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Chinese Politics - Hu Jintao

Corruption remained an endemic problem. The courts and Party agencies took disciplinary action against some public and Party officials during the year. According to the Supreme People's Procuratorate, prosecutors at all levels investigated 207,103 cases of embezzlement, bribery, and other functionary crimes during the 1997-2002 period. During that period, 83,308 public officials were convicted for graft or bribery, a 65 percent increase over the previous 5-year period, according to the Supreme People's Court. In April, the Minister of Supervision reported that 860,000 corruption cases were filed against Party members from 1997 to 2002, resulting in over 137,000 expulsions and disciplinary action in over 98 percent of cases. The Party's Central Discipline and Inspection Commission also played an important role in investigating corruption and official malfeasance but published no statistics and, in some cases, reportedly acted as a substitute for sanctions by the courts and other legal agencies.

The Constitution provides for freedom of association. However, in practice, workers were not free to organize or join unions of their own choosing. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which was controlled by the Communist Party and headed by a high-level Party official, was the sole legal workers' organization. The Trade Union Law gives the ACFTU control over the establishment and operation of all subsidiary union organizations and activities throughout the country, including enterprise-level unions. The Trade Union Law also allows workers to decide whether to join official unions in their enterprises. There were no reports of repercussions for the small percentage of workers in the state-owned sector that had not joined. Independent unions are illegal.

Although the ACFTU and its constituent unions had a monopoly on trade union activity, their influence over the workplace diminished with the economic reforms of recent years. ACFTU unions were relatively powerless to protect the tens of millions of members who have lost their jobs or had their wages or benefits delayed or cut in the massive restructuring of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The unions have, however, provided some benefits and reemployment assistance to affected workers. The ACFTU had difficulty organizing in the country's rapidly growing private and foreign-invested sectors, where union membership during the year was estimated to be less than 20 percent. With declines in the state-owned sector and organizational weakness outside the state sector, the ACFTU's membership declined from nearly 100 percent of the urban workforce during the height of the planned economy to approximately 50 percent in recent years. The ACFTU reported a membership of 130 million at the end of 2002, out of an estimated 248 million urban workers.

During 2005 at least 2,148 people were executed in 22 countries in cases recorded by Amnesty International; the actual numbers were certainly higher. The majority of these executions took place in China, where fleets of mobile execution vans had been deployed to facilitate prompt, low-profile executions by lethal injection. Execution by lethal injection, even if it uses tools of intensive care such as intravenous tubing and beeping heart monitors, has the same relationship to medicine that an executioner's axe has to surgery. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US together with China accounted for 94% of executions in 2005.

In 2010 the Information Office of the State Council released its first White Paper on the Internet outlining the government’s endeavors to allow certain freedoms of speech on the Internet as long as the speech did not endanger state security, subvert state power, damage state honor and interests, jeopardize state religious policy, propagate heretical or superstitious ideas, or spread rumors and other content forbidden by laws and administrative regulations, among other caveats. The Internet was widely available and widely used; the International Telecommunication Union reported that 38 percent of individuals used the Internet and 31 percent of households had access to the Internet in 2011.

Media outlets received regular guidance from the Central Propaganda Department on topics that should not be covered. Officials continued to censor, ban, and sanction reporting on labor, health, environmental crises, and industrial accidents. Following the July 2011 train crash in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, authorities issued instructions to keep the coverage upbeat and focused on the salvage and recovery efforts. Nonetheless, many domestic media outlets ignored the instructions and provided heavy coverage of the crash, its causes, and the authorities’ much-criticized response. The Ministry of Railroads contacted media outlets to prohibit them from visiting the scene of the accident and limited its contacts to state-controlled media organizations. Following a flood that killed 77 persons in Beijing in July, the State Council Information Office issued instructions to media outlets and Internet companies to guide online discussions in light of increasing attacks on the Communist Party and the government by removing hostile and malicious messages while leaving general messages questioning the situation untouched.

All concerts, sports events, exercise classes, or other meetings of more than 200 persons require approval from public security authorities. Although peaceful protests are legal, in practice police rarely granted approval. Despite restrictions there were many demonstrations, but those with political or social themes were broken up quickly, sometimes with excessive force. The number of “mass incidents” and protests, including some violent protests, against local governments increased during 2012, according to an international NGO. As in past years, the vast majority of demonstrations concerned land disputes; housing problems; industrial, environmental, and labor matters; government corruption; taxation; and other economic and social concerns. Others were provoked by accidents or related to personal petition, administrative litigation, and other legal processes.

Disputes over land expropriation continued to trigger large-scale clashes between police and protesters. Examples of such clashes included: the December 2011 sweep of Xinxing Village in Liuzhou City, Guangxi Province, when approximately 3,000 armed police officers took 31 individuals into custody; the May 4 eviction of residents of Nanning’s Yongning District from their homes; the violent suppression in May of a protest against land expropriation by residents of Dongjinggong Village in Fujian Province’s Xianyou County; and a June clash between riot police and residents of Zuotan Village, Guangdong Province, over a development plan that allowed government officials to rezone and commercially rent out the villagers’ land.

Although banned by regulations, retaliation against petitioners reportedly continued. This was partly due to incentives the central government provided to local officials to prevent petitioners from raising complaints to higher levels. Incentives included provincial cadre evaluations based in part on the number of petitions from their provinces. This initiative aimed to encourage local and provincial officials to resolve legitimate complaints but also resulted in local officials sending security personnel to Beijing and forcibly returning the petitioners to their home provinces to prevent them from filing complaints against local officials with the central government. Such detentions often went unrecorded.

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