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The Worst of the Worst 2012 - China

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 4 July 2012
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2012 - China, 4 July 2012, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 1,338,100,000
Capital: Beijing

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6
Status: Not Free

Trend Arrow: ↓ China received a downward trend arrow due to increased Communist Party efforts to restrict public discussion of political, legal, and human rights issues, including through the disappearance of dozens of activists and lawyers and growing online censorship among domestic social-networking services.

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011

2011 Key Developments: With a sensitive change of leadership approaching in 2012 and popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes occurring across the Middle East, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) showed no signs of loosening its grip on power in 2011. Despite minor legal improvements regarding the death penalty and urban property confiscation, the government stalled or even reversed previous reforms related to the rule of law, while security forces resorted to extralegal forms of repression. Growing public frustration over corruption and injustice fueled tens of thousands of protests and several large outbursts of online criticism during the year. The party responded by committing more resources to internal security forces and intelligence agencies, engaging in the systematic enforced disappearance of dozens of human rights lawyers and bloggers, and enhancing controls over online social media.

Political Rights: China is not an electoral democracy. The CCP has a monopoly on political power; its nine- member Politburo Standing Committee sets government policy. A 3,000-member National People's Congress remains subordinate to the party and meets for just two weeks a year. The only competitive elections are for village committees and urban residency councils, but these are often closely controlled by local party branches. Opposition groups are suppressed, and activists publicly calling for reform of the one-party political system risk arrest and imprisonment. In addition to Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence related to the prodemocracy manifesto Charter 08, tens of thousands of others are thought to be held in prisons and extrajudicial forms of detention for their political or religious views. Despite thousands of prosecutions launched each year, corruption remains endemic, particularly at the local level.

Civil Liberties: China's media environment remains extremely restrictive, and 2011 featured one of the worst crackdowns on activists in recent memory. Party directives in 2011 curbed reporting on uprisings in the Middle East, an oil spill, public health issues, labor unrest, and particular human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers. Journalists who fail to comply with official guidance are harassed, fired, or jailed. New restrictions were imposed on television entertainment programming, and several periodicals known for investigative journalism faced closure, dismissals, or tighter supervision. China's population of internet users, estimated at over 500 million, remained the world's largest. However, the government maintains an elaborate apparatus for censoring and monitoring internet and mobile-telephone communications. Religious freedom is sharply curtailed, and religious minorities remain a key target of repression. All religious groups must register with the government, which regulates their activities and guides their theology. Some faith groups are forbidden, and their members face harassment, imprisonment, and torture. Freedoms of assembly and association are severely restricted. In early 2011, security forces swarmed locations proposed in anonymous, online calls for Tunisian-style prodemocracy protests, preventing any demonstrations. The only legal labor union is government controlled, and independent labor leaders are harassed. The CCP controls the judiciary and directs verdicts and sentences, particularly in politically sensitive cases. Torture remains widespread, with coerced confessions routinely admitted as evidence. Serious violations of women's rights continue, including domestic violence, human trafficking, and the use of coercive methods to enforce the one-child policy.

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