The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitutionally is the paramount authority. CCP members hold almost all top government, police, and military positions. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its nine-member Standing Committee. Hu Jintao holds the three most powerful positions as CCP general secretary, president, and chairman of the Central Military Commission. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
Deterioration in key aspects of the country’s human rights situation continued. Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, were routine. Individuals and groups seen as politically sensitive by the authorities continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. Efforts to silence political activists and public interest lawyers were stepped up, and, increasingly, authorities resorted to extralegal measures including enforced disappearance, “soft detention,” and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions. Public interest law firms that took on sensitive cases continued to face harassment, disbarment of legal staff, and closure. The authorities increased attempts to limit freedom of speech and to control the press, the Internet, and Internet access. The authorities continued severe cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Tibetan areas. Abuses peaked around high-profile events, such as the visit of foreign officials, sensitive anniversaries, and in response to Internet-based calls for “Jasmine Revolution” protests.
As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government. Other human rights problems during the year included: extrajudicial killings, including executions without due process; enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, including prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as “black jails”; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; detention and harassment of lawyers, journalists, writers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to peacefully exercise their rights under the law; a lack of due process in judicial proceedings; political control of courts and judges; closed trials; the use of administrative detention; restrictions on freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel; failure to protect refugees and asylum seekers; pressure on other countries to forcibly return citizens to China; intense scrutiny of and restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth limitation policy that in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization; trafficking in persons; prohibitions on independent unions and a lack of protection for workers’ right to strike; and the use of forced labor, including prison labor. Corruption remained widespread.
The authorities prosecuted a number of abuses of power, particularly with regard to corruption. However, the internal disciplinary procedures of the CCP were opaque, and it was not clear whether human rights and administrative abuses were consistently punished.