The US on Thursday expressed growing concern about Chinese government crackdowns on peaceful protest and torture and attacks in a number of other countries in its annual review of global human rights.
The US State Department report highlighted conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Turkey, Vietnam, Egypt and other countries where military forces have used violence and political repression to target protesters demanding their rights.
“The year 2013 may well be known for some of the egregious atrocities in recent memory,” US State Department Acting Assistant Secretary Uzra Zeya told reporters. She referred in particular to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 1,000 people, and torture and detentions in North Korea.
“Around the world, authoritarian governments used security forces to consolidate power and suppress dissent, to the detriment of their country’s long-term stability, security, and economic development,” the report said.
The State Department also said religious and ethnic minorities were targeted in many countries, including China, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and Iraq.
The report noted some positive reforms in China and Myanmar and other parts of Asia, but said that serious abuses and severe restrictions on basic freedoms persisted.
In China, while the government had announced the abolition of “Reeducation Through Labor” and relaxed a birth-limitation policy to permit more couples to have two children, it “continued to tighten restrictions on basic freedoms,” the report said.
“China continued its crackdown on human rights activists, increased repression in ethnic Tibetan and Uighur areas, and continued to severely restrict the freedoms of expression, religion, association, and assembly,” it said.
It also highlighted new steps implemented in September to control and censor the Internet and target bloggers.
The report said that although Chinese authorities prosecuted a number of cases of abuses of power, particularly involving corruption, such prosecutions were selectively applied and some citizens who promoted efforts to combat corruption were themselves arrested and detained.
The US report said that despite some progress in Myanmar, conflict-related abuses in ethnic minority areas, politically motivated arrests and widespread discrimination and violence against Muslim populations continued. It said 1,100 political prisoners had been released in Myanmar, but that politically motivated arrests continued as a result of “flawed laws.”
In Bangladesh, the report said, politically motivated violence, attacks on religious minorities and poor working conditions and labor rights remained serious problems.
The State Department report said rights conditions in North Korea remained “deplorable,” with the North Korean government responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners and torture.
In Afghanistan, the report said extrajudicial killings by security forces, arbitrary arrest and detention and torture remained problems and pointed to increased “targeted” violence and endemic societal discrimination against women and girls.
Rising persecution of gays and lesbians — particularly in Africa — drew intense scrutiny. The report said these groups remain “the target of widespread discrimination and violence.”