Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping, who had assumed his post as part of a broader leadership rotation in November 2012, continued to consolidate his power in 2014. He headed a growing list of new coordinating bodies, or “leading small groups,” that gave him direct supervision over policy areas including domestic security, internet management, and ethnic relations, emerging as the most powerful CCP leader since Deng Xiaoping.
An aggressive anticorruption campaign reached the highest echelons of the party during the year, and party and government bodies pushed forward incremental reforms of the petitioning system, household registration (hukou) rules, and laws on domestic violence. In October, the CCP Central Committee convened for its fourth plenum, focusing on improvements to the legal system.
However, such initiatives were accompanied by hard-line policies on political freedoms and civil liberties and a rejection of judicial oversight of party actions. Harassment of previously tolerated civil society organizations, labor leaders, academics, and state-sanctioned churches intensified. Internet controls continued to tighten, and several activists who had been detained in 2013 were sentenced to prison on politically motivated charges. Crackdowns related to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the prodemocracy Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong, and an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing resulted in hundreds of new detentions.
Harsh state repression of the Uighur population’s ethnic and religious identity, combined with long-standing socioeconomic grievances, have apparently fueled an escalating cycle of radicalization, with several deadly attacks attributed to Uighur extremists during 2014. The government responded with heavy-handed collective punishment and more intrusive restrictions on religious identity. Meanwhile, Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in September for supposedly inciting separatism, signaling the authorities’ intolerance of even peaceful advocates of Uighur rights and interethnic dialogue. [FULL REPORT]