China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, and some persons convicted of rape were executed. The penalties for rape range from three years in prison to death. The law does not address spousal rape.
Cases of rape were unreported, and most cases were closed through private settlement. From 2013 to 2015, courts adjudicated 66,736 rape cases in which 62,551 defendants were given criminal convictions. Scholars pointed out that performance indicators for public security officers and prosecutors disincentivized prosecution of rape cases, as private settlement of cases minimized the risk that the records of prosecutors and public security officials would be tarnished by mishandled cases. The government, however, acknowledged the need to include the reporting of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other gender-related cases in annual judicial statistics.
Domestic violence remained a significant problem, but the government took a significant step to protect women from domestic abuse through the passage of the Family Violence Law, which took effect March 1. The law defines domestic violence as physical and mental violence between family members. NGOs reported that, as a result of the law, more women were willing to report domestic violence incidents to police. Nevertheless, implementation of the law remained inconsistent during its first year, largely due to authorities’ lack of awareness of the law’s implementing measures. Societal sentiment that domestic violence was a personal, private matter also contributed to underreporting and inaction by authorities when women faced violence at home.
According to reports, at least one-quarter of families suffered from domestic violence and more than 85 percent of the victims were women. The government supported shelters for victims of domestic violence, and some courts provided protections to victims, including through restraining orders prohibiting a perpetrator of domestic violence from coming near a victim. Nonetheless, official assistance did not always reach victims, and public security forces often ignored domestic violence. Legal aid institutions working to provide counseling and defense to victims of domestic violence were often pressured to suspend public activities and cease all forms of policy advocacy, an area that was reserved only for government-sponsored organizations. During the year several domestic violence service-oriented organizations were unable to register formally as nonprofit organizations, as authorities rejected their applications.
While domestic violence tended to be more prevalent in rural areas, it also occurred among the highly educated urban population. Women in rural areas, however, often lacked access to protection due to the perception that domestic violence was a lesser crime. In one case in Henan Province, a man was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve–instead of immediate execution–after murdering his wife. In its written judgement, the court cited the fact that the murder was a “domestic case” in its reasoning for a reduced penalty.
During the year the government began to open dedicated shelters for domestic violence survivors, a change from previous years when survivors could only go to homeless shelters providing domestic violence-related services. Such shelters opened in Chengdu, Dazhou, Nanjing, and Zhengzhou municipalities, offering psychological counseling for victims of domestic abuse, including women and children. The shelters reported they were underutilized due to the public shame associated with domestic violence.
According to women’s rights activists, a recurring problem in the prosecution of domestic violence cases was a lack of evidence–including photographs, hospital records, police records, or children’s testimony–which hindered their prosecution. Witnesses seldom testified in court.
Courts’ recognition of domestic violence improved, making spousal abuse a mitigating factor in crimes committed in self-defense. In 2015 the SPC issued guidelines for dealing with cases of domestic violence to improve the unified application of laws, according to the Information Office of the State Council.
Sexual Harassment: The law bans sexual harassment. Offenders are subject to a penalty of up to 15 days in detention, according to the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Nonetheless, because laws lacked a clear definition of sexual harassment, it remained difficult for victims to file a sexual harassment complaint and for judges to reach a ruling on such cases.
Many women remained unwilling to report incidents of sexual harassment, believing that the justice system was ineffectual, according to official media. Several prominent media reports of sexual harassment went viral on social media, helping to raise awareness of the problem, particularly in the workplace.
The Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests empowers victims to file a sexual harassment complaint with their employer and/or with authorities. If employers failed to take effective measures to prevent sexual harassment, they could be fined.
Sexual harassment was not limited to the workplace. According to a 2014 survey by the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), 57 percent of female students at 15 universities reported having been sexually harassed. Some of them experienced such harassment repeatedly. Many students said they were unaware of formal procedures to report incidents of harassments. At Beijing Normal University, one student documented 60 instances of sexual harassment over the past decade, prompting online debate and the university to start an antiharassment awareness campaign.
