After two years without any talks, the US-China rights dialogue will begin once more in May. The two nations are expected to discuss religious freedom, Internet freedom, and the rule of law.
Gao Zhisheng, once praised by the Chinese government as a star lawyer, remains missing one year after police dragged him from his home. Rights groups are particularly worried about the treatment of the human rights lawyer.
The Chrismas Day sentencing of literary critic Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison has drawn unusually strong criticism from Western governments, but some experts say that may only result in China taking a harder line.
Police have detained activists behind the democracy petition, which has drawn diverse support.