Human rights in ChinaThe situation of Human rights in the People's Republic of China is controversial.
The US State Department's annual People's Republic of China human rights reports have noted the PRC's well-documented abuses of human rights in violation of internationally recognized norms, stemming both from the authorities' intolerance of dissent and the inadequacy of legal safeguards for basic freedoms. Abuses reported have included arbitrary and lengthy incommunicado detention, including use of laogai and reeducation through labor, forced confessions, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners as well as severe restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, privacy, and worker rights.
It the same time, mainland China's economic growth and reform since 1978 has improved dramatically the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese, increased social mobility and expanded the scope of personal freedom. This has meant substantially greater freedom of travel, employment opportunity, educational and cultural pursuits, job and housing choices, and access to information. In recent years, the PRC has also passed new criminal and civil laws that provide additional safeguards to citizens. Village elections have been carried out in approximately 80% of China's one million villages.
Despite some positive momentum last year and greater signs that the People's Republic of China was willing to engage with the U.S. and others on this topic, there has been some serious backsliding in recent months. The government has acknowledged in principle the importance of protection of human rights and has purported to take steps to bring its human rights practices into conformity with international norms. Among these steps are signature in October 1997 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ratified in March 2001) and signature in October 1998 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (not yet ratified). In 2002, the PRC released a significant number of political and religious prisoners, and agreed to interact with UN experts on torture, arbitrary detention and religion. However, there has been virtually no movement on these promises. The PRC still has a long way to do in instituting the kind of fundamental systemic change that will protect the rights and liberties of all its citizens.