(New York) - China’s National People’s Congress should not allow another session to conclude without adopting reforms to improve protections on 10 key human rights issues, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The letter urges Premier Wen to act on his stated commitment to promoting social justice and building the rule of law, and expresses regret at the Chinese government’s failure to make substantial progress on these key human rights reforms over the last year since the last National People’s Congress session. The congress, which meets annually and is attended by more than 3,000 delegates, is meeting from March 5-18.

“Chinese leaders have committed themselves to promoting social justice, ensuring freedom of expression, and building the rule of law, yet their rhetoric hasn’t been matched by action,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

The vital reforms identified by Human Rights Watch include:

  • Ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • Allowing nongovernmental organizations to register freely;
  • Ending repression of activists, petitioners, and lawyers;
  • Narrowing the scope of application for state secrets laws;
  • Reversing the practice of censoring the internet and the media; and
  • Abolishing rather than reforming re-education-through-labor.

“It is not too late for Chinese leaders to adopt these reforms and show that they will follow through on their promises,” said Richardson. “Now is the time for rhetoric to be matched by action.”