The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the paramount authority. CCP members hold almost all top government and security apparatus positions. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its seven-member Standing Committee. Civilian authorities maintained control of the military and internal security forces.
During 2015, repression and coercion against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest and ethnic minority issues markedly increased. The crackdown on the legal community was particularly severe, as individual lawyers and law firms that handled cases the government deemed “sensitive” were targeted for harassment and detention, with hundreds of lawyers and law associates interrogated, investigated, and in many cases detained in secret locations for months without charges or access to attorneys or family members. Officials continued to harass, intimidate, and prosecute family members and associates to retaliate against rights advocates and defenders. Individuals and groups regarded as politically sensitive by authorities faced tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. Authorities resorted to extralegal measures, such as enforced disappearance and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent public expression of critical opinions. Rights abuses in minority areas peaked around high-profile events, such as the visit of foreign officials, national meetings, commemorations, and high-profile trials.
As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government and had limited forms of redress against official abuse. Other human rights abuses during the year included alleged extrajudicial killings; executions without due process; prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as “black jails”; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; detention and harassment of lawyers who took on “sensitive” cases, journalists, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others whose actions the authorities deemed unacceptable ; lack of due process in judicial proceedings; political control of courts and judges; closed trials; the use of administrative detention; failure to protect refugees and asylum seekers; extrajudicial disappearances of Chinese and foreign citizens; restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth-limitation policy that, despite the lifting of one-child-per-family restrictions, in some cases resulted in forced abortion (sometimes at advanced stages of pregnancy); and trafficking in persons.
Although authorities prosecuted some abuses of power through the court system, particularly for corruption, in most cases the CCP first used internal party disciplinary procedures. Citizens who promoted independent efforts to combat abuses of power were themselves prosecuted.