[Excerpt] Two countervailing trends exemplified human rights and rule of law developments in China this past year. On the one hand, the Commission observed the Chinese people, often at great risk, exercising the basic freedoms to which they are entitled and demanding recognition of these rights from their leaders. This development did not arise from any external force, but originated from the Chinese people themselves, and was evident not just among a handful of activists but at all levels of Chinese society. At the same time, the Commission observed a deepening disconnect between the growing demands of the Chinese people and the Chinese government’s ability and desire to meet such demands. In a year marked by a major internal political scandal and leadership transition, Chinese officials appeared more concerned with ‘‘maintaining stability’’ and preserving the status quo than with addressing the grassroots calls for reform taking place all over China.