Freedom of expression in the XUAR was severely curtailed by laws criminalizing the use of the internet and other forms of digital communication. Infractions included vaguely defined crimes of "ethnic separatism", such as "inciting separatism", and distributing materials and literary works with "separatist content". After partial restoration of text messaging in January, over 100 people were detained for "spreading harmful information" and "harming ethnic unity" by sending text messages, five of whom were taken into criminal custody. The complete block on information and communications imposed across the XUAR in the aftermath of the July 2009 unrest was almost fully lifted in May; however, several popular Uighur websites remained banned.
A "central work forum" held in May set out ambitious economic and political plans for the region, but did not address long-standing grievances of Uighurs, including serious employment discrimination. The XUAR authorities pushed forcefully ahead with the "bilingual education" policy which in practice promotes the use of Mandarin Chinese as the language of instruction while marginalizing Uighur and other ethnic minority languages, even in ethnic minority schools.
- In July, Uighur website managers Nureli, Dilixiati Perhati and Nijat Azat were sentenced to three, five and 10 years respectively in July for "endangering state security" through postings on their websites.
- On 1 April, the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Gulmira Imin, a Uighur website administrator, to life in prison for "splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration". It was believed the charges were linked to regular postings she made to the website Salkin, which was one of the websites on which the call to join the protests on 5 July 2009 was published.
Tibet Autonomous Region
The authorities continued to crack down on local protests associated with the March 2008 protests. Leading Tibetan intellectuals were increasingly targeted, with a number of well-known people in arts, publishing and cultural circles being sentenced to harsh sentences on spurious charges. Providing information on politically sensitive topics to foreigners was severely punished. Thousands of Tibetan students demonstrated against an official language policy which imposed Mandarin Chinese as the main language of instruction in schools at the expense of Tibetan. The policy is widely seen by Tibetans as a threat to the preservation of their culture. Although the authorities did not suppress these protests, they reiterated their commitment to the policy. Demonstrations by hundreds of Tibetan students against this policy spread to the Beijing National Minorities University in October.
The authorities continued to restrict freedom of religion. The official Buddhist Association of China issued measures, effective 10 January, calling for the Democratic Management Committees of monasteries and nunneries to verify the "conformity" of religious personnel with political, professional and personnel criteria, giving the authorities another way to weed out politically "unreliable" religious leaders.
- In May, Tagyal, a Tibetan intellectual who worked in a government publishing house, was charged with "inciting splittism" after he warned Tibetans to avoid corrupt official channels when donating money to victims of the April Yushu earthquake in Qinghai. Tagyal had also published a book on the 2008 Tibetan protests.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
The government proposed amendments allowing limited reform of the methods for electing the Legislative Council (LegCo) and selecting the Chief Executive in 2012. This prompted calls for speedy progress towards universal suffrage as stipulated in the Basic Law. LegCo passed the amendments in June, only after a controversial last minute compromise between the central government and the Democratic Party. This extended a second vote to all the electorate via a functional constituency composed of district councillors.
Freedom of expression, association and assembly