II. Civil and Political Rights
In 2004, China adhered to the road of political development with Chinese characteristics. It actively promoted democracy in political affairs and the building of political civilization to guarantee the citizens' civil and political rights.
The National People's Congress (NPC) and the local people's congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power. The NPC and its Standing Committee are playing a more and more important role in governing the country according to law and guaranteeing the people's democratic rights. The amendments to the Constitution adopted at the Second Session of the Tenth NPC in 2004 added many new provisions to the Constitution that are closely related to human rights. In 2004, the NPC Standing Committee examined drafts of 33 laws, interpretations of laws and decisions related to legal issues, and adopted 25 of them, providing further legal guarantee for economic and social development and human rights. Of them, the amended Law of Election of the NPC and Local People's Congresses further improved the election system, standardized the election procedures, and expanded and guaranteed the citizens' right of election. The amendments made to the law on the prevention and treatment of epidemics focused on the prevention of and early warning on epidemics, strengthened control over the spread of epidemics and medical treatment measures, and provided greater guarantee for the rights of citizens, sufferers from infectious diseases, and actual and suspected virus carriers. The recently adopted decision on the improvement of the system of people's jurors increased the transparency of the activities of the judicial departments, strengthened citizens' supervision over such activities and provided a guarantee for the procedural rights of citizens.
The NPC and its Standing Committee have strengthened supervision over the administrative and judicial organs as well as examination of the enforcement of laws, and support and encourage relevant state organs to do their duty and exercise their power according to law so as to safeguard the interests of the general public. In 2004, the NPC Standing Committee examined the enforcement of six laws, including the "Land Management Law," "Law on Compulsory Education" and "Trade Union Law." It examined and deliberated 11 work reports of the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate about the establishment and improvement of an emergency mechanism concerning public health contingencies and the building of courts and procuratorates at the grass-roots level. Throughout the year, the NPC Standing Committee received more than 40,000 people seeking help from higher authorities for their problems, handled more than 60,000 petitions, and urged relevant departments and local governments to solve some of the problems that had caused great discontent among the masses, thus guaranteeing the citizens' right to appeal to higher authorities, file a charge and report an offence as provided for in the Constitution. During the Third Session of the Tenth NPC, convened in 2005, deputies submitted a total of 991 bills, an increase of 54.6 percent over those submitted during the Second Session of the Tenth NPC, convened in 2004. The bills touched upon the enactment or revision of laws on food safety, compulsory education, social security, land management, etc.
The system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China is a basic political system in China. A political party system with Chinese characteristics, it has played an ever greater role in the political life of the state. In 2004, the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) performed its functions of participating in the discussion and administration of state affairs, exercised its democratic rights and carried out democratic supervision through its regular work of making proposals, and inspections and investigations into specific issues, and reflecting public opinion. The CPPCC National Committee organized people to make revisions to the "Regulations on the Work of Making Proposals of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference," thus helping make the work of making proposals constitutionalized, standardized and in line with prescribed procedures. In the past year, the CPPCC National Committee received 4,478 bills submitted by its members and participating organizations. Of these, 4,263 were accepted for further deliberation. These bills covered such topics as the building of democracy and the legal system, increasing the farmers' incomes, safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of migrant workers, establishment of a multi-layer social security system in the countryside, employment and re-employment, and welfare. It organized 30 inspection groups composed of over 750 CPPCC members. They went on inspection tours across the country, and submitted 26 reports. The various special committees of the CPPCC National Committee made in-depth investigations into specific issues, resulting in 68 investigative reports plus 1,390 other reports containing important information. The central committees of all the non-Communist parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce submitted 115 bills and 2,503 reports concerning public opinion and information. These bills and information were promptly dealt with, and feedback was given. The Third Session of the Tenth CPPCC, convened in 2005, received 4,508 bills, of which 4,375, or 97.05 percent, were accepted for further deliberation.
The building of grass-roots democracy in the countryside entered a new phase. In 2004, the State Council issued the "Opinions on Making Village Affairs Public and Improving the Democratic Management System," which helped improve the system of making village affairs public and the system of democratic management at the grass-roots level and promote protection of ordinary villagers' democratic rights. A democratic management system based on the "Regulations on Villagers' Self-government" and "Village Regulations and Agreements" was established all over the country. A democratic decision-making system mainly in the form of villagers' congresses and representative conferences, and a democratic supervision system based on making village affairs public and democratic evaluation were also established, thus considerably raising the level of villagers' self-government within the framework of the law. A campaign was launched to create "exemplary villages of democratic management and rule of law." At present, about 10 percent of villages across the country have been awarded this honor.
