BEIJING (AP) — Stung by complaints of religious and human rights abuses, China declared in a report yesterday that its booming economy is improving the lives of ordinary citizens while changes in the courts and government promote respect for their rights.

The government made “marked progress in its human rights protection efforts in the past year,” said an annual report on the state of human rights in China issued by the Cabinet’s press office.

Beijing has issued a series of such reports in recent years, trying to deflect complaints that it mistreats dissidents, labor and religious groups, ethnic minorities and others.

The latest report comes a day after two U.S.-based groups accused China of carrying out a “crushing campaign” against religious activity in its Muslim northwest, where the government is fighting pro-independence sentiment.

The government report stressed the benefits of a booming economy that expanded by 9.5 percent last year — a common theme for communist officials, who invoke the pursuit of higher living standards as a justification for barring most independent political activity.

“The people’s overall living standard and quality of life were improved considerably,” the report said.

It cited official promises to increase the public’s role in government by holding nonpartisan elections for low-level posts and creating a structure for the public to petition China’s largely powerless national and local legislatures.

Higher-level posts are all filled by the ruling Communist Party, which also controls all law-making.

The report noted changes in China’s police and court systems, saying communist leaders were trying to ensure that law enforcement is “strict, just and humane.”

The government has promised repeatedly to make courts more responsive to public needs, to stamp out widespread corruption among court officials and to stop torture and other police abuses.

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