US watchdog reports: Tibet among the least free places in the world

2nd February 2017

Tibet remains the second least free place in the world in Freedom House’s annual survey

Freedom House, the influential American human rights and democracy organisation, published its annual Freedom in the World report (PDF) today. The report assesses political freedom in countries and territories across the world and gives a damning assessment of political rights and civil liberties in occupied Tibet.

Tibet was classified overall as being ‘Not free’. Using a scale from 1 to 7 (with 1 being most free and 7 being least free) Tibet was rated a 7 for both political rights and civil liberties.

Only 13 countries and territories received this lowest possible grade, including North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

A land without freedom

The report provided further analysis by awarding each country a score out of 100 based on how it fared across 10 political rights indicators and 15 civil liberties indicators. Political rights indicators included free and fair elections and whether or not the country had an open and transparent system of governance. Civil liberty indicators included freedom of expression and belief, an independent judiciary and equality of all citizens before the law. Each country was awarded a score between 0 and 4 in each of these 25 indicators.

Tibet received 1 out 100, which made it the second-worst scoring country in the world. Only Syria, now in its fifth year of civil war, came lower, scoring -1. Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan all came next, scoring 3 out of 100. 

At the other end of the scale, Finland, Norway and Sweden all scored a perfect 100 out of 100. The United Kingdom scored 95 and the United States 89.

China, for the second year running, scored 15. It was listed as being “Not free” and was criticised by Freedom House for imposing “conditions approaching martial law” in Tibetan-populated regions.

Relentless abuses

Tibet's low scores reflect the lack of individual freedoms that its citizens have under the Chinese occupation. In the past year Free Tibet has reported on scores of politically-motivated arrests and detentions across Tibet, as well as disappearances and the use of torture in prisons and police stations. We have also noted the attacks on freedom of religion in Tibet, exemplified by the ongoing demolitions and forced removals at Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, and responded to the damage done to Tibet's environment through China's policy of extracting Tibet's resources.

A more detailed summary of the main human rights abuses taking place in occupied Tibet can be found in Free Tibet's submission (PDF) to the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission last year.

Take action

Many Tibetans are in jail simply for standing up to the occupation or even for expressing their own Tibetan culture. Among them is Tashi Wangchuk, who was arrested in January 2016 after featuring in a report in the New York Times about his advocacy of the Tibetan language. Despite no evidence of him having committed a crime, he could face a trial at any time, with a sentence of up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. His situation is urgent - contact your ambassador to China asking them to raise his case with the authorities.