People’s Republic of China
Head of state Hu Jintao
Head of government Wen Jiabao
The authorities maintained a stranglehold on political activists, human rights defenders and online activists, subjecting many to harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance. At least 130 people were detained or otherwise restricted to stifle criticism and prevent protests ahead of the leadership transition initiated at the18th Chinese Communist Party Congress in November. Access to justice remained elusive for many, resulting in millions of people petitioning the government to complain of injustices and seek redress outside the formal legal system. Muslims, Buddhists and Christians, who practised their religion outside officially sanctioned channels, and Falun Gong practitioners, were tortured, harassed, arbitrarily detained, imprisoned and faced other serious restrictions on their right to freedom of religion. Local governments continued to rely on land sales to fund stimulus projects that resulted in the forced eviction of thousands of people from their homes or land throughout the country. The authorities reported that they would further tighten the judicial process in death penalty cases; however thousands were executed.
The Chinese Communist Party made its first official top leadership change in 10 years at the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress (CCPC) in November. Xi Jinping was promoted to party leader and Li Keqiang to the second ranked member of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee. The two were expected to replace, respectively, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, in March 2013.
The state continued to use the criminal justice system to punish its critics. Hundreds of individuals and groups were sentenced to long prison terms or sent to Re-education Through Labour (RTL) camps for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief. People were frequently charged with “endangering state security”, “inciting subversion of state power” and “leaking state secrets”, and were sentenced to long prison terms, in many cases, for posting blogs online or communicating information overseas that was deemed sensitive.
Lawyers who took on controversial cases faced harassment and threats from the authorities and, in some cases, the loss of professional licences, severely curtailing people’s access to justice.
Criminal defendants faced routine violations of the right to a fair trial and other rights, including denial of access to their lawyers and family, detention beyond legally allowed time frames, and torture and other ill-treatment in detention. The use of torture to extract confessions remained widespread.
Revisions to the Criminal Procedure Law, adopted in March to be effective 1 January 2013, introduced strengthened protections for juvenile criminal suspects and defendants, and those with mental disabilities. However, for the first time, the revisions authorized police to detain suspects for up to six months for certain types of crimes, including “endangering state security”, without notifying the suspect’s family of the location or reasons for detention. The revisions therefore potentially legalized enforced disappearance.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
Police arbitrarily deprived hundreds of thousands of people of their liberty by placing them in administrative detention, including RTL camps, without recourse to independent courts.
The authorities operated hundreds of places of detention, including “black jails” and Legal Education Training Centres where they held thousands arbitrarily, and where torture, sometimes leading to death, was an established method of “correction” or deterrence.