China media: Human rights 'progress'

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image captionJune will mark 25 years since the brutal suppression of the Tiananmen protests

Media welcome what they call "progress" on human rights in China as authorities pledge to safeguard "rights to freedom of speech".

The West and international organisations like the UN are critical of Beijing's human rights record, and have expressed concern at the arrest of dissidents, the continued use of the death penalty and the use of torture in law enforcement, among other things.

On Monday, the State Council, the cabinet which oversees China's government machine, issued a white paper, the "Progress in China's Human Rights in 2013", outlining what it sees as the country's achievements in improving civil liberties.

According to China Radio International, the document states that the Chinese government has "effectively safeguarded its citizens' right to life and health, personal liberty, personal dignity and other rights of the individual".

"People's livelihoods have improved significantly. Basic public services in both urban and rural settings have been better safeguarded," Li Yunlong, a human rights researcher, tells the radio network.

The Beijing Times highlights the point that the internet has become an "important avenue" for the public to express their views. It notes that the authorities have promised to "promote and safeguard" the "citizens' right to freedom of speech".

The Changjiang Daily notes that China has been publishing the report since 1991, and this is the first time that the "right to freedom of speech" has been listed as a separate heading.

"Right to freedom of speech has been placed as separate content. This has grabbed the attention of many… it goes to show that the authorities have recognised and given prominence to such rights. The next step will be how to guarantee those rights," says the paper.

For Guangming Daily, the report promotes an understanding among the international community of the human rights situation in China.

"In recent years, everyone can see that China has achieved progress in its human rights record. We are also aware that there are problems caused by imbalanced and unsustainable growth. The report is an objective one. It is close to the viewpoint of ordinary people and shows the confidence that the Chinese type of socialism has on the issue of human rights," the paper concludes.

Cyber espionage

Meanwhile, the media criticise the US for being "unscrupulous" after the Chinese government published a report accusing Washington of cyber surveillance.

The report by the China Academy of Cyber Space is entitled "America's global surveillance record" and comes a week after Washington charged five Chinese army officers of hacking into US companies.

The report claims that the US is targeting Chinese leaders, research institutes and companies, the Beijing Youth Daily says.

An article on the China Net website notes that the document is a "counter-attack" on Washington's rebalancing strategy in Asia "in the area of information in cyberspace".

"China would like to expose to the world the double standards of the US… This also shows that, if there is no dialogue and understanding between Beijing and Washington, the war on cyber information will be made public and become more widespread."

The state-run Xinhua News agency lashes out at Washington for displaying "hegemonic behaviour" in cyberspace and engaging in "unscrupulous spying".

"Facing the rise of China, the second largest economy in the world, the US has become unsure of its position. On the surface, Washington says it wants to build a new major power relationship with Beijing, but in secret, it views China as an opponent and even resorts to distasteful methods such as cyber snooping," it says in a commentary.

In its Chinese edition, the Global Times criticises Beijing for being "passive" in the past and urges more "counter-attacks" on Washington.

"The report is a summary of content that was already available publicly and does not contain any spicy new information, but it is still worth the applause. The US has abused its power by embarking on global spying activities and we are no longer going to keep silent," writes the daily.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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