BEIJING (AP) — A U.S. report released Thursday says China's human rights record has worsened in key areas over the past year and that limits on free speech and assembly are growing.
The annual report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said the country has tightened restrictions on civil society, rights advocates, journalists and religious organizations. It added that President Xi Jinping has adhered "to the authoritarian model of his predecessors" since taking power last year.
That model "poses a serious challenge to U.S.-China relations and China's own development," the report said. It recommended that the U.S. press for more freedoms in China, including by looking at how it issues visas to Chinese officials.
"Human rights and rule of law conditions in China overall did not improve this past year, and declined in some of the areas covered by this report," it said. "The Chinese government and Communist Party continued to emphasize authoritarian control at the expense of human rights and the rule of law."
The independent committee is mandated to issue the annual report but does not have power to set policy.
Human rights advocates have denounced what they say is a crackdown on dissent by China's government that has swept up advocates for minority groups, pro-democracy lawyers and others. The report listed several dissidents who have been imprisoned, including scholar Ilham Tohti, who has defended the Uighur minority group and was sentenced to life in prison last month on separatism charges.
"There's been a systematic tightening and also strategic restrictions on civil society in China, targeting pillars of civil society such as the Internet, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), journalists and activists," said Maya Wang, a China researcher for the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch. "We think there has been quite a significant and obvious deterioration since President Xi came to power."
The Chinese government did not immediately respond to the U.S. report.