The state pays special attention to guaranteeing - through petitions and visits - citizens' right to criticize, make suggestions, appeal to higher authorities, file a charge and report an offence. In 2004, the State Council revised the "Regulations on Petitions and Visits." The revised edition increased the government's responsibilities by demanding that its powers and responsibilities should be balanced, and highlighted the principles that all matters concerning petitions and visits should be conducted in an open manner and be convenient for the people, and the citizens' rights and interests must be protected. In 2004, the state created a joint meeting system to solve the most difficult problems encountered when handling petitions and visits, and cases involving large numbers of people, with focus being put on problems caused by house demolition, relocation in towns and cities, and requisition of land in the countryside, and intensified its supervision on the handling and solution of the problems. Correspondence and visitation departments handled petitions conscientiously, and received visitors in a civilized manner, and the quality of their work further improved. The state issued the "Suggestions on Further Involvement of Lawyers in Handling Law-Related Petitions and Visits from the People." Lawyers were organized to provide legal advice to help people solve their problems through legal channels.
Citizens' freedom of information, of speech and of the press is protected by law. At present, a three-level news briefing system consisting of the State Council's Information Office, and various departments of the State Council and provincial governments has basically been established. Sixty-two departments of the State Council have established the news briefing system, and appointed 75 spokespersons. Twenty-three provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) have established the news briefing system, and 20 of them have appointed spokespersons. Last year, 44 departments of the State Council gave some 270 news conferences, and 28 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) gave 460 news conferences. These activities greatly increased the transparency of government work, and helped citizens become better informed about administrative affairs. Protection of citizens' rights to information, supervision and participation in public affairs were further promoted. In 2004, the state enacted a series of laws and regulations to further improve China's press system and ensure that citizens can better exercise their right of freedom of the press.
Employees' right to participate in and organize trade unions has been further exercised and developed. In 2004, a national check was conducted of the enforcement of the "Trade Union Law," which promoted the building of trade union organizations. Special efforts were made to establish trade unions in non-public enterprises and have migrant workers join trade unions. The year 2004 also saw a considerable development of grass-roots trade union organizations and trade union members. By the end of September 2004, China had 1.02 million grass-roots trade union organizations, 115,000 more than in the previous year, an increase of 12.6 percent. Non-public enterprises had 459,000 trade unions, 102,000 more than in the previous year. The number of trade union members nationwide was 137 million, 13.544 million more than in the previous year, a growth of 11 percent. Trade unions at non-public enterprises had 55.463 million members, 14.543 million more than in the previous year. Nationwide, 63 percent of employees had joined a trade union, an increase of 6.2 percentage points over the previous year. The employees' conference system was established in 369,000 enterprises and institutions that had trade unions, involving 78.364 million employees, an increase of 2.211 million over the previous year. Enterprises and institutions that practiced the publicizing of internal affairs numbered 316,000, with 70.612 million employees involved, an increase of 4.373 million over the previous year. Boards of directors were established in 57,000 enterprises with grass-roots trade unions, and supervisory committees were established in 42,000 enterprises with grass-roots trade unions. Of these, 24,000 enterprises established boards of directors including ordinary employees, and 18,000 enterprises established supervisory committees with employees as members. The numbers of trade union chairmen and chairwomen who held posts on boards of directors or supervisory committees was 25,000 and 21,000, respectively, accounting for 44.7 percent and 49.9 percent of the members of each organ.
Citizens enjoy the freedom of religious belief in accordance with law. Religious groups, venues for religious activities, the legitimate rights and interests of religious adherents and their normal religious activities are protected by law. In 2004, the State Council promulgated China's first comprehensive administrative regulation on religious matters - "Regulations on Religious Affairs." It clearly defines the rights of religious groups and adherents with regards to religious activities, establishment of religious colleges and schools, publishing of religious books and periodicals, management of religious properties and foreign religious exchanges. It also regulates the administrative acts of relevant departments of the government so as to ensure that the legitimate rights and interests of religious believers, religious groups and venues for religious activities are not infringed upon. According to incomplete statistics, China has now more than 100 million religious adherents, more than 100,000 venues for religious activities, and about 300,000 clergy members. Normal religious ceremonies or rituals conducted by ministers and all other normal religious activities - carried out either in venues for religious activities or homes of religious adherents in accordance with religious tradition - are taken care of by believers themselves and protected by law. Different religions, of their own accord, have created more than 3,000 national and regional religious organizations. They elect their own leaders in accordance with their own regulations and conduct religious ceremonies independently. They also print and publish religious classics and periodicals, and hold public welfare services. The accumulative print run of the Bible has reached 35 million. Religious organizations run 76 religious colleges where ministers are trained. All religions follow the principle of running their own affairs independently and, on the basis of equality and friendship, they are actively engaged in exchanges and communication with religious organizations in other countries.