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2011 Country Reports on Human Rights: East Asia and Pacific Highlights

24 May 2012

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
May 24, 2012

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011

2011 Country Highlights

East Asia and Pacific

Burma took important steps to improve human rights conditions in 2011, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the adoption of a labor law that, when implemented, can provide workers the right to organize and strike. In November, following the adoption of a revised political party registration law, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and other opposition parties were allowed to re-register as legal political parties. However, significant human rights problems persisted, including military harassment and abuse of activists promoting human rights and democracy, and denial of the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion, and movement. The government detained activists indefinitely and without charges and regime-sponsored mass-member organizations harassed and abused them. Authorities arrested, detained, convicted, and imprisoned citizens for expressing political opinions critical of the government. The government took initial steps in 2011 toward lifting some of the longtime restrictions on the media. If implemented, these measures would lay the groundwork for meaningful freedom of expression in the country.

In China, the human rights situation deteriorated, particularly the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. The government exercised tight control over Internet access and content. Members of civil society, including human rights activists, journalists, writers, and dissidents, were harassed and detained. Public interest lawyers who took cases deemed sensitive by the government faced disbarment and the closure of their firms, and in some cases were subject to arrest and detention. Activists, dissidents, and members of religious minorities were denied the freedoms to assemble, practice their religions, or travel. The government stepped up efforts to silence political activists and resorted to extralegal measures, including enforced disappearance, “soft detention,” and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions. Abuses peaked around high-profile events, such as visits of foreign officials, sensitive anniversaries, and in response to calls for “Jasmine revolution,” protests. In Tibet, at least 12 monks and nuns immolated themselves to protest political restrictions and lack of religious freedom.

Vietnam’s May elections were neither free nor fair, since all candidates were required to pass vetting by the authorities. The government severely restricted political rights, including the freedoms of expression, assembly, movement, and association. It also restricted access to Internet content, and monitored bloggers. There were confirmed reports of attacks against websites critical of the Vietnamese government. Peaceful political activists were arbitrarily arrested, detained, and sentenced to prison; those alleged to have ties to foreign-based pro-democracy groups were particular targets. And 19 people reportedly died in police custody, including a man beaten while in detention for a traffic violation. At year’s end, the government reportedly held more than 100 political detainees, although some international observers claimed there were more. Independent nongovernmental organizations were not permitted, and corruption was a problem in the judiciary as well as at various levels in the police. Prosecution of officials who committed abuses was inconsistent.