The ACWF and universities worked to improve awareness on sexual harassment by offering seminars and classes; however, NGOs that sought to increase public awareness of sexual harassment came under increasing scrutiny. Some women’s NGOs reported harassment by public security and faced challenges executing their programs. In September women’s rights activist Shan Lihua was found guilty by the Gangzha District People’s Court in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” The indictment specifically cited Shan’s activism on a rape case in Hainan Province as evidence, according to media reports.
Reproductive Rights: On January 1, the government raised the birth limit imposed on its citizens from one to two children per married couple, thereby ending the “one-child policy” first enacted in 1979. The revised law permits married couples to have two children and allows couples to apply for permission to have a third child if they meet conditions stipulated in local and provincial regulations. The revised law did not, however, eliminate state-imposed birth limitations or the penalties that citizens face for violating the law. The government considers intrauterine devices (IUDs) and sterilization to be the most reliable form of birth control and compelled women to accept the insertion of IUDs by officials. The National Health and Family Planning Commission reported that all provinces eliminated an earlier requirement to seek approval for a birth before a first child was conceived, but provinces could still require parents to “register pregnancies” prior to giving birth, which could be used as a de facto permit system in some provinces.
Under the law and in practice, there continued to be financial and administrative penalties for births that exceed birth limits or otherwise violate regulations. The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced it would continue to impose fines, called “social compensation fees,” for policy violations. The law as implemented requires each woman with an unauthorized pregnancy to abort or pay the social compensation fee, which can reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income. The exact level of the fee varied widely from province to province. Those with financial means often paid the fee so that their children born in violation of the birth restrictions would have access to services. Some parents avoided the fee by hiding a child born in violation of the law with friends or relatives.
The revised law maintains previous language indicating that “citizens have an obligation to practice birth planning in accordance with the law” and also states that “couples of child-bearing age voluntarily choose birth planning contraceptive and birth control measures to prevent and reduce unwanted pregnancies.” Regulations pertaining to single women and unmarried couples remain unchanged. Children born to single mothers or unmarried couples are considered “outside of the policy” and subject to the social compensation fee and the denial of legal documents, such as birth documents and the “hukou” residence permit. Single women can avoid those penalties by marrying within 60 days of the baby’s birth. In localities with large populations of migrant workers, officials specifically targeted migrant women to ensure that they did not exceed birth limitations.
Government statistics on the percentage of abortions during the year that were nonelective were not available. State media claimed the number of coerced abortions had declined in recent years in the wake of looser regulations, including the implementation of the two-child policy.
As in prior years, population control policy continued to rely on social pressure, education, propaganda, and economic penalties as well as on measures such as mandatory pregnancy examinations and coercive abortions and sterilizations. Those found to have a pregnancy in violation of the law or those who helped another to evade state controls could face punitive measures, such as onerous fines, job loss, demotion, and loss of promotion opportunity (for those in the public sector or state-owned enterprises), expulsion from the CCP (membership is an unofficial requirement for many jobs), and other administrative punishments. In July the state-funded news outlet Sixth Tone reported that officials in Guangdong Province threatened a remarried couple with termination of their employment unless the wife had an abortion. Both individuals were government employees and each had a child from a prior marriage. Regulations in Guangdong Province do not permit such couples to have a child.
Regulations requiring women who violate the family-planning policy to terminate their pregnancies still exist and were enforced in some provinces, such as Hubei, Hunan, and Liaoning. For example, Hunan provincial regulations that were revised in March stipulate: “Pregnancies that do not conform to the conditions established by the law should promptly be terminated. For those who have not promptly terminated the pregnancy, the township people’s government or subdistrict office shall order that the pregnancy be terminated by a deadline.” Other provinces, such as Jilin, removed previous requirements to terminate pregnancies that violate the policy but retained provisions that require local officials to “promptly report” to higher authorities when such pregnancies are discovered without specifying what measures will be taken thereafter. Other provinces, such as Guizhou, Jiangxi, Qinghai, and Yunnan, maintained provisions that require “remedial measures,” an official euphemism for abortion, to deal with pregnancies that violate the policy. Some provinces, such as Guangdong, removed provisions from provincial-level regulations requiring “remedial measures” but inserted them instead into the revised regulations of major municipalities, such as Shenzhen. In the provinces where provincial regulations do not explicitly require termination of pregnancy or remedial measures, some local officials still coerced abortions to avoid surpassing population growth quotas.
