(New York) − China’s National People’s Congress should follow through on official statements by putting forward laws to strengthen human rights protections, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping and Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo. The National People’s Congress (NPC), which meets annually and is attended by more than 3,000 delegates, opens in Beijing on March 5, 2013.
Human Rights Watch urged the NPC to take immediate legislative action on four major issues on which there is broad support for reform: abolishing reeducation through labor and the discriminatory household registration system, adopting a comprehensive domestic violence law, and ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“The NPC’s annual meeting is a crucial opportunity to make progress on laws to promote human rights in China,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Key concerns like reeducation through labor, the household registration system, and domestic violence are long overdue for reform.”
Senior officials have stated at times that the government should make progress on these issues, Human Rights Watch said. In January 2013, the Political and Legal Committee of the Chinese Communist Party listed reforming reeducation through labor and household registration, or hukou, as two of its first items of reform. Legislation on domestic violence has been encouraged at the local level, and the All-China Women’s Federation, a quasi-governmental body, has publicly recommended the introduction of a national law since 2008. China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1998 but has yet to ratify the treaty, claiming for more than a decade to be working on “creating the conditions for ratification.”
The Chinese government should use the NPC’s annual session as an opportunity to demonstrate the new leadership’s depths of official commitment to crucial legislative reforms to improve human rights protections in China, Human Rights Watch said.
In its 2013World Report on human rights around the world, Human Rights Watch said that despite sustained economic growth, urbanization, and China’s rise as a global power, little progress on human rights had been achieved in recent years.
“The full abolition of reeducation through labor and ratification of the ICCPR would send important signals about legal reform and respecting basic rights,” Richardson said. “The government cannot claim to respond to people’s demands while continuing to defer such steps.”