China human rights eteriorates, says human rights watch
A policeman makes a recording of a journalist during lawyer Pu Zhiqiang's verdict outside the second intermediate people's court of Beijing December 22, 2015 Reuters

China increased its repression of human rights defenders and abused police and state powers in the name of national security last year, Human Rights Watch has said in a report.

"Since President Xi Jinping assumed power in March 2013, his government has stepped up its hostility toward peaceful dissent, freedoms of expression and religion, and the rule of law," HRW said.

In the 659-page World Report 2016, HRW Executive Director Kenneth says authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.

HRW's China director Sophie Richardson said human rights took a turn for the worse under President Xi Jinping.

" ... Xi's 'China Dream' has been a nightmare for rights advocates as they face Orwellian laws, indefinite detention, and torture, with little hope for redress. Their dire plight is only made worse by the world's inaction."

In 2015, the government enacted multiple measures to curtail free speech on the Internet, in institutions of higher education, in traditional media, and within the party, the report says. The government's attempts to restrict "foreign influences" and freedom of religion included a high-profile campaign to demolish churches or remove crosses from them in Zhejiang province, an area with a strong tradition of Christian influence.

The Chinese government drafted or passed a slew of new laws that cast public activism and peaceful criticism of the government, it says.

Since President Xi came to power, the authorities have detained and prosecuted hundreds of human rights defenders, HRW said in its report that assesses around 90 countries.

It also says international attention to the deteriorating rights situation in China was woefully inadequate.

"Despite extraordinary risks, people across China continue to push for a fair judicial system, access to information, and the ability to hold those in power to account," said Richardson.