. The reform was officially implemented in 2020. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the progress we have made since the trial implementation of the reform.

Over the past five years, all localities and departments have earnestly implemented the arrangement of the eco-environmental damage compensation reform made by the CPC Central Committee. Through our tireless efforts, an eco-environmental damage compensation institutional framework featuring clear lines of responsibility, smooth flow of procedures, standard technologies,  strong guarantees, compensation in place, and effective restoration has taken shape, achieving noticeable progress in promoting national and local legislative work, standardizing the rules of litigation, reinforcing technological and financial supports, carrying out cases in practice, and restoring the damaged ecological environment. We have completely achieved the phased reform goal, which manifested in the following four aspects.

First, we have made noticeable progress in the construction of legal systems. The Civil Code, which was adopted last year, has set up a special provision for punitive compensation for eco-environmental damage, including substantive and procedural rules. It has made it a clear requirement that state organs, including administrative organs and procuratorial organs or any legitimate social organizations, also known as environmental NGOs, are entitled to lodge claims for eco-environmental damages through negotiations or litigation. Adopting the results of the pilot reform into basic national law represented by the Civil Code is a substantive move to establish the legal status of an eco-environmental damage compensation system. At the same time, a series of special laws, such as the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law, Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law, and Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes have made special provisions for eco-environmental damage compensation. Noticeably, the Yangtze River Protection Law, which was adopted last year, has introduced the eco-environmental damage compensation system as well. Other relevant laws on resources protection represented by the Forest Law have adopted this system as well. Moreover, many local legislatures have made provisions for eco-environmental damage compensation. As far as we know, a total of 19 provinces have rolled out local laws and regulations on eco-environmental damage compensation.

Secondly, the management system has been increasingly refined. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment, together with public security organs, procuratorial organs, people's courts, departments of justice, natural resources, agriculture, forestry and water resources, jointly issued the opinions on promoting the eco-environmental damage compensation system reform, which has helped to provide explicit guidance on the specific issues exposed during the pilot reform, including clue screening, compensation negotiation, and judicial confirmation of consultative agreement. China's Supreme People's Court has released provisions on handling cases of eco-environmental damage compensation, consultative agreement, and judicial confirmation. Working collectively with nine other departments, the Ministry of Finance has issued measures on management of compensation funds for ecological and environmental damage through consultation and litigation in a bid to standardize rules on the compensation payment, use, and supervision. At the same time, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has conducted investigation and supervision over the assessment and consultative agreement of eco-environmental damages in major cases with nationwide impact, such as the Tengger Desert pollution case, the Muli coalfield pollution case, and so on. We have selected several representative cases and provided references for the rest of the country in a bid to promote the reforms across China.

Third, the technological system has been increasingly standardized. The eco-environmental damage compensation is highly technical, with quantitative assessment as its foundation. Only when the damages can be well quantified can we have access to negotiate, lodge complaints, demand restoration, or claim for compensation. Therefore, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has rolled out an array of technical guidance covering nine aspects of recommended method of damage assessment, general principle, damage survey, and so on, providing compelling technical support for the pilot reform and the national trial implementation. Last December, under the joint efforts of the State Administration for Market Regulation and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, a total of six national standards have been released, including the general principle of eco-environmental damage assessment, damage survey, virtual treatment cost laws on soil and groundwater, surface water and sediments, and water pollution and air pollution. A technical standard system for eco-environmental damage assessment has taken initial shape, basically covering all key steps and basic types of environmental factors involved in eco-environmental damage assessments.

Fourth, the reform practice of various regions has been vigorously promoted. All provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) have formulated implementation plans at the provincial level. More than 380 prefecture-level cities across the country, including districts and counties of municipalities directly under the central government, have all issued implementation plans, confirming local reform goals, advancement paths, and the division of labor among departments. Local governments have also formulated 327 supporting documents based on specific issues such as consultation, investigation, appraisal and evaluation, and the management of compensation funds. All localities and departments are actively handling eco-environmental damage compensation cases, and organizing the timely restoration of damaged ecological environments. According to statistics, as of the end of last year, more than 4,300 cases of eco-environmental damage compensation were handled nationwide, involving more than 7.8 billion yuan. A large number of damaged soils, forest land, basic farmland, surface water, groundwater and solid waste have so far been treated, restored and cleaned up.

