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Internet free speech 'protected by law'
Published on: 2010-09-27
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The central government said on Sunday that its citizens' right to freedom of speech on the Internet is protected by law, and netizens can voice their opinions "in a wide variety of ways on the Internet".

"The Internet has become a new channel for the Chinese government to get to know public opinion and amass the people's wisdom, and consequently exercise governance for the people and improve its work in this respect," according to a white paper released by the Information Office of the State Council.

"It has become a common practice for governments at all levels to consult the public via the Internet before formulating policies of particular importance," says the white paper, titled "Progress in China's Human Rights in 2009".

In China there are more than 1 million bulletin board services (BBS) and some 220 million bloggers.

According to a sample survey, each day people post more than 3 million messages via BBS, news commentary sites, blogs and so on.

More than 66 percent of Chinese netizens frequently place postings to discuss various topics, and to fully express their opinions and represent their interests, according to the paper.

The Chinese government also makes it convenient for the people to petition, report problems and offer suggestions through channels including special telephone lines and online agencies, it adds.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the Internet's role in supervision.

Governments at all levels are required to investigate and resolve in a timely manner all problems reported to the government by the public via the Internet, and to inform the public of the actions they have taken and the results of their actions, the report notes.

In addition, "the Chinese government is working actively to make government affairs public, improve the official spokesman system and information transparency", and ensure its citizens have more rights to know about, supervise and participate in public affairs, it says.

Chang Jian, a professor of human rights research at the Tianjin-based Nankai University, said the Chinese government has done a much better job in pushing forward administrative transparency, and the Internet has become an important platform for the public to better know what the government is doing.

The white paper is China's ninth report on human rights since the country began releasing the document in 1991.

The white paper also says the overall cause of human rights has been promoted in an all-round way.

In 2009, the Chinese government promulgated and implemented its first national action plan with human rights as the theme.

The National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010), which applies the Constitutional principle of respecting and protecting human rights to various fields including politics, economy, culture and social construction, has been "effectively implemented", it says.

"The Chinese government gives priority to protecting people's rights and that shows the government's determination in safeguarding human rights and the progress that has been made," said Liu Jie, director of the human rights research center of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.


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