China-Overview

After several decades of repression, Chinese activists described 2015 as one of the worst years yet in the ongoing crackdown against lawyers, activists and scholars. In the face of an increasingly vocal public and more visible civil society activity, authorities have tightened restrictions on citizens’ right to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression under the pretence of ‘protecting national security and preventing terrorism’. Civil society organisations (CSOs), activists and lawyers have been deliberately targeted through a campaign of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention. Although protests against the authorities are common in China, officially they are subject to an almost total ban in most of the country and are particularly dangerous to hold in some regions, including Tibet, where protests are regularly broken up and protestors beaten. Civic space is also under extreme pressure in the Xinjiang autonomous region in the north west of the country, where a counter-terrorism operation launched in 2014 has led to a clampdown on protest and almost total denial of free expression. The Internet is increasingly monitored and censored, and a proposed new cybercrime law threatens to increase further the surveillance and criminalisation of legitimate online expression.