At present, the central government is also conducting inspections. Our analysis has concluded that there exist several basic problems. First, the progress of reform is uneven across various regions. Some provinces handle hundreds or even thousands of cases, while some provincial-level administrations only handle several or tens of cases. The difference is very large and too unbalanced. Second, the technical method system has yet to be improved. Our department has issued six standards, but they have not yet covered all aspects. Third, from the perspective of procedural law, the relevant legal provisions and management rules are still imperfect.

Next, we will further summarize the progress, problems and cause analysis of the pilot in accordance with the unified deployment of the central government on the reform of eco-environmental damage compensation, and propose solutions to deepen the reform of eco-environmental damage compensation. At the same time, we will actively work with the relevant departments of the central and state organs to focus on four areas of work. First, we will study and draft a unified normative document on eco-environmental damage compensation. The current basis of this work is still based on the reform plan, and the transition to normal implementation should require legal and regulatory documents. We must promote this reform onto the track of rule of law. Second, we will continue to increase the selection, evaluation, release, and recommendation guidance for major typical cases. Third, we will strengthen the basic research of eco-environmental damage identification and assessment, and unify technical specifications. Fourth, we will further strengthen coordination and cooperation among departments, form a joint effort among the departments, and promote the implementation of the reform of eco-environmental damage compensation for practical results. Thank you.

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China Daily:

At the recently concluded Tokyo Paralympic Games, Chinese disabled athletes achieved excellent results, and people across the whole country are very proud of them. Can you please tell us about the new measures in the action plan regarding the protection of the rights and interests of people with disabilities? Thank you.

Li Xiaojun:

Let me answer this question. In 2019, the State Council Information Office published a white paper on the protection of the rights and interests of the disabled in China. This paper was called "Equality, Participation and Sharing: 70 Years of Protecting the Rights and Interests of Persons with Disabilities in the PRC." We compiled and wrote this white paper with deep feelings and respect for all the 85 million disabled people in China. We have participated in the writings of some white papers, but writing with such respect and having invested so much in emotions for the disabled, it was still a very prominent example.

People with disabilities are a valuable asset to our country, and General Secretary Xi Jinping has given special care and love to them. In 2014, he sent a congratulatory letter to the 30th anniversary of the founding of the China Foundation for Disabled Persons, proposing that the disabled are a group with special difficulties and need to be particularly cared for and paid attention to. In 2016, during his inspection tour in Tangshan city, Hebei province, he proposed the goal that not a single disabled person should be left behind while building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020. In 2017, he proposed that China should further develop the cause of the disabled and promote the comprehensive development and common prosperity of the disabled. As China has built a moderately prosperous society in all respects, many of these important instructions and requirements have been implemented.

In recent years, China's work for people with disabilities has made great progress, and the value of causes that can have equal participation and sharing by people with disabilities has continued to increase. Chinese disabled athletes have achieved impressive results in the Tokyo's Summer Paralympics, and their tenacious fighting spirit and the spirit of winning glory for the country have inspired all of us. This also vividly shows that China has made important achievements in the protection of the human rights of people with disabilities. This new edition of the action plan puts forward specific goals and tasks in terms of equal participation of disabled persons, welfare guarantees, rehabilitation services, education, employment, barrier-free construction, and the production of assistive devices. For example, the number of newly employed disabled persons in cities and towns shall reach 500,000, rehabilitation universities shall be built, and 100 welfare facilities specifically for mental health shall be built. Thank you.

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Hong Kong Economic Herald:

We have noticed that the action plan sets out the principle of "smart advancement." What measures has China taken in terms of personal information protection? Thank you.

Chang Jian:

I will answer this question. Indeed, in this action plan, specific responses have been made to the challenges of information rights, especially the protection of human rights in the digital age. We know that human beings are entering the digital age. Digital life has become a basic way and an important part of our life. A series of human rights protection needs are generated in the context of digitalization, including the equal use of digital technology without discrimination, freedom from various violations caused by the use of digital technology, freedom from the manipulation of digital technology on people, and the independent control of personal digital information and property.