The law mandates that family planning bureaus administer pregnancy tests to married women of childbearing age and provide them with unspecified “follow-up” services. Some provinces fined women who did not undergo these periodic state-mandated pregnancy tests. Officials at all levels could receive rewards or penalties based on whether or not they met the population targets set by their administrative region. Promotions for local officials depended in part on meeting population targets.
Although the population and birth planning law states that officials should not violate citizens’ “lawful rights” in the enforcement of birth limitation policy, these rights are not clearly defined nor are the penalties for violating them. The law lists seven activities that authorities are prohibited from undertaking when enforcing birth control regulations, which include beating individuals and their families, destroying property or crops, confiscating property to cover the amount of the fee, detaining relatives, and conducting pregnancy tests on unmarried women. Forced abortion is not listed. By law citizens may sue officials who exceed their authority in implementing birth-planning policy, but few protections exist for citizens against retaliation from local officials.
Discrimination: The constitution states that “women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.” The law provides for equality in ownership of property, inheritance rights, access to education, and equal pay for equal work. Despite this, many activists and observers expressed concern that discrimination remained a problem. Women reported that discrimination, unfair dismissal, demotion, and wage discrepancies were significant problems.
On average, women earned 35 percent less than men doing similar work. This wage gap was greater in rural areas. Women also continued to be underrepresented in leadership positions, despite their high rate of participation in the labor force. In 2015 women constituted 17 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers.
Authorities often did not enforce laws protecting the rights of women. According to legal experts, it was difficult to litigate sex discrimination suits because of vague legal definitions. Some observers noted that the agencies tasked with protecting women’s rights tended to focus on maternity-related benefits and wrongful termination during maternity leave rather than on sex discrimination, violence against women, and sexual harassment.
In April a Guangzhou court sided with a female plaintiff, Gao Xiao, who had sued a restaurant for refusing to hire her as a cook after she was told the job was only open to men. The court ordered that Gao be paid 2,000 yuan ($290) in compensation. This was reportedly Guangzhou’s first gender-discrimination lawsuit.
Women’s rights advocates indicated that in rural areas women often forfeited land and property rights to their husbands in divorce proceedings. Rural contract law and laws protecting women’s rights stipulate that women enjoy equal rights in cases of land management, but experts asserted that this was rarely the case due to the complexity of the law and difficulties in its implementation.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the sex ratio at birth was 113 males to 100 females in 2016, a decline from 2013, when the ratio was 116 males for every 100 females. Sex identification and sex-selective abortion are prohibited, but the practices continued because of traditional preference for male children and the birth-limitation policy.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from parents. Parents must register their children in compliance with the national household registration system within one month of birth. Unregistered children could not access public services, including education. No data was available on the number of unregistered births. In 2010 the official census estimated there were 13 million individuals without official documentation, many of whom likely were “ghost” children whose births were concealed from local officials because they violated the population control policy. Some local officials denied such children household registration and identification documents, particularly if their families could not pay the social compensation fees.
Education: Although the law provides for nine years of compulsory education for children, many children did not attend school for the required period in economically disadvantaged rural areas, and some never attended. Although public schools were not allowed to charge tuition, many schools continued to charge miscellaneous fees because they received insufficient local and central government funding. Such fees and other school-related expenses made it difficult for poorer families and some migrant workers to send their children to school.
Denied access to state-run schools, most children of migrant workers who attended school did so at unlicensed and poorly equipped schools.
