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U.S. Department of State, 2011 Human Rights in China, May 24, 2012

This report is produced annually by the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

May 24, 2012

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Executive summaries on: China | Tibet | Hong Kong | Macau


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


The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in other provinces to be a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee’s United Front Work Department, headed by Du Qinglin since late 2007, oversees the PRC’s Tibet policies. As in other predominantly minority areas of the PRC, ethnic Han CCP members hold almost all top government, police, and military positions in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its nine-member Standing Committee in Beijing. Chen Quanguo succeeded Zhang Qingli as TAR Party Secretary on August 25. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.

The TAR and other Tibetan areas continued to be under increasingly intense and formalized systems of controls, many of which appeared to be aimed at facilitating enforcement of “social stability” and undermining the religious authority of the Dalai Lama. The government’s attempts to assert control over all aspects of Tibetan Buddhist monastic and religious practice through such means as compulsory “patriotic education” and “legal education” campaigns at monasteries, compulsory denunciation of the Dalai Lama, establishing permanent CCP and security personnel presence at monasteries, and taking over the identification and training of reincarnated lamas (tulku), provoked acts of resistance among the Tibetan population, who saw it as a threat to the foundations of Tibet’s distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural identity. These acts of resistance, in turn, led to enhanced attempts by PRC authorities to maintain control, thus creating cycles of repression that resulted in increasingly desperate acts by Tibetans, such as a series of self-immolations by Tibetan Buddhist clergy and laypersons in China’s Tibetan areas.

There was severe repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and movement. Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial detentions, and house arrests. The preservation and development of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage and unique high plateau environment remained a concern. As in prior years, authorities intensified controls over speech, travel, assembly, and religious practice in the TAR and other Tibetan areas prior to and during politically sensitive dates, such as the third anniversary of the March 2008 protests and riots in Tibetan areas, the observance of “Serf Emancipation Day” on March 28 (see Academic Freedom and Protection of Cultural Heritage), the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CCP on July 1, and the 60th anniversary of the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet on July 19. The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and Tibetan areas outside the TAR, making it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses.

The consequences of the 2008 protests continued to affect the human rights situation in Tibetan regions of the PRC. People’s Armed Police (PAP) presence remained at high levels in many communities across the Tibetan Plateau. In March all major monasteries in the TAR and other Tibetan areas outside of the TAR were guarded by security forces, and many shops in Lhasa closed March 14 to mark the anniversary of the demonstrations and police crackdown. Students and monks in several areas were detained after reportedly demanding freedom and human rights and expressing their support for the Dalai Lama.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong and the SAR’s charter, the Basic Law of the SAR (the Basic Law), specify that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy except in matters of defense and foreign affairs. The Fourth Term Legislative Council (Legco) was elected from a combination of geographic and functional constituencies in 2008 elections that were generally free and fair. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.

The three most important human rights problems reported were the limited ability of citizens to participate in and change their government; an increase in arbitrary arrest or detention and other aggressive police tactics hampering the freedom of assembly; and a legislature with limited powers in which certain sectors of society wield disproportionate political influence.

Other areas of reported concern include increasing limitations on freedom of the press and self-censorship; increasing denial of visas for political reasons; alleged election fraud; trafficking in persons; and societal prejudice against certain ethnic minorities.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses.


Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and enjoys a high degree of autonomy, except in defense and foreign affairs, under the SAR’s constitution (the Basic Law). Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, who took office in December 2009, headed the government after being elected in July 2009 by a 300-member commission. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.

Three prominent human rights abuses reported during the year included limits on citizens’ ability to change their government, concerns over press freedom, and concerns over workers’ rights.

Although trafficking in persons remained a problem, there was a lack of prosecutors to pursue trafficking cases. Moreover, national security legislation, passed in 2009 in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law, remained a source of concern, but by year’s end no cases had been brought under the law.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses. There was no impunity for government officials.

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