On one hand, in view of the new demand for human rights protection in the digital age, the action plan puts forward a new principle of "smart advancement," that is, "tapping the potential of digital technology" to advance human rights progress. As we know, the previous action plans put forward five principles, namely, pushing forward the work in accordance with the law, in a pragmatic, coordinated and balanced way, and with joint efforts. This action plan adds another principle: smart advancement. With this principle, we intend to make full use of digital technology and expand the free and all-round development of every person. The plan makes clear specific measures and tasks, including smart medical care, smart services for the elderly, smart cities and digital villages, smart library systems, barrier free facility digitization, as well as intelligent upgrading, smart litigation services, internet government convenience services, online deliberation of state affairs, and the use of big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other technical means to comprehensively collect and respond to people's opinions and suggestions in a timely manner.

On the other hand, in view of the new human rights issues arising in the digital era, the action plan includes a special section on the protection of personal information rights and interests, requiring the improvement of the legal system of personal information protection, the in-depth implementation of the supervision, law enforcement and publicity of personal information protection, and the safeguarding of cyber and data security. We will carry out in-depth supervision and enforce the law regarding personal information, and require that effective measures be taken to bridge the urban-rural digital divide, prevent the digital divide in online education, formulate employment security policies for online jobs, and crack down on a whole scope of crimes such as cyber bullying and stealing network data.

The National People's Congress passed the Data Security Law on June 10 this year and the Personal Information Protection Law of the People's Republic of China in August. Both clearly stipulate that no organization or individual is allowed to illegally collect, use, process or transmit other people's personal information, or illegally buy, sell, provide or disclose other people's personal information. China will also formulate and issue supporting laws, regulations, standards and judicial interpretations for the protection of personal information, and continue to improve the legal system for the protection of personal information. Thank you.

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Phoenix TV:

How does China participate in global human rights cooperation? What new measures will be taken next to participate in global human rights cooperation? Thank you.

Li Xiaomei:

Thank you for your question. You may notice that in this issue of the action plan, there has been a change in the title of the section concerning international cooperation. As for the last issue of the action plan, the section was titled "Fulfillment of Obligations to Human Rights Conventions, and International Exchanges and Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights." We changed it to "Participating in Global Human Rights Governance" in the new issue. We put forward China's new goals and commitments in promoting domestic and international human rights progress from four aspects, namely fulfilling obligations to international human rights conventions, engaging substantially in the work of UN human rights bodies, joining in constructive dialogue and cooperation on human rights, and contributing to the international cause of human rights.

Here I want to stress that running our own affairs well is the best way for China to participate in global human rights governance. China has built a moderately prosperous society in all respects and historically solved the problem of absolute poverty. This is the largest human rights project and the best practice for human rights progress. It not only writes a new chapter in China's human rights progress, but is also an important milestone in the development of the world's human rights cause. While enriching and developing the diversity of human rights, the country contributed Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions to solving human problems.

There are two things that China can be particularly proud of this year. One is that we achieved the poverty reduction targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule. The other is that we protected human rights in the process of fighting the epidemic from last year to this year, setting a good example for the world. These two points alone not only reflect the protection of human rights by the Party and the government, but also prove to the world that China has made huge efforts and achieved great success in implementing international human rights obligations and promoting and protecting the human rights of its people in combination with its own national conditions.

Against the backdrop of the combined forces of profound changes on a scale unseen in a century and the raging Covid-19 pandemic, the global human rights situation is facing severe challenges: the human rights deficit continues to expand, and the epidemic has impacted the human rights cause around the world, especially the right to health and development, which have been severely damaged. In this context, the voices for upholding multilateralism and improving global human rights governance have grown stronger. Developing countries have expected China to play a leading role. As I mentioned in the introduction, China has participated in four levels of human rights promotion, which can be said to be all-dimensional. In the process of participation, China's human rights concept has also been continuously accepted by the international community. The UN Human Rights Council opened its 48th regular session yesterday. In the UN Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, China has put forward a series of propositions and proposals on human rights, which have received extensive support from developing countries and friendly countries.

