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Freedom House

  • 14 Mar, 2023
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Freedom House ranks Tibet as one of the world least free countries once again: Report

Freedom House, an independent organisation dedicated to promoting freedom around the world, issued its annual report, "Freedom in the World 2023: Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy," on March 9, 2023. Tibet received the "worst" grade in years this year, with an overall score of -2 in political rights, topping the list of least free countries since 2015.

According to the report "CCP authorities have even tighter control over traditional and social media in Tibet than in Han Chinese-populated areas of the country. People who share politically sensitive information or comments on the Internet, social media, or other platforms risk arrest and harsh criminal penalties."

The report of Freedom House stated, "The Chinese government used its Zero-COVID policy to further repress Tibetans. COVID-19 outbreaks this year reportedly resulted in the mass transfer of thousands of people to overcrowded and unsanitary isolation centres, where detainees reported a lack of food and medical treatment and where people who tested positive for the virus were housed with people who tested negative."

"In September, reporting from the civil society organization Citizen Lab claimed that the Chinese government had collected genetic material from nearly a third of the population in Tibet, without clearly obtaining consent from those involved. The CCP has used genetic materials collected from Uyghurs in Xinjiang to further its surveillance systems and forced ethnic change campaign in the region," the report added.

The report further mentioned, "Throughout the year, Chinese authorities have imprisoned scores of Tibetan cultural, religious, and intellectual figures, including monks, writers, intellectuals, musicians, and prominent scholars, in order to harm and destroy Tibetan culture. Due to Beijing's tight control over information in the region, the exact number of people imprisoned is unknown."

In terms of Tibet's freedom of expression, the report stated, "Authorities' monitoring of electronic communications, a heavy security presence, informant recruitment, regular ideological campaigns in Tibetan areas, and harsh punishments for those who post on sensitive subjects all severely limit freedom of expression, including in private. Tibet's authorities employ an intrusive security and censorship system that includes nearly ubiquitous video cameras, facial-recognition technology, "smart" identity cards, and integrated surveillance systems that allow real-time tracking of residents and tourists. Hundreds of "security centres" exist throughout the region, with over 130 in Lhasa alone."

The survey report also referred to a report from the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, Canada, which stated that China may have collected DNA samples from up to one-third of the total population of Tibet Autonomous Region, which encompasses most of western Tibet, over a six-year period.

"Tibetans are routinely detained or sentenced to prison for verbally supporting or sharing images of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence, sending information abroad about self-immolation protests or the destruction of Buddhist temples and statues, or engaging in other forms of Tibetan cultural expression," according to Freedom House.

The report went on to say, "As part of the government's intensified "stability maintenance" policies in Tibet, Chinese authorities severely restrict freedom of assembly. Control and monitoring of public gatherings extends beyond major cities to villages and rural areas. Even nonviolent protesters are violently dispersed and severely punished. Despite the restrictions, Tibetans continue to express their dissatisfaction with government policies through sporadic solitary or small-scale protests in public places, though they are usually met with police brutality."

"Tibetans are routinely denied due process in criminal proceedings. They are subjected to arbitrary arrest, denial of family visits, long periods of enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, and illegal pretrial detention, among other things. Authorities frequently fail to inform families of their loved ones' detention, whereabouts, and well-being, and threaten them with punishment for disclosing information.

Tibetans have even less access to legal representation than Han Chinese; lawyers attempting to defend them are routinely harassed, denied access to their clients, barred from attending relevant hearings, and, in some cases, disbarred in retaliation. Trials are closed if state security interests are invoked, which can happen even if no political crime is charged " the report mentioned.

Read the complete report here.

Edited and collated by Team TRC