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Human Rights Situation in Tibet: Annual Report 2008

January 25, 2009

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) releases it 2008 Annual Report: Human Rights Situation in Tibet both in Tibetan and English language. The annual report focuses on three spheres of human rights violations in Tibet viz. Civil and Political Liberties, Right to Information and Religious freedom.
In retrospect, the year 2008 witnessed unprecedented violations of Tibetan's human rights and freedoms in the so called "Tibet Autonomous Region" ('TAR') and the Tibetan areas outside the "TAR"; Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan. Chinese authorities continue to practice a systematic denial of human rights of the Tibetan people. The pan-Tibet political uprising in the spring of 2008 is an eruption of popular resentment against the Chinese authorities' five decades of misrule in Tibet which saw systematic gross violations of human rights in every sphere of life.
TCHRD received information on more than 120 known Tibetans who were killed in the recent series of protests across the "Tibet Autonomous Region " ('TAR') and the Tibetan areas outside "TAR" since 10 March unrest. Beijing has repeatedly downplayed the nature of the Tibetan protests through the prism of criminal activities such as looting, smashing, arson, theft and rioting and refuses to see the reality of the political nature of the pan-Tibet popular protests with different magnitudes covering 90 counties in the "TAR" and non "TAR" areas. More than 6500 Tibetans were arbitrarily detained or arrested for their participation in the pan-Tibet protest of suspected of political activities;
There are at least more than a thousand Tibetans whose current whereabouts and well being remains completely unknown to their family members and their close associates or affiliated monasteries. The XIth Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has been missing for the past thirteen years along with his parents. There has been no information about his well-being and whereabouts to date;
The year witnessed one of the most ruthless and repressive crackdowns by the Chinese law enforcement agencies in detention centers, police stations, prisons and at the site of demonstrations. Tibet witnessed one of the highest numbers of death from torture this year. There were reports of Tibetans having been shot dead by firing live ammunition, beaten to death or released on their near death condition, for solely raising slogan in support of the Tibetan leader and calling for his swift return to Tibet or for freedom and human rights. There were a few cases of people committing suicide due to the atrocious repression and others who became mentally unstable following inhumane torture;
The Chinese authorities following the March Protest in Tibet dismissed several interventions made by high profile entities entrusted with protecting human rights. In early April 2008, a request made by the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Louise Arbour, to visit Tibet to independently assess first-hand the situation on the ground was declined by the Chinese government citing that 'the timing was not convenient.' Additionally six UN Special Procedures mandate holders issued a joint statement expressing their deep concern over reports of security forces firing on peaceful protesters. The statement called for "restraint and non-violence by all parties, 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. The International Committee of the Red Cross which has the mandate to visit detention facilities and check on the well being of prisoners worldwide has never been given access to Tibet. The Chinese government non-cooperation with the UN Committee against Torture during the examination of the fourth periodic review of China's compliance to the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment exposed her total disregard of the UN human rights mechanism to protect people against torture despite being a state party to the Convention.
According to the Centre's documentation, there are hundreds of Tibetans who are still held without any charges and at least 190 Tibetans were known to have been sentenced so far by various county level courts in "TAR" and Tibetan areas outside "TAR" for their participation in the series of protests in 2008. Of these 7 Tibetans were sentenced to life imprisonment for their participation in Tibet protests whereas 90 Tibetans were sentenced to 10 years and more of imprisonment. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy believes that the actual figures could be manifold in light of the magnitude of the protest in Tibet. The government severe blockade of information, which is often linked to 'leaking state secrets' and punishable by lengthy prison terms under the charge of 'endangering state security' for what is a standard practice of reporting human rights violation, has enormously stifled the flow of information.
In the sphere of right to information, China continues to keep a firm grip on the media outlets and censors their news reports as a matter of routine and Tibet remains virtually sealed off with imposition of communication blackout following major protests in Tibet. Jamming and strict control of foreign radio, TV and news broadcasts in Tibet continued to be stringent.
There are still many Tibetans serving lengthy sentences in various prisons during the past years, there was no development on sentence reduction or early release from imprisonment. The nature of the court proceedings and the official interpretation of the Tibetans' activities obviously bring forward questions of the competency of the court and the official downplaying of the nature of the Tibetan activities. The legitimacy of the court sentencing procedure raised big question as the Tibetans were denied access to a meaningful defense and many were tried secretly. There are hundreds of Tibetans who are still held without any charges.
In the religious sphere, addition to the last year's implementation of the "Tibet Autonomous Region Implementing Measures for the Regulations on Religious Affairs" on 1 January 2007("Implementing Measures"), and the more specific Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism (the Reincarnation Measures), the Chinese authorities launched a stipulated two-month' renewed "Patriotic education" campaign at the beginning of April 2008 following unprecedented protests across the Tibetan plateau. The campaign was reinvigorated and targeted not only the monastic institutions, which were long considered as the bastion of political dissidence, but also government employees, security forces, farmers, nomads, private entrepreneurs, and educational institutions with more rigor and intensity. The Centre recorded a large number of Tibetans arrested or detained simply for opposing the campaign which requires denouncing their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and pledging their allegiance to the Communist Party;
Sweeping new measures were introduced by the People's Government of the Kardze "TAP" in Kardze to purge hundreds of monasteries, and to strike hard at heart of the Tibetan monastic communities and its identities, and to restrict religious practice in the wake of protests across the plateau that reveal a systematic new attack on Tibetan Buddhism;
As observed and recommended by the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) to PRC to probe the deaths of Tibetans killed, missing in the spring 2008 protests in Tibet and to adopt measures to prohibit and prevent enforced disappearances, TCHRD wants to reiterate that China should ensure that all persons detained or arrested in the aftermath of the Spring 2008 events have prompt access to an independent lawyer, prompt medical care and the right to lodge complaints free from official reprisal or harassment. It should immediately end the practice of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, information blackouts, and respect and comply with international standards of human rights practices and its own constitutional guarantees. It is not enough for China to ratify international human rights conventions or offer verbal commitments to adhere to human rights laws alone, it is high time for the people in China to see concrete improvement and a genuine level of respect and action in the promotion and protection of their human rights.
Along with the 2008 Annual Report, TCHRD also releases two special reports entitled "Uprising in Tibet 2008: Documentation of protests in Tibet" which is a compilation of the events in chronological order since 10 March 2008 till 16 July 2008 and revised version of the "Briefing Paper for Travellers to Tibet."
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