In the next step, it is China's mission to promote the healthy development of the international human rights cause. The peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom, are the common values of all mankind. Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, we will continue to strengthen exchange and cooperation on human rights with all parties, jointly promote the healthy development of international human rights cause, and build a community with a shared future for mankind. Thank you.

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CRI:

We have seen that since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China has made positive progress in protecting citizens' environmental rights and promoting ecological environmental legislation. What are the plans for the next step? Thanks.

Bie Tao:

Thank you for your concern about the environmental rule of law, especially environmental legislation. Protecting citizens' environmental rights has always been one of the legislative goals and purposes of the highest organ of state power. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has earnestly studied and implemented Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization, and Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law. In accordance with General Secretary Xi Jinping's important instructions on ‘preventing pollution in accordance with the laws,' we have made every effort to promote the establishment of an eco-environmental legal system. The legislative work on the eco-environment has been more vigorous than ever before, and richer fruits have been yielded. Thirteen laws have been formulated and revised, including the environmental protection law, the law on the prevention and control of atmospheric pollution, the law on soil pollution prevention and control, the law on nuclear safety, the law on prevention and control of environmental pollution by solid waste, and the Yangtze river conservation law, etc. Thirteen administrative regulations have also been formulated and revised, including the regulation on urban drainage and sewage treatment, regulations on the prevention and control of pollution caused by large-scale breeding of livestock and poultry, and the regulation on administration of pollutant discharge permits. Until now, ecological and environmental authorities have acted as the main law enforcement departments in 15 laws, accounting for about one-twentieth of the total number of laws currently in force. In addition, there have been more than 20 laws on resource development and utilization, more than 30 administrative laws and regulations on the ecological environment, and more than 40 intra-Party regulations closely related to ecological environment protection. Overall, the legal framework for ecological environment protection has basically taken shape, which provides laws to abide by in all areas of ecological and environmental protection.

Protecting citizens' environmental rights has always been an important part of China's environmental legislation. The Environmental Impact Assessment Law enacted in 2002 has clearly stated that if special plans may cause adverse environmental impacts and directly involve the public's environmental rights, demonstration meetings and hearings shall be held or other forms taken to solicit the opinions from related units, experts, and the public on the draft report on environmental impacts. A special chapter on 'information disclosure and public participation' was added to the revised Environmental Protection Law in 2014 which is clear that citizens, legal persons, and other organizations, have the right to obtain environmental information, participate in, and supervise environmental protection in accordance with the law.

Overall, in recent years, the environmental protection laws and regulations that we formulated and revised have contributed greatly to improving the supervision system, strengthening government responsibilities, imposing higher penalties for violations, and promoting public participation. Hence, some prominent problems have been resolved. Shortcomings in the system of environmental protection laws, however, remain a salient problem, such as gaps in some legislation related to fighting climate change, environment monitoring, and the management of dangerous chemicals. Moreover, there are overlapping supervisory mechanisms, and more efforts are required to punish violations, improve the legal system to restrain government behaviors, and enhance the legal system for the public supervision of environmental protection. Establishing a framework of environmental laws and regulations that meets the needs of modernizing China's system and capacity for governance is an arduous task.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), the Ministry of Ecology and Environment will continue to thoroughly implement Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization and Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law, and further enhance the legislative work on the eco-environment, so as to provide more comprehensive and effective legal protection for the country in its battle against pollution. We will focus on the following aspects:

First, we will strengthen legislature in key areas to integrate systems and fill gaps. China will improve its eco-environmental legal system in line with the goal of building a beautiful China. It will formulate and revise laws and regulations on Yellow River protection, noise pollution prevention and control, marine environmental protection, environmental impact evaluation, fighting climate change, and eco-environmental monitoring. We will push forward the construction of China's legal system in the area of ecological reform, and enhance legislative work in areas like eco-environmental damage compensation, nature reserves, ecological red lines and an environmental protection credit rating system, to ensure major reforms are implemented effectively and in accordance with the law.

