For the second year in a row, a report released by Freedom House on internet freedom has listed China dead last out of all nations surveyed.
The report, which rates freedom on sale of 1 (free) to 100 (not free) gave China a score of 88, the same score that it received last year, once again ranking the country below Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Cuba and every other country surveyed. In 2014, China came in third from last place.
It’s important to note that a number of nations were not included in the survey, most notably North Korea, which would have certainly ranked lower than China.
Still, Freedom House called China the year’s “worst abuser of internet freedom,” writing:
The Chinese government’s crackdown on free expression under President Xi Jinping’s “information security” policy is taking its toll on the digital activists who have traditionally fought back against censorship and surveillance. Dozens of prosecutions related to online expression have increased self-censorship, as have legal restrictions introduced in 2015. A criminal law amendment added seven-year prison terms for spreading rumors on social media (a charge often used against those who criticize the authorities), while some users belonging to minority religious groups were imprisoned simply for watching religious videos on their mobile phones. The London-based magazine Economist and the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post were newly blocked in mainland China, as were articles and commentaries about sensitive events including a deadly chemical blast in Tianjin in 2015.
In its report, Freedom House also mentions how the Chinese government blocked the social media app Telegraph when officials noticed how it was being used by human rights lawyers and detained the local relatives of overseas journalists who had produced critical content, as the country continued in its efforts to make an internet that works for China with the most sophisticated government censorship system on earth.
Elsewhere in the world, things seem to be trending China’s way with internet freedom around the globe declining in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year as governments are becoming more censorship savvy, particularly when it comes to social media apps. Two-thirds of all internet users live in a country where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship.
The report was released on the eve of China’s Third World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, which kicks off on Wednesday. At last year’s event, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered the keynote speech calling for “cyber-sovereignty” for all nations where no country holds a hegemony over international internet governance models and China’s 670 million internet users are allowed the “freedom” to voice their opinions.
At the extremely ironic conference, the Great Firewall was opened for international representatives taking in Xi’s speech, but not for local journalists.
This year, Xi won’t be there in person, only addressing attendees over video, Xinhua reports. Instead, politburo member Liu Yunshan will be on hand to speak on internet development and greet foreign guests.