China has pledged to take effective measures to protect the legitimate rights of convicts as an important part of ongoing judicial reform.
According to the Ministry of Justice, a pilot program featuring basic medical insurance will be established in six provinces and municipalities to protect the human rights of prisoners.
The two-year program will initially be trialed in areas including the provinces of Heilongjiang, Hainan and Shaanxi before being expanded nationwide, according to Wang Jinyi, director of the Prison Management Bureau at the Ministry of Justice.
"We are negotiating with the relevant authorities, including the ministries of finance and human resources and social security. A joint regulation will be issued in the coming months to clarify the details," he said, noting that in future prisoners' medical expenses will be covered by national medical insurance funds.
At present, inmates are guaranteed immediate medical treatment if they fall ill.
However, they can only be treated at a number of designated hospitals and only have access to basic treatments rather than more expensive imported drugs, which may influence the outcome of their treatment.
That will change under the new system.
"After the convicts are covered by the national medical insurance program, observance of their human rights will be greatly improved and those rights will be guaranteed," the ministry said.
According to the Supreme People's Procuratorate, China's highest investigative and prosecuting body, provincial prosecuting departments will intensify inspections of penal institutions to prevent illegal behavior by warders that could contravene the legitimate rights of inmates.
In addition, the prosecuting departments will conduct both regular and random patrols of facilities to further improve supervision and prevent interference by prison and local authorities.
Prisoners who believe their convictions were flawed, or claim to have been assaulted or treated unjustly, will be able to lodge a complaint and receive immediate feedback from prosecutors, according to the procuratorate.