Child Abuse: The physical abuse of children is ground for criminal prosecution. Kidnapping, buying, and selling children for adoption existed, particularly in poor rural areas, but there were no reliable estimates of the number of children kidnapped. Government authorities regularly estimated that fewer than 10,000 children were abducted per year, but media reports and experts sources noted that as many as 70,000 may be kidnapped every year. Most children kidnapped internally were sold to couples unable to have children. Those convicted of buying an abducted child could be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. In the past most children abducted were boys, but increased demand for children reportedly drove kidnappers to focus on girls as well. In an effort to reunite families, the Ministry of Public Security maintained a DNA database of parents of missing children and of children recovered in law enforcement operations. During the year the government adopted a telephone system similar to the Amber Alert system in the United States.
Between 2013 and 2015, courts adjudicated 7,610 child molestation cases, sentencing 6,620 individuals. The number of convictions in child molestation cases consistently increased between 2013 and 2015. In a report during the year, the SPC acknowledged there had been a high number of cases involving the sexual abuse of minors. The People’s Public Security University of China estimated that, for every reported case of sexual abuse, as many as seven cases went unreported.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 22 for men and 20 for women. Child marriage was not known to be a problem.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Persons who forced girls under the age of 14 into prostitution could be sentenced to seven years to life in prison in addition to a fine or confiscation of property. In especially serious cases, violators could receive a life sentence or death sentence, in addition to having their property confiscated. Those who visited girls forced into prostitution under age 14 were subject to five years or more in prison in addition to paying a fine.
The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 14.
Pornography of any kind, including child pornography, is illegal. Under the criminal code, those producing, reproducing, publishing, selling, or disseminating obscene materials with the purpose of making a profit could be sentenced up to three years in prison or put under criminal detention or surveillance in addition to paying a fine. Offenders in serious cases could receive prison sentences of three to 10 years in addition to paying a fine.
Persons broadcasting or showing obscene materials to minors under the age of 18 are to be “severely punished.”
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law forbids infanticide, but there was evidence that the practice continued. According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, at least one doctor was charged with infanticide. No other statistics on the practice were available. Female infanticide, gender-biased abortions, and the abandonment and neglect of baby girls were declining but continued to be a problem in some circumstances due to the traditional preference for sons and the birth-limitation policy.
Displaced Children: There were approximately 1.5 million street children, according to the UN Development Program. There were between 150,000 and one million urban street children, according to state media. This number could be even higher if the children of migrant workers who spent the day on the streets were included. In 2013 the ACWF estimated that more than 61 million children under the age of 17 were left behind by their migrant-worker parents in rural areas.
Institutionalized Children: The law forbids the mistreatment or abandonment of children. The vast majority of children in orphanages were girls, many of whom were abandoned. Boys in orphanages usually had disabilities or were in poor health. Medical professionals sometimes advised parents of children with disabilities to put the children into orphanages.
The government denied that children in orphanages were mistreated or refused medical care but acknowledged that the system often was unable to provide adequately for some children, particularly those with serious medical problems. Adopted children were counted under the birth-limitation regulations in most locations. As a result, couples who adopted abandoned infant girls were sometimes barred from having additional children. The law was changed during the year to allow children who are rescued to be made available for adoption within one year if their family is not identified.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The government does not recognize Judaism as an ethnicity or religion. According to information from the Jewish Virtual Library, the country’s Jewish population was 2,500 in 2014. In September the New York Times reported that members of the Kaifeng Jewish community in Henan Province came under pressure from authorities. Approximately 1,000 Kaifeng citizens claimed Jewish ancestry. Media reports stated that authorities forced the only Jewish learning center in the community to shut down.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law protects the rights of persons with disabilities and prohibits discrimination, but in many instances conditions for such persons lagged behind legal requirements and failed to provide persons with disabilities access to programs intended to assist them. The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the China Disabled Persons Federation (CDPF), a government-organized civil association, are the main entities responsible for persons with disabilities.
According to the law, persons with disabilities “are entitled to enjoyment of equal rights as other citizens in political, economic, cultural, and social fields, in family life, and in other aspects.” Discrimination against, insult of, and infringement upon persons with disabilities is prohibited. The law prohibits discrimination against minors with disabilities and codifies a variety of judicial protections for juveniles.
