With the Olympics casting an unflattering spotlight on the state of human rights in China, the New York Times takes a longer view, reporting that freedoms have gradually expanded over decades of economic reform. Repression remains in public expression and assembly, but Chinese people can now often live where they choose and travel abroad. Even with heavy censorship, technology allows them far more information than in the past.
A population registration system that restricted people to their places of birth is eroding as the dynamic economy causes huge population shifts. Thousands of once-banned private groups are allowed to address social, economic and environmental issues, and courts now often enforce the property rights of citizens. Journalists are frequently censored or jailed, but publications critical of the government flourish nonetheless, and citizen groups have successfully resisted a number of state initiatives.