Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has rated Tibet “worst” in terms of political rights and civil liberties in its survey for 2006, released on January 17, 2007.

Freedom in the World 2007, a survey of worldwide political rights and civil liberties, said that Tibet was among “the two worst rated territories” (the other being Chechnya under The Russian Federation) in 2006. Freedom House has been designating Tibet under the Disputed Territories category in its annual surveys.

In the survey’s ratings of comparative measures of freedom, Tibet received 7 (the least free rating) in both political rights and civil liberties while China itself received 7 in political rights and 6 in civil liberties. These ratings were the same for Tibet and China in its survey released last year.

The survey found that on a global scale, the state of freedom in 2006 showed a modest decline from that of 2005. The number of countries that experienced negative changes in freedom without meriting a status change outweighed those that received positive changes: the scores for33 countries declined, while only 18 improved.

“Freedom House also noted that the trends reflected the growing pushback against democracy driven by authoritarian regimes, including Russia, Venezuela, China, Iran, and Zimbabwe, threatening to further erode the gains made in the last thirty years,” a Freedom House press statement said. “The pushback is targeted at organizations, movements, and media that advocate for the expansion of democratic freedoms,” the statement added.

According to the survey, the number of countries judged by Freedom in the World as Free in 2006 stood at 90, representing 47 percent of the global population. Fifty-eight countries qualified as Partly Free, with 30 percent of the world’s population. The survey finds that 45 countries are Not Free, representing 23 percent of the world’s inhabitants. “About one-half of those living in Not Free conditions inhabit one country: China,” Freedom House said.

In an accompanying essay, Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House, had this to say about China. “Although China continued to reflect dynamic change in the economic sphere, there was little evidence of openings toward political freedom or enhanced individual liberties. Heightened activism among the country’s middle class have led some to hope that the ripple effects produced by those changes that have enabled China to emerge as a major force in the global economy may transform the country’s political culture. Unfortunately, the past year was dominated by further repression of the press and internet, the prosecution of civic activists and the lawyers who represent them, and increased efforts to keep religion under the control of the state.”

According to Freedom House, its survey provides three broad category designation for each of the countries and territories included in theindex: Free, Partly Free, and Not Free.

A Free country is one where there is broad scope for open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media.A Partly Free country is one in which there is limited respect for political rights and civil liberties. Partly Free states frequently suffer from an environment of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and often a setting in which a single political party enjoys dominance despite the fa?ade of limited pluralism.

A Not Free country is one where basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied. Both Tibet and China have received “Not Free” ratings for 2006.

Freedom House began publishing its annual index of global freedom in 1972.