Publicly available statistics showed conflicting information about the education rate for children with disabilities. The Ministry of Education reported that there were more than 2,000 special education schools for children with disabilities and that 83,000 children remained outside the state education system, mostly in rural areas. In August the CDPF reported that more than 140,000 school-age children with disabilities were in need of suitable education. NGOs reported that only 2 percent of the 20 million children with disabilities had access to education that met their needs.
Individuals with disabilities faced difficulties accessing higher education. The law permits universities to exclude candidates with disabilities who would otherwise be qualified. In 2015, of the country’s 7.4 million college freshman, only 8,508 had disabilities. A regulation mandates accommodations for students with disabilities when taking the national university entrance exam.
Nearly 100,000 organizations existed, mostly in urban areas, to serve those with disabilities and protect their legal rights. The government, at times in conjunction with NGOs, sponsored programs to integrate persons with disabilities into society.
Misdiagnosis, inadequate medical care, stigmatization, and abandonment remained common problems. Parents who chose to keep children with disabilities at home generally faced difficulty finding adequate medical care, day care, and education for their children. Government statistics reported that four million persons with disabilities lived in poverty.
Unemployment among adults with disabilities, in part due to discrimination, remained a serious problem. In April the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security reported that, of the country’s 85 million reported persons with disabilities, 4.3 million were employed in urban areas and 16.7 million were employed in rural areas. The law requires local governments to offer incentives to enterprises that hire persons with disabilities. Regulations in some parts of the country also require employers to pay into a national fund for persons with disabilities when employees with disabilities do not make up a statutory minimum percentage of the total workforce. In some parts of the country, billboard advertisements informed companies that they needed to pay a disability “tax” rather than encouraging them to hire persons with disabilities. In some cases otherwise qualified candidates were denied jobs because of physical disabilities. In August the government reported that at least four million persons with disabilities lived in poverty.
Standards adopted for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the Law on the Handicapped, which calls for their “gradual” implementation. Compliance with the law was limited.
The law forbids the marriage of persons with certain mental disabilities, such as schizophrenia. If doctors found that a couple was at risk of transmitting congenital disabilities to their children, the couple could marry only if they agree to use birth control or undergo sterilization. In some instances officials continued to require couples to abort pregnancies when doctors discovered possible disabilities during prenatal examinations. The law stipulates that local governments must employ such practices to raise the percentage of births of children without disabilities.
Most minority groups resided in areas they had traditionally inhabited. Government policy called for members of recognized minorities to receive preferential treatment in birth planning, university admission, access to loans, and employment. The substance and implementation of ethnic minority policies nonetheless remained poor, and discrimination against minorities remained widespread.
Minority groups in border and other regions had less access to education than their Han Chinese counterparts, faced job discrimination in favor of Han Chinese migrants, and earned incomes well below those in other parts of the country. Government development programs often disrupted traditional living patterns of minority groups and in some cases included the forced relocation of persons and the forced settlement of nomads. Han Chinese benefited disproportionately from government programs and economic growth in minority areas. Some job advertisements in the XUAR made clear that Uighur applicants would not be considered for employment. As part of its emphasis on building a “harmonious society” and maintaining social stability, the government downplayed racism and institutional discrimination against minorities, which remained the source of deep resentment in the XUAR, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the TAR, and other Tibetan areas.
Ethnic minorities represented approximately 13.7 percent of delegates to the NPC and more than 15 percent of NPC Standing Committee members, according to an official report issued in 2014. Han Chinese officials continued to hold the majority of the most powerful CCP and government positions in minority autonomous regions, particularly the XUAR.
The government’s policy to encourage Han Chinese migration into minority areas significantly increased the population of Han in the XUAR. In recent decades, the Chinese-Uighur ratio in the capital of Urumqi reversed from 20/80 to approximately 80/20 and continued to be a source of Uighur resentment. Discriminatory hiring practices gave preference to Han Chinese and reduced job prospects for ethnic minorities. Arable land in the XUAR’s Hotan Prefecture was appropriated from Uighur residents and distributed to Han Chinese migrants, Radio Free Asia reported in April.
