The United States said Thursday that China’s human rights record was getting worse, with authorities stepping up efforts to silence activists and stifle public debate.
“In China, the human rights situation deteriorated, particularly the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association,” the State Department said in its annual human rights report for 2011.
“The government stepped up efforts to silence political activists and resorted to extralegal measures,” it said.
The report said that Chinese forces “reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings” and has held activists in unknown circumstances including human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng and ethnic Mongolian campaigner Hada.
Chinese authorities also resorted to house arrests, including of family members, “to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions.”
It said that “abuses peaked around high-profile events,” including visits of foreign officials, sensitive anniversaries and calls for street gatherings inspired by the wave of anti-authoritarian protests in the Arab world.
The report was issued just days after China allowed one of its best-known activists, Chen Guangcheng, to go to the United States after he dramatically escaped house arrest and took refuge in the US embassy.
The State Department report covered 2011, before the high-profile saga over Chen. In the report, the State Department detailed concerns over the treatment of Chen including “severe” beatings by thugs against him and his wife.
Chen was denied medical care for a gastrointestinal condition and activists who tried to near his home in eastern Shandong province said they were “assaulted, detained, forcibly removed or otherwise abused,” the report said.
US officials were careful in comments on Chen, fearing the deal would collapse if China became annoyed. China each year voices anger over the US human rights report, describing it as interference.
[Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng ( L) and his wife Yuan Weijing smile upon their arrival in New York on April 19 after escapting house arrest in China. AFP Photo/Mladen Antonov]