BEIJING (Reuters) - China cited increased government transparency via the Internet and reforms in the police and judicial sector as its main areas of progress in human rights in the past year, in a white paper released on Sunday.
China has long countered what it calls Western concepts of individual rights by saying it offers its vast population improving access to basics like food, housing and education.
"The overall cause of human rights has been promoted in an all-round way," said the ninth white paper on human rights published by the State Council Information Office.
It cited government bodies' increasing use of websites to announce policies, seek public comment and solicit public complaints over corrupt or negligent officials.
China earlier this year accused the United States of hypocrisy when the U.S. criticized China's Internet censorship and filtering of content deemed sensitive by the ruling Communist Party.
Thousands of Chinese government bodies are now online, from rural townships to the powerful ministries in Beijing, offering an unprecedented amount of information to netizens. Economic policy and other topics are also increasingly a topic of debate online and in the Chinese media.
But criticism of senior officials, important policies or government handling of certain sensitive matters, like disaster response or policies in minority areas is still quickly expunged by an army of censors.
"China doesn't need a white paper on human rights, it needs enforcement of human rights already guaranteed by domestic and international law and an end to the official tolerance of government officials, security forces and their agents who abuse human rights with impunity," Human Rights Watch Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson said in an emailed statement.
The white paper also praised a number of reforms of the past year. These include restrictions on police use of torture while investigating people and increased openness in the judicial process.
Many of the reforms have followed netizens' outrage over wrongful convictions and deaths in custody.
Procuratorial organs "resolutely prosecuted crimes infringing citizens' human rights committed by officials making use of
their positions," the report said.
It mentioned 478 officials who were investigated for "illegally taking people into custody," sabotaging elections, retaliation and false accusations. The report also cited central government initiatives in expanding the social security network and extending access to basic medical insurance into the countryside.