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Tensions are High as the Olympic Torch Arrives in Lhasa

June 23, 2008

Press Release
June 20, 2008

The Olympic torch relay will travel to the heavily guarded Tibetan
capital, Lhasa, on 21 June after the three-day tour that was
initially planned was cut to one day.  The Tibetan Centre for Human
Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) remains highly concerned about the level
of restriction imposed on the Tibetan people's fundamental freedoms
in the months that have followed in the wake of the March protests.

Since the beginning of June this year, several thousand of the
People's Armed Police (PAP) and Public Security Bureau (PSB) forces
were redeployed into main market squares, streets, major monasteries
and road junctions around Lhasa city to check and respond to any
untoward incidents during the Olympic torch relay, which is scheduled
to travel from Norbulingka to Potala Palace square tomorrow.
According to an official Chinese government website, the 11-km relay
will start from Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama and
end at the Potala Palace, but it has not mentioned the timing of the
torch relay.  An official internal circular had been sent to Chinese
government departments ordering their heads to discourage their own
employees, as well as the common citizens, from taking part in any
political activities during the torch relay.

In a press conference during the third Chinese state sponsored media
tour of Tibet on 3 June, in response to a question raised by a Hong
Kong based journalist, Pema Thinley, the Vice-Chairman of the "Tibet
Autonomous Region" ('TAR') government acknowledged the
intensification of the security forces and identified what he saw as
its three main motivations. He concluded that the increased pressure
from the Chinese government might be an effort to reduce  "the
possibility of further unspecified 'incidents' in Lhasa during the
Olympic torch relay, secondly to check any untoward incident during
Saka Dawa (a Buddhist holy month) and finally to crush pro-Tibet
Independence activists."

Mr. Thinley's perspective reemphasizes earlier comments made by
Chinese authorities in Tibet who have promised to "severely punish"
and "give no indulgence" to Tibetans who would try to "sabotage" the
torch relay.

The move by the Chinese authorities to allow journalists from 29
foreign media groups to cover the Lhasa leg of Olympic torch relay,
however, has been welcomed by those calling for increased media
access to Tibet. Because the media tours allowed foreign journalists
have been so closely monitored and controlled though, for many there
still remains something to be desired. Many still believe that the
authorities should provide free and unfettered access to all media to
shed light on the situation on the ground. TCHRD believes that the
media presence in Lhasa for the torch relay would not only do good,
but also that Chinese authorities should provide unfettered access to
foreign journalist to speak freely to Tibetans, visit prominent
monasteries and nunneries which remain sealed off, visit those in
detention, or otherwise investigate aspects of the recent protests.

Since there has been a complete lockdown in Tibet and restrictions on
the travel of independent international observers to Tibet, as well
as severe media censorship, the Chinese authorities currently have a
pseudo state-sanctioned license to commit human rights abuses,
including arbitrary detention, beatings, and abductions of Tibetans.
The Centre has recorded the arrests or arbitrary detention of more
than 6,500 Tibetans and the deaths of more than 100 others.
Additionally, the cases of thousands of injured Tibetans remain
unaccounted for since 10 March Protests across Tibet. Reportedly,
many Tibetans have also died shortly after being released from
Chinese custody, in which they were subjected to inhumane torture. In
one instance, Nechung, a 38- year-old mother of four children from
Charu Hu Village in Ngaba County, Ngaba "TAP", Sichuan Province, died
days after being subjected to brutal torture in a Chinese prison on
17 April 2008.  In another instance, Dawa, a 31 year-old Tibetan
farmer from Dedrong Village, Jangkha Township, Phenpo Lhundup County,
Lhasa City, "TAR", died on 1 April 2008 after being severely beaten
by Chinese prison guards.

Numerous credible reports received by the TCHRD about the scale and
intensity of the Chinese government's repression across Tibet
suggests that authorities have used the March Protests as an
opportunity to launch a systematic crackdown on Tibetans' fundamental
rights. The Chinese authorities have deployed a large number of
security forces to suppress further demonstrations and have
intensified their "patriotic re-education campaign" across all
sections of Tibetan communities. So far, the Chinese officials have
given only limited information on those who have been sentenced after
swift trial proceedings.

Following the March protests in Lhasa and other traditional Tibetan
areas in the east and north, the Chinese authorities have repeatedly
disregarded demands made by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile to allow independent international observers into
Tibet to report on the continuing protests there and the reactions of
the Chinese government that occur in the aftermath. Recently, in
response to the international condemnation of the brutal crackdowns
on the protesters, the Chinese government organized three official
media tours to Lhasa and Labrang and permitted 15 diplomats to visit
Lhasa in late March, but seriously restricted their ability to speak
freely to Tibetans.

In early April, a request was made by Ms. Louise Arbour, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the senior Chinese
diplomats in Geneva to visit Tibet to independently witness
first-hand the human rights violations in the ongoing crisis in
Tibet. Her request was declined by the Chinese government on the
grounds that 'the timing was not convenient." Similarly, the
International Committee of the Red Cross, which is mandated to visit
detention facilities and check on the well-being of prisoners
worldwide, has never been allowed to carry out such work in China,
and particularly not in Tibet, since 10 March protests, which
subsequently led to mass arrests and detentions across Tibet.  In
addition, six United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders
issued a joint statement calling for "greater and unfettered access
to the regions for journalists and independent observers, guarantees
for the free flow of information, and full implementation of
international standards in regard to the treatment of protesters and
those detained," but all of these demands were ignored.

Hundreds of Tibetans are still languishing in the Chinese
administered prisons and detention centers for peacefully expressing
their opinions, exercising fundamental human rights and even many
whose families still have no knowledge of their whereabouts.

Human rights transgressions in China remain systematic and widespread
and the communist regime continues to trample upon the civil
liberties and democratic rights of Tibetans. The TCHRD calls upon
government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to respect the
fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people to express their
opinion peacefully as enshrined in the Chinese Constitution and
numerous International human rights covenants that PRC had signed and
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