Head of state: Hu Jintao
Head of government: Wen Jiabao
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 1,354.1 million
Life expectancy: 73.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 25/35 per 1,000
The Chinese government responded to a burgeoning civil society by jailing and persecuting people for peacefully expressing their views, holding religious beliefs not sanctioned by the state, advocating for democratic reform and human rights, and defending the rights of others. Popular social media sites remained blocked by China’s internet firewall. The authorities continued to repress Tibetan, Uighur, Mongolian and other ethnic minority populations. On the international stage, China grew more confident and more aggressive in punishing countries whose leaders spoke publicly about its human rights record.
China maintained a relatively high level of economic growth compared to other major economies, despite the continuing global recession. However, it faced intensifying domestic discontent and protests stemming from growing economic and social inequalities, pervasive corruption within the judicial system, police abuses, suppression of religious freedoms and other human rights, and continuing unrest and repression in the Tibetan and Uighur regions of the country. Despite a rise in average incomes, millions had no access to health care, internal migrants continued to be treated as second-class citizens, and many children were unable to pay school fees.
The authorities renewed their commitment to strengthening the rule of law. However, access to justice remained elusive for those considered a political threat to the regime or to the interests of local officials. Political influence over and corruption within the judiciary remained endemic.
Reflecting its growing international economic and political influence, China increasingly threatened economic and political retaliation against countries that criticized its human rights record. Many countries appeared reluctant to publicly challenge China on its lack of progress on human rights, and bilateral channels, such as human rights dialogues, proved largely ineffective. The authorities reacted angrily to the news that the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to long-time Chinese political activist Liu Xiaobo, indefinitely postponing bilateral trade talks with Norway. Foreign diplomats reported being pressured by China not to attend the award ceremony on 10 December in Oslo.
Freedom of expression
The authorities stopped people from speaking out about or reporting on politically sensitive issues by accusing them of divulging "state secrets", "splittism" (ethnic minority nationalism), slander, and the crime of "subversion". Vague regulations were used to tightly control publication of politically sensitive material, including references to the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, human rights and democracy, Falun Gong, and Tibetan and Uighur issues. Official censorship relied heavily on "prior restraint", a form of self-censorship, and the use of an internet "firewall" that blocked or filtered out sensitive content.
The amended state secrets law, effective 10 October, added a new provision, Article 28, which requires internet and other telecommunications companies to co-operate in investigations of "state secret" leaks, or face prosecution. The authorities maintained tight control over online news reports, restricting licences to large, government-backed websites. Many social media sites remained blocked, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.