Washington, July 4 (CNA) China is one of the 19 countries and territories that boast the lowest levels of political rights and civil liberties, according to a new Freedom House report released Wednesday.
The Washington-based think tank said in its "Worst of the Worst 2012: The World's Most Repressive Societies" report that brutal authoritarian regimes and dictatorships rule almost 25 percent of the world's population, or about 1.6 billion people, of whom 1.3 billion hail from China.
The report said these regimes keep a tight grip on power by eliminating political opposition, emasculating civil society and silencing their critics.
It singled out nine countries and two disputed territories as the "Worst of the Worst" in terms of repressiveness -- Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tibet and Western Sahara.
They scored the most poorly at 7 points for both of the two major indicators used by Freedom House to assess political freedom in countries around the world -- political rights and civil liberties. The higher the score, the worse a country's autocratic governance.
Seven countries and one territory -- Belarus, Burma, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, Libya and South Ossetia -- were categorized by the report as being "on the threshold."
Those in this bracket scored 7 for their political rights and 6 for civil liberties, resulting in an overall average of 6.5.
The people in the 19 most repressive countries generally 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 said.
"Citizens who dare to assert their rights in these repressive countries typically suffer harassment and imprisonment, and often are subjected to physical or psychological abuse," the report went on.
In these countries, it added, state control over public life is pervasive and individuals have little, if any, recourse to justice for crimes committed against them by the state.
"These regimes, sadly, are very durable. The nine 'Worst of the Worst' repressive countries have lasted for an average 37 years without any meaningful transfers of power to competing political parties," said Daniel Calingaert, vice president of policy and external affairs at Freedom House.
"This report serves as a call to action for the international community to focus on the countries that perpetrate the most egregious human rights abuses," Calingaert added.
While the number of countries or territories rated as "Worst of the Worst" in terms of political rights and civil liberties has gradually declined since Freedom House began to conduct the annual survey in 1981 as many African countries have turned from one-party dictatorships or military rule to multi-party rule, the number has nevertheless changed little over the past decade.
(By Tony Liao and Sofia Wu)