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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Freedom House Condemns Crackdown in Tibet and Broader Chinese Repression as Olympics Approach

By newsdesk - Posted on March 19th, 2008

Washington, D.C. -- March 18, 2008 -- Freedom House today expressed serious concern about the Chinese government’s violent suppression of protests in Tibet and the subsequent closing of information channels in the region, and urged President Bush to speak out forcefully against the repression.

Tibetans’ demonstrations and the government's ensuing crackdown are part of a larger, systematic pattern of repression that has escalated as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach. During protests that erupted in Tibet on March 10 and have continued since, as many as 80 people were killed when the Chinese authorities used force to quell the demonstrations. Since then, officials have imposed a news blackout by suspending all entry permits and expelling foreign journalists. At the same time, security forces reportedly are conducting house-to-house searches, rounding up hundreds of Tibetans suspected of participating in the protests.

“China’s response to the protests in Tibet remind us of the ongoing, long-term cultural suppression imposed by the Chinese government which, if anything, has intensified in the run-up to the Olympics,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House.

“We urge President Bush—whose response thus far has been inadequate—to strongly condemn the Chinese government’s violent suppression of the protests,” added Ms. Windsor. ”When he visits Beijing this summer for the Olympics, the President should demonstrate his unambiguous support for freedom and human rights by meeting with dissidents.”

Political rights and civil liberties, particularly religious freedom, are severely restricted in Tibet. While some religious practices are tolerated, officials forcibly suppress activities viewed as vehicles for political dissent or advocacy of Tibetan independence. The Chinese government amplified its repressive policies in 2007, announcing and implementing regulations that effectively increase authorities’ control over Tibetan Buddhism.

The crackdown in Tibet is part of a larger pattern of government repression as the Olympics approach. Recent examples include:

* Harassment and detention of human rights defenders: Activist Hu Jia was arrested and is expected to stand trial on Tuesday on charges of “subverting state power,” apparently as a result of articles published on overseas Chinese websites and statements made to foreign journalists about the Olympics. Others who have been abducted or imprisoned in recent months, often after calling for human rights improvements prior to the 2008 Games, include Chinese lawyers Teng Biao and Gao Zhisheng, cyberdissident Guo Feixiong, and activists Yang Chunlin and Wang Guilan.

* Heightened efforts to restrict access to online information: Regulations were adopted in January requiring Chinese video-sharing websites to register with state-controlled companies. In March, two popular websites for people with AIDS and hepatitis were shut down. In 2007, more than 18,000 blogs and websites were closed by the government.

* Increased restrictions on private religious practice: Unofficial Protestant church gatherings in Xinjiang and Henan were reportedly disrupted in February and dozens of people arrested, including 11 minors. Over 150 Falun Gong adherents in Beijing were reportedly detained recently following door-to-door searches.

Tibet ranks as Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. It received a rating of 7 (on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the lowest) for political rights and a 7 for civil liberties. Freedom House also ranked China as "Not Free" in its 2008 Freedom in the World survey. The survey gave China a score of 7 for political rights and a 6 for civil liberties.

Source: Freedom House

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