China has about one-quarter of the world’s population but more than 80 percent of the world’s people categorized as “not free” and denied the most basic rights, according to a recent Freedom House report.
The report, “Worst of the Worst 2012: The World’s Most Repressive Societies,” ranked 19 countries where people “have no say in how they are governed and face severe consequences if they try to exercise their most basic rights, such as expressing their views, assembling peacefully, and organizing independently of the state.”
The report used a scoring system that considered separate scales for political rights and civil liberties, with a maximum number of 7 for each category, 1 being the most free and 7 categorized as least free.
China was ranked 7 for political rights and 6 for civil liberties, with a combined score of 6.5, putting the country in the ranks of the world’s most repressive regimes, including Belarus, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Laos and Cuba.
The total population represented by these 19 “not free” states and regions is 1.6 billion. China has a population of 1.3 billion.
INIDAN ENVOY VISITS TIBET
New Delhi’s ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar, was granted rare permission last week by Beijing to visit Tibet, the caldera of China’s ethnic protests.
It was the first time in 10 years an Indian envoy was allowed to visit the Tibetan region, which shares important cultural and religious ties with India, according to the Times of India.
Shivshanka Menon, Mr. Jaishankar’s predecessor and the current Indian national security adviser, paid a visit to the region in 2002.
China recently refused India’s request to set up a consulate in Tibet to handle the growing number of visit requests as thousands of Indian citizens travel to Tibet each year as religious pilgrims to holy sites of Tibetan Buddhism, such as Mount Kailash and Manasarovar.
The Chinese government is wary of those pilgrims, many of whom are followers of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Beijing considers its archenemy.
Chinese authorities set up various facilities to monitor Indian pilgrims’ activities once inside China.
There appears to be a political motive behind inviting Mr. Jaishankar to visit the area during the current tense period. Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule is entering a tragic stage in which self-immolation is becoming an increasingly frequent method of protest by Tibetans seeking independence from Chinese rule.
China wants to convince the Indians that Beijing already has provided sufficient help in meeting the needs of Indian pilgrims for transportation, lodging and food and thus there is no need for the Indian government to set up an official consulate general, which may become a center of political and diplomatic intrigue.
The Chinese fear many Tibetans might use the official status of the consulate to conduct what Beijing calls “anti-China splittism,” led by the Dalai Lama, whose exiled government has been located in northern India since 1959.
The Chinese strategy seems to be working. “After meeting officials [from] Mount Kailash and Manasarovar, I found the Chinese authorities are interested in further improving the facilities,” Mr. Jaishankar told the Times of India.
China wants to establish a consulate general in the south Indian port city of Chennai. But the Indian government insists on a quid pro quo; that is, China must allow New Delhi to reopen its Lhasa consulate, which was forced to close after the 1962 Sino-Indian border war.
China has been mute on New Delhi’s counteroffer.
China has been conducting a terrorlike campaign in Tibet since the major 2008 ethnic conflict erupted. In desperation, more than three dozen Tibetans, some prominent Buddhist leaders, have resorted to the most tragic form of protest, burning themselves alive in series of protests over the past several months. At present, the Tibetan region is essentially sealed off from the outside world.
Analysts think setting up an Indian consulate in Lhasa almost certainly will become an oasis of hope and international support, as well as a popular site for asylum applications, in the prevailing environment of what many observers consider China’s state-sponsored program of terror and repression in Tibet.
• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.