Second, we will push forward research and discussions on the codification of environmental laws. According to its annual legislative agenda for 2021, China's top legislature will explore the possibility of initiating the codification of environmental laws, which meets the requirements of fully implementing Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization and Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law and supports the top-level design to improve environmental protection. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment will work with legislative bodies in fully promoting research and discussions on the codification of environmental laws, strengthening connections and coordination, and reducing overlap among different laws and regulations, so as to establish an eco-environmental protection law system featuring strict prevention at the sources of pollution, strict regulation of operations, and accountability for those responsible, and to modernize China's environmental protection system and capacity for governance.

Third, we will learn from the successful experience of legislation for protecting the eco-environment and step up efforts in four aspects. We will enforce the best institutional arrangements and implement the strictest rule of law to protect the eco-environment. We will establish a supervision system on eco-environment by taking a fact-based approach, abiding by the objective laws and based on national conditions. We will stick to the new development philosophy, so as to properly handle relations between eco-environmental protection and socioeconomic development, and win the fight against pollution. We will focus on improving the environment, and establish a legal system for improving the environment.

Fourth, we will strictly implement the instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping on toughening punishments for ecological and environmental violations, further strengthen the punishment of illegal acts related to ecological and environmental protection, including those concerning administrative, criminal and civil liabilities. In particular, we should clearly identify the key targets for the crackdown, including the malicious act of illegally discharging pollutants, which damages the public's environmental rights and interests and threatens public health. Our theme today is human rights protection. Maliciously discharging waste disregards and damages the public's environmental rights and interests as well as public environmental health for the private gain of a small group. It is unfair, immoral, and of course illegal. From the perspective of human rights, such malicious acts harm the rights to subsistence and development, as well as health and personal rights. Therefore, malicious illegal acts are key targets of our crackdown efforts. In addition, the discharge of heavy metals, medical waste and industrial hazardous waste, which directly harms human health, soil, air and drinking water, has also been the focus of the crackdown. Furthermore, we will work with relevant departments, including the forestry and grassland departments, to strengthen the crackdown on the illegal hunting of wild animals, illegal fishing of aquatic creatures and other illegal activities, which are also key targets of the crackdown. After the Yangtze River Protection Law came into effect, the major measure of a 10-year fishing ban in key areas of the Yangtze River was taken with great determination. General Secretary Xi Jinping said that the Yangtze River had got sick. An important manifestation was that some parts had no fish left. As a result, the central authorities decided to ban fishing for 10 years. In particular, this move will involve finding other ways of making a living, proper resettlement and providing government subsidies for the hundreds of thousands of fishermen and their families who rely on the river to earn a living. In this case, both illegal fishing and illegal hunting are the key crackdown targets.

Recently, an event related to ecological and environmental protection has received widespread attention. A herd of elephants travelled hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers, to the southern part of Kunming city, the capital of Yunnan province. While attracting quite a lot attention, the wandering elephants were also effectively protected along the way. People opened up paths for them, helped them find their way, and provided food supplies along their journey. These behaviors were very heartwarming. Local governments, conservation volunteers and non-governmental organizations all played positive roles in this regard. The elephants recently returned to their natural habitat. This event has become a vivid example of China's biodiversity conservation efforts and represents an interesting side note for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) which will soon kick off in Kunming. We are very proud of this achievement. These are China's legislative efforts and practices on biodiversity conservation, which will also become a focus of our work in the future. Thank you.

Xing Huina:

Today's briefing is hereby concluded. Thank you to all four speakers and friends from the media. Goodbye.

Translated and edited by Wang Yiming, Wang Qian, Zhu Bochen, Yuan Fang, Xu Xiaoxuan, Huang Shan, Lin Liyao, Chen Xia, Guo Yiming, Liu Qiang, Qin Qi, Yang Xi, Zhang Rui, Xiang Bin, Wang Wei, Yan Xiaoqing, Wang Yanfang, Ma Yujia, He Shan, Zhang Junmian, David Ball, Jay Birbeck, Tom Arnstein. In case of any discrepancy between the English and Chinese texts, the Chinese version is deemed to prevail.

/6    Li Xiaojun

/6    Li Xiaomei

/6    Bie Tao

/6    Chang Jian

/6    Group photo

/6    Xing Huina