[JURIST] The Communist Party of China (CPC) [official website; CFR backgrounder] Central Committee on Sunday approved measures [Xinhua release] that would liberalize the country's land use laws in an effort decrease rural poverty and increase the country's agricultural capacity. Under China's constitution [text], the country's land is either owned collectively or by the state, but the reforms would give farmers broader autonomy to sell or borrow against their land use rights and establish a financial infrastructure to allow for larger, more efficient farms [China Daily report]. The changes were approved by the party during a plenary session during which the CPC announced plans [Xinhua report] to "eliminate" rural poverty by the year 2020. The Central Committee also solicited input from leaders outside of the CPC [Xinhua report] during the session, a move unusual for country's one-party government. The reforms are expected to be considered by China's National People's Congress [official website] in March. AFP has more.
The Chinese government has recently taken other steps towards a more democratic, capitalist structure, but has continued to face international criticism for alleged rights abuses. In September, the State Council of China [official website, in English] issued regulations [JURIST report] implementing ambiguous provisions of the Labor Contract Law [backgrounder] which was viewed as a major advancement [Bloomberg report] for employee rights. Earlier that month, however, Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] issued a release [text; JURIST report] saying that Chinese police and other officials still employ torture [JURIST news archive] to elicit confessions and intimidate political dissidents despite domestic and international bans, and a July report [PDF text; JURIST report] released by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said the country had failed significantly improve its human rights record.