Full Text: Progress in China's Human Rights in 2013
                 English.news.cn | 2014-05-26 10:35:17 | Editor: Lu Hui

IV. Rights to Freedom of Speech

The Chinese government endeavors to promote and protect the freedom of speech of Chinese nationals. Freedom of speech is a basic civil right stipulated in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. In China citizens can express their views and will and publish research and creative achievements freely within the range allowed by the Constitution and other laws. With social and economic development, the means of realizing freedom of speech has been diversified day by day, the public's information needs have been better satisfied, the space of freedom of speech has been increasingly expanded, and the people's rights to freedom of speech have steadily developed.

The channels and means for citizens to realize freedom of speech have been diversified day by day. In 2013 China printed 48.2 billion copies of newspapers, 3.3 billion copies of periodicals and 7.9 billion copies of books; some 229 million households had access to cable TV while 172 million households had access to cable DTV; radio programs covered 97.8 percent of the total population, and television programs covered 98.4 percent. In recent years China's news media have paid more attention to maintaining contact with the public, focusing on reporting real life, and playing their due role of press supervision. The public freely expresses its opinions through the news media, brings forward criticisms and proposals, and discusses state affairs and social concerns.

The Internet has become one of the most important channels for the public to express its opinion. Over the past two decades China has injected huge amounts of funds into Internet infrastructure construction covering the whole country and benefitting all people, and promoted Internet popularization and application. Internet development and popularization in China ranks top among developing countries. In 2013 the state continued to increase policy support for and funds in information infrastructure construction, popularized satellite communication, fiber optical communication, computer networks and other related technologies. The country implemented the "broadband China" strategy, and for the first time regarded broadband network as a strategic public infrastructure for national socioeconomic development in the new era. By the end of 2013 the number of netizens in China reached 618 million and the Internet coverage rate 45.8 percent; domain names totaled 18.44 million, websites 3.2 million and webpages 150 billion; Internet forum/bulletin board system (BBS) users numbered 120 million, blog and personal webpage users 437 million, social networking website users 278 million, network literature users 274 million, network video users 428 million, microblog users 281 million and instant messaging (IM) users 532 million. Cellphone IM users numbered 431 million and cellphone microblog users 196 million. By the end of 2013 there were 5,820 websites in China providing Internet education information services, 703 providing Internet news information services, 783 providing Internet cultural products, 282 providing Internet audio-visual programs, 292 providing Internet publishing services and 2,010 providing Internet BBS services.

Effective information acquisition is the premise for realizing freedom of speech. In China, people can obtain information through multiple channels. Open and procedure-based exercise of power, transparent legislation, government operations and judicature and other mechanisms have been further improved, which have continuously improved the effective provision of information about government work. The NPC and its Standing Committee solicit public opinion on major draft laws; local people's congresses allow people to listen to legislation deliberations, and provide timely authoritative interpretations of adopted laws through media, including their own official websites, so as to ensure that people of all walks of life accurately understand the legislation background and purpose, and the principles and contents of the laws. The State Council focuses on advancing information disclosure in administrative approval, financial budget and final accounts, government-subsidized housing, food and drug security, land expropriation and house demolition, and other fields. The press spokesperson system has been further improved. In 2013 the Information Office of the State Council organized more than 50 press conferences centered on the Party's and the state's major conferences, decisions and work. Meanwhile, departments under the State Council and information offices under local governments held over 2,100 press conferences and briefings. More and more chief responsible persons of departments under the State Council and local governments have appeared at press conferences to actively respond to social concerns and release related information in a timely fashion. (more)

The Supreme People's Court issued the Several Opinions on Advancing the Building of Three Major Platforms of Judicial Openness and the Regulations for the People's Courts to Make Public the Judgment Documents on the Internet, so as to fully promote openness in trial procedures, judicial papers and adjudication enforcement, and to enhance public understanding of judicial decisions. The China Court's Live Trial website has been set up, on which people's courts at all levels have so far live-broadcast 45,000 court trials. The Jinan Intermediate People's Court live-telecast Bo Xilai's court trial through a microblog, which received extensive and positive attention. Internet information service websites of all kinds have greatly improved their service capability to ensure effective information acquisition by the public.

Chinese people enjoy extensive freedom of speech. Research and discussion in academic fields cover politics, society, culture and other aspects. Within the range allowed by the Constitution and other laws, the public can discuss political issues freely. Important government policies are widely discussed before and after being adopted, and opinions from all quarters can be fully expressed. The popularization and improvement of the Internet have dramatically expanded the space of freedom of speech. The public can express opinions through Internet forums, Netnews, blog/personal webpages, social networking websites, network literature, network videos, microblogs, IM and other Internet platforms. Netizens post an immense number of opinions all the time. According to statistics, Chinese netizens post and forward 250 million microblog messages and over 20 billion WeChat and other IM messages every day. According to the statistics about the texts posted by seven websites including Sina microblog and Tencent microblog, of the 20 top issues that received netizens' attention in 2013, the first 12 received over two million messages each, and the top one over 45 million messages. Netizens' attention, opinions and statements cover a wide range, including legal cases, the people's livelihood, individual rights and interests protection, patient-hospital disputes, and combating corruption.

Effective realization of freedom of speech ensures that the public oversee the government. People can present social problems through news media, the Internet and other channels, forward criticisms and proposals to governments at all levels and supervise the behavior of civil servants. Many local government websites in China have a municipal mayor's mailbox or county head's mailbox to receive letters from the public. The central discipline inspection and procuratorial organs, Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate have set up offence-reporting websites for the public. The public's proposals for and criticisms of government work receive high attention of governments at all levels, and have become important references for them to improve their work and decision-making.

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