Governments across the Asia Pacific region continued to use extreme measures to silence dissent last year, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
In China, the group said in its 2011 global human rights report, "the use of illegal forms of detention expanded, including prolonged house arrest without legal grounds, detention in 'black jails,' 'brain-washing' centers, psychiatric institutions, and unidentified 'hotels.'"
It said Beijing, which has stoutly defended its record on human rights in terms of poverty alleviation and economic growth in recent years, had made no progress on more formal types of detention without trial, either.
"Hundreds of thousands continue to be held in such facilities," the Amnesty report said, referring to re-education through labor camps used to detain people without charge or trial through "administrative sentences."
Beijing-based rights lawyer Liang Xiaojun said Beijing was unlikely to pay much attention to the report, however.
"I don't think they will care," he said.
"Of course we wish they would care, but their political and economic power will mean they don't care about overseas opinion."
Amnesty International said Beijing had become more confident in brushing off international criticism, while continuing with repressive policies among ethnic minorities.
"The authorities continued to repress Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian, and other ethnic minority populations," Amnesty International said.
"On the international stage, China grew more confident and more aggressive in punishing countries whose leaders spoke publicly about its human rights record."
During 2010, the government responded to a burgeoning civil society by jailing and persecuting people "for peacefully expressing their views, holding religious beliefs not sanctioned by the state, advocating for democratic reform and human rights, and defending the rights of others," it said.
"Access to justice remained elusive for those considered a political threat to the regime or to the interests of local officials," the report said.
As domestic discontent escalated amid growing social and economic inequalities and official corruption, officials clamped down further on people's opportunities for self-expression, the report said.
China had also threatened countries and diplomats in connection with the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, it said.
Meanwhile, authorities in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi said they had handed down an eight-year jail term for subversion to a dissident who had been granted refugee status in New Zealand but had returned for a visit to China.
"It was for incitement to subvert state power," said the brother of Jia Jia. "It was for eight years."
"I believe that this is political persecution, because [his asylum] was all done according to international law, and he hadn't broken the law."
Elsewhere in the region, the report noted "a small but decidedly significant step forward in the search for accountability" in Cambodia, with the sentencing of former Khmer Rouge prison camp commandant Kaing Guek Eav, also known as “Duch,” to a 35-year jail term for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
It welcomed the decision by the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, noting that four more Khmer Rouge leaders remain in custody pending hearings.
The report also welcomed the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But it said that even iconic dissidents suffered "keenly"
from many years of detention.
"Regardless of the reasons for dissent, most of the region’s governments shared the desire to inhibit critics, notwithstanding political, religious, ethnic, and cultural differences," the report said.
However, few governments succeeded in maintaining the harsh levels of control and oppression commonly found in North Korea, it said.
"There was no pretense of free expression or organized civil society, and the government severely punished efforts to even receive information from unauthorized sources, for instance via short-wave radio," the report said.
Meanwhile, in Vietnam, more than a dozen activists were convicted in "faulty trials," Amnesty International said.
"Most of those convicted faced charges under vague and poorly defined laws related to 'national security,'" it said.
Reported by Ding Xiao for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.