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The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Tibet

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 4 July 2012
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Tibet, 4 July 2012, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 3,000,000

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011

2011 Key Developments: The atmosphere of tight security established after an uprising in 2008 was generally maintained during 2011. In the Tibetan areas of Sichuan Province, repression intensified beginning in March, after a young monk set himself on fire to protest Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule. By year's end, eight more Tibetans in Sichuan and one in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) had self-immolated. In response, the authorities detained 300 monks for "patriotic education." Though most were later released, at least three were sentenced to prison terms of over 10 years for aiding one of the self-immolators. During the year, the targets of detention and imprisonment in Tibetan regions continued to expand beyond the monastic and activist community to include musicians or average citizens who circulated songs advocating Tibetan rights or independence. At least 500 political and religious prisoners were in custody as of September. In March, the Dalai Lama retired from his political role in the India-based government-in-exile, and Lobsang Sangay was elected prime minister in April.

Political Rights: Under Chinese rule, Tibetans lack the right to determine their political future or freely elect their leaders. The CCP governs the TAR and Tibetan areas in the nearby provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan through appointed officials. The few ethnic Tibetans who occupy senior positions serve mostly as figureheads, often echoing official statements that condemn the Dalai Lama and emphasize Beijing's role in developing Tibet's economy. In 2011, the top CCP official in Tibet was replaced, though the change appeared unlikely to significantly reduce state repression in the region. Tibetans suffer the same lack of political freedom as China's ethnic Han majority, but those seen to be advocating greater autonomy or political independence for Tibet risk harsher punishment and imprisonment. Corruption is believed to be an extensive problem in Tibet, as in China.

Civil Liberties: Chinese authorities control the flow of information in Tibet, tightly restricting all media and severely limiting access to foreign journalists. Online censorship and cybercafé surveillance in place across China are enforced even more stringently in Tibet. Near the sites of self-immolations in 2011, the government at times cut off the internet entirely and installed security cameras along main roads. The authorities regularly suppress religious activities, particularly those seen as forms of political dissent or advocacy of Tibetan independence. Possession of Dalai Lama-related materials can lead to official harassment and punishment. If implemented, regulations that came into effect in 2011 would further increase government control over the personnel decisions and daily affairs of monasteries. University professors cannot lecture on certain topics, and many must attend political indoctrination sessions. In April, a lockdown was imposed on Kirti monastery in Sichuan following the first self-immolation, sparking protests by local residents. Security forces suppressed the protests, and two Tibetans reportedly died in the clashes. According to overseas Tibetan groups, over 60 writers, intellectuals, and cultural figures have been arrested since 2008, with some sentenced to long prison terms. Human rights, civic groups, and independent trade unions are illegal, and even nonviolent protests are harshly punished. The judicial system in Tibet remains abysmal; most judges lack legal education, defendants have minimal access to legal representation, and trials involving "state security" are held in secret. Torture remains common in practice.

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