In a report on freedom in the world in 2014, Tibet has ranked alongside North Korea, Syria and Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s most repressed societies. The report, by US-based advocacy group Freedom House, highlighted the Chinese government’s increased restrictions on ethnic minorities and grassroots activists and Beijing’s response to public discontent, which was said to be “reminiscent of the Mao era”.
Of the 51 countries and territories deemed “Not Free” by Freedom House, Tibet and 11 other countries and territories ranked lowest for both civil liberties and political rights. The others ranked in the “Worst of the Worst” were Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Western Sahara.
Published on 27 January 2015, the report Freedom in the World 2015 analyses the state of civil liberties and political rights across the world, both in countries and disputed territories, over the past 12 months.
China was rated as worst for political rights but one step above worst for civil liberties. According to Freedom House, of the 2.6 billion persons living in countries or territories deemed “Not Free”, more than half of them live in China.
The report stated that Chinese President Xi Jinping “continued to centralise authority and maintain hands-on involvement in policy areas ranging from domestic security to internet management to ethnic relations”. It also stated that the government responded to public discontent with “campaigns reminiscent of the Mao era”.
China’s increased restriction and censorship of the internet was highlighted, for example, the crackdown on disseminating news via social media forums such as WeChat. Also noted was the Chinese government’s “intensified crackdown” on grassroots activists and other members of civil society.
The relationship between China and established democracies (such as the UK and USA) also came under attack by Freedom House. The report criticised democratic leaders for competing “for China’s favour even as Beijing steps up internal controls and pushes its expansive territorial claims”.
In its press release accompanying the annual report, Freedom House remarked, “Until recently, most authoritarian regimes claimed to respect international agreements and paid lip service to the norms of competitive elections and human rights. Today they argue for the superiority of what amounts to one-party rule, and seek to throw off the constraints of fundamental diplomatic principles.”
In conclusion, Freedom House called on democracies to stand up to countries threatening or restricting freedoms. “[The democracies] biggest mistake would be to accept the proposition that they are impotent in the face of strongmen for whom bullying and lies are the fundamental currencies of political exchange.”
Further reading: Freedom in the World 2015 report (PDF) I FH press release
Human rights in China and Tibet deteriorating under Xi Jinping
On 15 January, Freedom House issued a special report, The Politburo’s Predicament, examining repression in China under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. In particular, the report examines the censorship and internal security apparatus utilised since the leadership transfer in November 2012.
Freedom House concludes that repression in China has increased under Xi Jinping, with repressive measures having evolved since 2012. The report states, “The current authorities are mounting more coordinated and multipronged campaigns to dominate online discourse, obstruct human rights activism, and pre-empt public protests.”
The Chinese authorities were said to be using a more “subtle, systematic and comprehensive strategy” to quash unrest amongst Tibetans and members of other ethnic and religious minorities. Such groups were also “more likely than other categories of victims to be subjected to long prison sentences of 10 years or more, systematic torture, and death in custody”. Freedom House concluded this was due to “a combination of party priorities, centrally issued incentives, routine impunity, and vilifying propaganda”.
Freedom House noted the widespread resistance amongst Tibetans. “For persecuted religious and ethnic groups, the risks of even quiet resistance are significant given the harsh repression they face. Yet such resistance is widespread. Large numbers of Tibetans continue to keep an image of the Dalai Lama in their possession despite the threat of punishment and “patriotic education” campaigns that urge them to denounce their revered spiritual leader.”
via Tibet Society.