Citizens who sought information about the government’s human rights action plan and the submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of China’s human rights record scheduled for October 2013 faced harassment, detention, and arrest.
The Party’s harsh response to calls for reform this past year echoed a consistent theme across the 19 issue areas covered in this report—that the Party’s interest in maintaining control and dominance over Chinese society still trumps meaningful and lasting progress on transparency, human rights, the rule of law, and easing state control over the economy.
They urged their government to give greater force to the Constitution as a check on official behavior, make good on its promise to combat corruption by requiring officials to disclose their assets, and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in 1998.
By spring, however, it became clear that hopes China’s new leaders would engage with, or even tolerate, public discussion on issues such as constitutionalism and anticorruption would remain unfulfilled.
In addition, pollutants originating in China, such as mercury and ozone, are reaching the United States.
The extent to which the Chinese government is transparent, respects its international trading obligations, and protects Chinese citizens’ human rights affects the safety and quality of goods imported from China, and the ability of American workers and companies to compete on a level playing field.
Pro-reform editorials and discussions on the Internet were censored.This was evident in many of the headline issues that captivated Chinese citizens this past year, from crippling pollution and corrupt political figures to widespread concerns over food safety and tensions in ethnic minority regions.Citizens clamored for more information about the safety of their environment and food, but authorities deemed soil pollution data a ‘‘state secret.’’ Corruption was a top concern for many in China, but authorities detained anticorruption advocates and censored foreign news stories about the finances of China’s leaders and their families.Statements starting in late 2012 by President Xi, Premier Li, and other top leaders pledged to crack down on corruption and rein in official abuses, promised major reforms to the abusive systems of reeducation through labor and household registration, and suggested an openness to giving greater authority to China’s Constitution.New and revised laws that took effect, including the PRC Criminal Procedure Law and the PRC Mental Health Law, contained significant flaws but also had the potential to improve protection of citizens’ rights.