According to the U.S. Department of State's 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, China’s human rights record remained poor and has worsened in some areas.
The report finds that during 2008, the government of China increased its severe cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in Tibetan areas and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, increased detention and harassment of dissidents and petitioners, and maintained tight controls on freedom of speech and the Internet.
Following violent protests in Lhasa in March 2008, Chinese authorities locked down monasteries across Tibetan areas and detained and physically abused an unknown number of monks and nuns, or expelled them from their monastery.
The report also finds that in 2008, the Chinese government continued to restrict the scope and activity of both registered and unregistered religious groups, including house churches. Harassment and repression of unregistered religious groups intensified in the run-up to last summer’s Olympic games in Beijing. Unregistered Catholic bishops, priests, and laypersons continued to suffer harassment, including government surveillance and detentions.
The government of China continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison journalists, writers, activists, and defense lawyers and their families, many of whom were seeking to exercise their rights under the law. A lack of due process and restrictions on lawyers further limited progress towards rule of law.
The Chinese government continued its coercive birth limitation policy. In some cases resulting in forced abortion or sterlization.
In its years of documenting human rights abuses, the United States has found that countries in which human rights are most protected and respected are characterized by 3 common elements. They include free and fair elections, representative government, and a vibrant civil society. As the report documents, these are areas where progress in China would be welcomed.
The report also notes that in mid-October, 2008, the Chinese government made temporary Olympic Games-related regulations permanent, granting foreign journalists greater freedoms.