According to a November 2015 government census, 9.5 million, or 40 percent, of the XUAR’s official residents were Han Chinese. Uighur, Hui, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other ethnic minorities constituted 14.1 million XUAR residents, or 60 percent of the total population. Official statistics understated the Han Chinese population because they did not count the more than 2.7 million Han residents on paramilitary compounds (bingtuan) and those who were long-term “temporary workers,” an increase of 1.2 percent over the previous year, according to a 2015 government of Xinjiang report. As the government continued to promote Han migration into the XUAR and filled local jobs with domestic migrant labor, local officials coerced young Uighur men and women to participate in a government-sponsored labor transfer program to cities outside the XUAR, according to overseas human rights organizations. In April, Radio Free Asia reported that local authorities in Hotan Prefecture ordered Uighur men and women to take part in a labor program to prevent their involvement in “illegal activities” and promote stability in the area.
The law states that “schools (classes and grades) and other institutions of education where most of the students come from minority nationalities shall, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use their languages as the medium of instruction.” Despite guarantees of cultural and linguistic rights, many primary, middle, and high school students in the XUAR had limited access to Uighur-language instruction and textbooks. There were reports that private Uighur-language schools were shut by authorities without any transparent investigation under the pretense that they promoted radical ideologies. Uighur students were often provided insufficient Uighur-language resources and instruction to maintain the integrity of their culture and traditions.
Officials in the XUAR continued to implement a pledge to crack down on the government-designated “three evil forces” of religious extremism, ethnic separatism, and violent terrorism, and they outlined efforts to launch a concentrated re-education campaign to combat what it deems to be separatism. The government in December 2015 adopted a counterterrorism law defining terrorism broadly in a way that could include religious, political, and ethnic expression. In August the XUAR government adopted a provincial-level interpretation of the national legislation, expanding the definition of terrorism to include the use of cell phones to spread terrorist ideology and “twisting” the concept of halal to apply to nonfood aspects of life. Some security raids, arbitrary detentions, and judicial punishments, ostensibly directed at individuals or organizations suspected of promoting the “three evil forces,” appeared to target groups or individuals peacefully seeking to express their political or religious views. Officials continued to use the threat of violence as justification for extreme security measures directed at the local population, journalists, and visiting foreigners.
Uighurs continued to be sentenced to long prison terms and in some cases executed without due process on charges of separatism and endangering state security. Economist Ilham Tohti remained in prison, where he was serving a life sentence, after being convicted on separatist-related charges in 2014. Many governments continued to call for his release, and Tohti was awarded the Martin Ennals Foundation’s human rights award.
In January, Xinjiang-based activist Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 19 years in prison on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” and “probing and supplying intelligence abroad.” Haitao, who is Han Chinese, had been publicly critical of the government’s policies toward Uighurs. In November a Xinjiang court upheld the sentence.
Authorities detained Uighur social activists and the web administrators of popular Uighur language websites, including the website Misranim, in the weeks leading up to Ramadan, Radio Free Asia reported in June. Ababekri Muhtar, the founder of Misranim and a disabled social activist, was also detained between April and June.
Authorities employed show trials, mass arrests, and sentencing to convict large numbers of Uighurs for state security and other suspected crimes. Seventeen Uighurs, including four women, were reportedly arrested in connection with a September incident that resulted in the death of a public security chief in Hotan prefecture, but there was no information on their alleged crimes or place of custody, according to NGOs.
Eleven Uighurs convicted of endangering state security and terrorism saw their sentences reduced or commuted by the Xinjiang High People’s Court in February following lobbying efforts by the Dui Hua Foundation.
The government pressured foreign countries to repatriate or deny visas to Uighurs who had left the country, and repatriated Uighurs faced the risk of imprisonment and mistreatment upon return. There were accusations that government pressure led to India’s cancellation of exiled Uighur leader Dolkun Isa’s visa to attend a conference there, according to Reuters. Some Uighurs who were forcibly repatriated disappeared after arrival. The international community was still unable independently to confirm the welfare of the 109 Uighurs forcibly repatriated from Thailand in July 2015. Uighurs residing in Canada indicated that Xinjiang authorities detained and interrogated them during visits to the region, pressuring them to spy on other Uighurs living abroad for Chinese authorities.
