By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 16: China has been ranked the worst abuser of internet freedom for the sixth consecutive year in the annual Freedom House report as it scored the lowest points (10/100) from the list of 65 countries. The Washington-based Think Tank’s report published on Wednesday revealed that China curbed the net freedom even more extensively during the pandemic.
The report found out that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has exploited the pandemic to expand its digital surveillance to crack down on dissent. It said that the communist regime had used the COVID-19 outbreak in China to prevent netizens to view independent sources that challenged the official narrative. It also reported that China had attempted to erase early warnings by medical professionals about the outbreak in Wuhan.
The think tank cited intrusions by the government by forcing citizens to install webcams allegedly for quarantine checks that resulted in intensive surveillance. And that only a few internet users in the country managed to access blocked websites, especially after Beijing strengthened restrictions on virtual private networks (VPNs).
China has been listed under the “not free” category citing numerous arrests of web journalists, activists and citizens for participating in politically sensitive content online. China hit a new low among the list of other authoritarian countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Iran for enforcing excessive control of the internet during the pandemic.
The 2020 report assessed internet freedom in 65 countries that include 87% of the world’s internet users. It especially focused on events that occurred between June 2019 and May 2020 which encompassed the pandemic and the Hong Kong protests. Under the three subcategories, China scored 8/25 for ‘Obstacle to Access’, 2/35 for ‘Limits on Content’ and 0/40 for ‘Violations of User Rights’. The five countries with the highest-ranking are Iceland, Estonia, Canada, Germany, and the UK.