The central government was heavily criticised for human rights violations last year, but appeared to care little for the condemnation coming from foreign governments and rights activists. That disregard is a worrying sign for some. 'In the past year, the Chinese government has shown profound disregard for international human rights norms in a number of different ways that projects to me that it's only going to become more aggressive - not just in the way it treats its own citizens, but in terms of attacking and rewriting those norms,' says Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. 'In the last two weeks alone we've seen the forced deportation of the 20 Uygurs [who fled to Cambodia after rioting in July] to China, an 11-year sentence for [dissident] Liu Xiaobo and now the execution of [British citizen] Akmal Shaikh without giving him access to qualified medical practitioners. This bodes extremely badly for the coming year. This is the Chinese government thumbing its nose at other governments and at international laws and norms. If this is what a confident China looks like, people should be worried not reassured. This is not confidence, this is impunity, and this is belligerence.' Any optimism that China, with its rapidly growing economy and greater participation in international organisations, would increasingly comply with international norms is 'leaving out critical and negative but crucial details in that analysis,' she says. But the fact that ordinary Chinese are increasingly aware of their own rights does give her some cause for optimism about the human rights outlook on the mainland. 'The fact that people believe they have a right and a stake and they don't just go quietly, that is encouraging,' Richardson says. 'I think this is what terrifies the government.'