Freedom of assembly was severely limited during the year in the XUAR. For information about abuse of religious freedom in Xinjiang, see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
Authorities did not permit possession of publications or audiovisual materials discussing independence, autonomy, or other politically sensitive subjects. Uighur Abduhelil Zunun remained in prison for his peaceful expression of ideas the government found objectionable.
The law criminalizes discussion of “separatism” on the internet and prohibits use of the internet in any way that undermines national unity. It further bans inciting ethnic separatism or “harming social stability” and requires internet service providers and network operators to set up monitoring systems or to strengthen existing ones and report violations of the law. Authorities reportedly searched cell phones at checkpoints and during random inspections of Uighur households, and those in possession of alleged terrorist material, including digital pictures of the East Turkistan flag, could be arrested and charged with crimes. When their use was detected, authorities forced individuals to delete messaging software and software used to circumvent internet filters. In some areas authorities restricted the use of cell phones and internet access. In February authorities in Chaghraq Township in Aksu Prefecture sentenced a resident to seven years in prison for allegedly watching a film on Muslim migration, according to a Radio Free Asia report.
For specific information on Tibet, see the Tibet Annex.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws criminalize private consensual same-sex activities between adults. Due to societal discrimination and pressure to conform to family expectations, most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons refrained from publicly discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Individuals and organizations working on LGBTI issues continued to report discrimination and harassment from authorities similar to that experienced by other organizations that accept funding from overseas.
Despite reports of domestic violence among LGBTI couples, the regulations on domestic violence and the Family Violence Law do not include same-sex partnerships, giving LGBTI victims of domestic violence less legal recourse than heterosexual victims.
Although homosexual activity is no longer officially pathologized, some mental health practitioners offered “corrective treatment” to LGBTI persons at “conversion therapy” centers or hospital psychiatric wards, sometimes at the behest of family members.
NGOs reported that although public advocacy work became more difficult for them in light of the Foreign NGO Management Law, they made some progress in advocating for LGBTI rights through specific antidiscrimination cases.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Public health authorities reported there were more than 600,000 persons diagnosed with HIV in the country. New HIV diagnoses reported in 2015 numbered 115,465, up 11.5 percent from the 2014 total. During the year the government put significant efforts toward raising awareness of the risks of HIV/AIDS transmission, particularly among the college-age population, and Peng Liyuan made this problem a cornerstone of her platform as the country’s “first lady.”
Discrimination against persons with HIV remained a problem, impacting individuals’ employment, educational, and housing opportunities and impeding access to health care. The law allows employers and schools to bar persons with infectious diseases and did not afford specific protections based on HIV status. During the year state media outlets reported instances of persons with HIV/AIDS who were barred from housing, education, or employment due to their HIV status.
A 2013 study by the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS conducted across seven provinces found that 53 percent of HIV-infected respondents who had recently been to a doctor were denied immediate treatment, often either being referred to an infectious disease hospital less equipped to handle ordinary medical problems or given alternate treatments. Some respondents said they chose to forgo medical treatment altogether rather than navigate obstacles imposed by the health-care system.
Inadequate protection for health-care workers exposed to HIV in the workplace was cited as a reason persons with HIV/AIDS faced challenges in the health-care system. In 2015 the National Health and Family Planning Commission sought to address the problem by issuing a regulation recognizing HIV exposure as an occupational hazard in certain professions, including medicine and public security. State media characterized the regulation in part as an effort to protect the rights of health workers better while curbing AIDS-related discrimination.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
The law prohibits discrimination against persons carrying infectious diseases and allows such persons to work as civil servants. The law does not address some common types of discrimination in employment, including discrimination based on height, physical appearance, or ethnic identity.
Despite provisions in the law, discrimination against hepatitis B carriers (including 20 million chronic carriers) remained widespread in many areas, and local governments sometimes tried to suppress their activities.
Despite a 2010 nationwide rule banning mandatory hepatitis B virus tests in job and school admissions applications, many companies continued to use hepatitis B testing as part of their pre-employment screening.