- Blind Shandong legal activist Chen Guangcheng, and members of his family, were tortured and held under illegal house arrest for a year and a half before they escaped to the US embassy in April 2012. After a diplomatic stand-off, they were permitted to leave for the USA in May.
- Human rights and environmental activist Hu Jia remained under house arrest and monitoring since his release in June 2011. Prior to the CCPC in November 2012, he was forced out of his Beijing home by the internal security police and kept in a hotel until 16 November.
Human rights defenders
Tension between civil society and the government remained acute. Academics and activists issued several public letters to the government and incoming leaders, calling for elimination of RTL and other arbitrary detention systems such as “black jails” and psychiatric detention.
The authorities budgeted over 701 billion yuan (approximately US$112 billion) to maintain public security, an increase of over 30 billion from 2011. Provincial governments called on lower level authorities to “strengthen community works” in the run-up to the Chinese Communist Party leadership transition. This included collecting information from community monitors, frequently warning dissidents and their families, and imprisoning government critics or placing them under house arrest all as a means to silence dissent.
At the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012, several human rights defenders who consistently called for political reform were sentenced to long jail terms for “inciting subversion of state power” through articles and poems they wrote and distributed. Sentences included 10 years for Guizhou human rights forum leader Chen Xi and activist Li Tie, nine years for Sichuan human rights activist Chen Wei, seven years for Zhejiang Democratic Party member Zhu Yufu and, at the end of 2012, eight years for Jiangsu internet activist Cao Haibo, who set up an online group to discuss constitutional law and democracy.
Human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights were also targeted. They were either placed under surveillance, harassed, or charged with vaguely worded offences.
- Shanghai housing rights activist Feng Zhenghu was put under house arrest at the end of February and remained so throughout the year.
- Women’s rights and housing activist Mao Hengfeng was again detained for “disturbing public order” one month before the 18th CCPC and eventually ordered to serve 18 months of RTL.
- Human rights lawyer Ni Yulan and her husband, both housing rights activists, were sentenced in July to 30 months and 24 months respectively for “picking quarrels and causing trouble”, after a second trial.
- On 6 June, veteran dissident and labour rights activist Li Wangyang was found dead in hospital just days after an interview, in which he spoke about being tortured, aired in Hong Kong. The authorities claimed he committed suicide by hanging himself; however many questioned the likelihood of this. Li Wangyang was blind, deaf and unable to walk without assistance as a result of being tortured when he was jailed after the 1989 crackdown. He had been jailed twice for a total of more than 21 years.
Death sentences continued to be imposed after unfair trials. More people were executed in China than in the rest of the world put together. Statistics on death sentences and executions remained classified. Under current Chinese laws, there were no procedures for death row prisoners to seek pardon or commutation of their sentence.