Washington, D.C. – Freedom House released its "Freedom in the World 2023" report on Thursday and ranked Tibet among the world's least free countries with -2 in political rights. The report said that "CCP authorities control traditional and social media in Tibet even more tightly than in Han Chinese-populated areas of the country. People who use the Internet, social media or other means to share politically sensitive information or comments risk arrest and heavy criminal penalties."
Freedom House, an independent organization dedicated to promoting freedom around the world, released its annual report, "Freedom in the World 2023: Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy" on March 9, 2023. Tibet was given the "worst" grade in years, with an overall score of -2 in political rights this year, topping the list of least free countries since 2015.
Michael J. Abramowitz, President of Freedom House said, “The struggle for freedom endures across generations. For 50 years, Freedom in the World has tracked the health of political rights and civil liberties around the globe. This latest edition documents a continuation of troubling trends, but it also gives some reason to hope that the freedom recession of the past 17 years may be turning a corner. There is nothing inevitable about authoritarian expansion. While authoritarian regimes remain extremely dangerous, they are not unbeatable. The year’s events showed that missteps by autocrats provide openings for democratic forces. And over the course of five decades, people from every region of the world have repeatedly challenged oppression and demanded freedom, even in the face of daunting odds and at great personal risk.”
Yana Gorokhovskaia, the report’s coauthor and Freedom House’s research director for strategy and design said," Freedom of expression is under attack around the globe. Denying press freedom and the freedom of personal expression cuts citizens off from accurate information and from one another, strengthening authoritarian control. Democracies must fiercely guard these rights at home and vigorously work to defend them abroad, in part by supporting public-interest media and journalists who have been forced into exile. They should also strictly regulate the use of surveillance tools and protect robust encryption technology, which is vital for the safety of activists, journalists, and ordinary users everywhere."
The report of Freedom House stated, "The Chinese government used its Zero-COVID policy to further its repressive campaign on Tibetans. COVID-19 outbreaks during the year reportedly led to the mass transfers of thousands of people to overcrowded and unsanitary isolation centers, where detainees reported lacking access to food and medical treatment, and where individuals who tested positive for the virus were housed with individuals 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 stated, "To damage and destroy Tibetan culture, Chinese authorities have incarcerated scores of Tibetan cultural, religious, and intellectual figures—such as monks, writers, intellectuals, musicians, and prominent scholars—throughout the year. The exact number of people imprisoned is unknown due to Beijing’s tight control of information in the region."
Regarding the freedom of expression in Tibet, the report said, "Freedom of expression, including in private, is severely limited by factors including authorities’ monitoring of electronic communications, a heavy security presence, recruitment of informants, regular ideological campaigns in Tibetan areas, and harsh punishments for those who post on sensitive subjects. The authorities in Tibet make use of an invasive security and censorship system that features nearly ubiquitous video cameras, use of facial-recognition technology, “smart” identity cards, and integrated surveillance systems that allow tracking of residents and tourists in real time. Hundreds of “security centers” operate across the region, with more than 130 in Lhasa alone."
Freedom House said, "Tibetans are regularly detained or sentenced to prison for verbally expressing support for 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."
The report added by saying, "Chinese authorities severely restrict freedom of assembly as part of the government’s intensified “stability maintenance” policies in Tibet. Control and surveillance of public gatherings extend beyond major towns to villages and rural areas. Even nonviolent protesters are rapidly and often violently dispersed and harshly punished. Despite the restrictions, Tibetans continue to express their views on government policies through sporadic solitary or small-scale protests in public places, though they are usually immediately seized by police."
"Tibetans are systematically denied due process in criminal matters. Among other abuses, they are subjected to arbitrary arrest, denial of family visits, long periods of enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, and illegal pretrial detention. Authorities often fail to inform families of the detention, whereabouts, and well-being of loved ones and threaten them with punishment for revealing information. Tibetans have even less access to legal representation of their choice than Han Chinese; lawyers seeking to defend them are routinely harassed, denied access to their clients, blocked from attending relevant hearings, and in some cases disbarred in retaliation. Trials are closed if state security interests are invoked, which sometimes occurs even when no political crime is listed," the report stated.
Freedom House's report said, "Detained suspects and prisoners are subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Many Tibetan prisoners of conscience die in custody under circumstances indicating torture, and others are released with severe injuries and in extremely poor health, apparently to avoid deaths in custody. Many of the latter subsequently succumb to their injuries. Five Tibetans, identified as Chugdhar, Ghelo, Tsedo, Bhamo and Kori, are reported to have been tortured after being detained for lighting incense and praying for the long life of the Dalai Lama in August 2022 in Seda County, Sichuan Province. One of them, Chugdhar, reportedly died from his injuries."
"The Chinese government used its Zero-COVID policy to further its repressive campaign on Tibetans. COVID-19 outbreaks during the year reportedly led to the mass transfers of thousands of people to overcrowded and unsanitary isolation centers, where detainees reported lacking access to food and medical treatment and where individuals who tested positive for the virus were housed with individuals who tested negative. Many were reported to have died from lack of medical attention or lack of food," the report mentioned.