Human Rights Situation in Tibet: Annual Report 2006

The year 2006 saw a host of sad events unfold. The Chinese authorities in Tibet did not show any sign of let-up. Throughout the year, various human rights abuses in Tibet were documented affecting both the civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights of the Tibetan people. Arbitrary arrest,detention and imprisonment continue to beappalling as ever in Tibet. During the year, two events of concern — start of Gormo-Lhasa railway and the Nangpa Pass tragedy — gripped international attention intensifying concerns over cultural genocide in Tibet and the plight of Tibetans escaping human rights abuses in Chinese occupiedTibet.The Gormo-Lhasa railway officially started in July 2006. Since the unveiling of plan, the world’s highestrailway line was hit with controversy consistently. Among the myriad concerns, political motives and ethnic cleansing stands out prominently. Although government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)insist on development and tourism as motives for making the railway line, deployment of army in large numbers, immigration of Chinese settlers in Tibet, political strategic advantage, environment and hegemony are issues of grave concern. The railway facilitating a huge population influx, including Chinese settlers into Tibet, is bound to inevitably change Tibet physically and culturally causing furtheralienation of Tibetan identity. The region will see a growth in mineral exploration, employment and enterprise bringing sudden huge demographic transformation in the region. The reigning factors like scientific know how, technology, knowledge, skills and expertise, government incentive, will stimulate the influx of population into Tibet as all these favour the Chinese than the Tibetans. Tibetans are bound to be excluded further in an already marginalised Tibet. Despite the government propaganda of development and tourism, nowhere has the concerns and voices of farmers and nomads been addressed. The tertiary sector dominates 80percent of Tibet and yet their concerns remainaccounted for. It is a clear motive by Beijing to invest in the commercially non-viable railway line; political motive reigns supreme as former President of PRC, Jiang Zemin, said as early in 2001, “Some people advised me not to go ahead with this project because it is not commercially viable. I said this is a politicaldecision, we will make this project succeed at allcosts, even if there is a commercial loss”.
In light of such a motive, China plans to enhance its economic and political grip over the restive region; a political tool designed to wipe out the Tibetan identity.On the contrary, investments in human capital development such as health and education have been significantly smaller than investments in hard infrastructure development projects. Therefore, inregards to the most basic and fundamental aspectsof human development, Beijing has mismanagedits priorities inside Tibet. Hence, Beijing’s actions

established the fact that it is more concerned with laying an iron track, a tool of control and administration, than in constructing clinics and schools in rural areas, which actually empower and bring positive development to the Tibetan people.Beijing’s actions further demonstrate that, in formulating its developmental designs and modernisation in Tibet, it has served its own interests and long-term designs at the expense of the Tibetan people.The plight of the Tibetan people came to the attention of the international community on 30September 2006 when the world saw Chinese border police shooting indiscriminately upon fleeing Tibetans, resulting in death of at least two Tibetans at the Nangpa Pass in the Himalaya.Despite the shock and condemnation expressed by individuals, non-governmental-organisations, governments and diplomats, status of the 32 arrested people remains unknown to date.
 It was even more disappointing that the Office of the UN High Commissioner forHuman Rights (OHCHR) chose to remain silent over the tragedy signalling an apparent silence by the OHCHR not to antagonise China, a permanent member in the UN Security Council. While no official statement came out from the OHCHR at the time of writing this report, authorities in Tibet have vowed to “strike hard” on Tibetan escapees.On 28 December 2006, in a video conference, all the Public Security Bureaus (PSB) in “TAR” resolved to “strike hard” on Tibetan escapees. The conferencepresided by the PSB head issued directives to curb“illegal crossings” and “to strike hard during the firsthalf of 2007 [6 months] against illegal crossings”,calling the campaign a part of measures to strikehard on “separatist” to ensure stability in the region. All the administrative offices in the “TAR” were directed to implement the campaign and also announce to and educate the public.
Despite gruesome accounts of human rights abuses being documented on the Tibetan plateau over the years, China was able to win a seat in the newly formed United Nations Human Rights Council.It is deplorable that a state tainted with countless abuses of human rights wins a place in the newly formed council irrespective of calls from various human rights organisations and NGOs to reject China’s candidacy. PRC is yet to ratify the international covenant on civil and political rights although it is a signatory party to the covenant since 1998. The newly created Council, which its President called a new beginning for the promotion and protection of human rights, elected the first 47members on 9 May 2006, by General Assembly.China getting elected as one of the 47 members of the council by obtaining 146 of a possible 191 votes makes the motives and purposes of UNHRC questionable. Key abuser of human rights such as China is unfit to sit on the council. The then UNSecretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, in his message stated candidly “the true test of the Council’s credibility will be use that member states make of it…”
The human rights situation in Tibet was raised during the first three meetings of the Council.In Tibet, the Chinese authorities continue to abuse human rights of the Tibetan people. In May 2006, high-level Chinese Communist Party (CCP)members of the so-called “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”) in a meeting from 15-16 May 2006resolved to “strike hard” against the Tibetan freedom activists and called for intensification of “patriotic education” campaign in the monastic institutions in Tibet.
 In an interview with Der Spiegel on 16 August 2006, Zhang boasted that the authorities in Tibet are “organising patriotic education everywhere, not just in the monasteries”. On another instance at the end of October 2006, the “TAR”CCP plenary meeting resolved to stamp out“separatism” completely and achieve the “final victory”. Tibetan nationalists who became the focal point of the campaigns are subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment, enforced disappearance and a host of other violations of rightenshrined in the international bill of human rights.The monastic community is a regular target for implementation of the Chinese campaigns to enforce loyalty to the state. The political campaigns in the monastic institutions greatly hinder the spiritual studies of monks and nuns. Much against their wishes, they are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama thus creating a religious blasphemy. A new “TAR”-specific religious affairs regulations inaddition to the regulations earlier promulgated by the State Council in March 2005 is now put intoeffect since 1 January 2007. The regulations are designed to harness loyalty to the state by the monastic community and to stamp out the Dalai Lama from the hearts and minds of Tibetan people.In light of the new “TAR”-specific religious affairs regulations, religious repression in Tibet seems set to escalate further in 2007.In early February and July 2006, it became evident that the Dalai Lama rules the hearts and minds of Tibetan people inside Tibet. In an instant reaction to a call by the Dalai Lama based in India banning use of wildlife skin, Tibetans burnt large quantities of garments made of animal pelt. 
Public bonfires of burning animal skin were reported from several parts of Tibet; Rebkong, Labrang, Kardze, Chantsa, Ngaba “TAP”, Kirti Monastery, and Lhasa.Chinese authorities in Tibet fearing public uprising against the state quickly put a counter ban by restricting Tibetans from assembling to make wildlife pelt bonfires. In a startling gesture by the authorities in Tibet, television broadcasters of theQinghai TV were officially directed to wear garments decorated with animal pelts.In another instanceTibetans gathered in large numbers at Kumbum Monastery when rumours swept through that the Dalai Lama was going to be there.
Several hundreds of Tibetans continued to wait in order to catch a glimpse of him showing defiance despite thousands left the spot after official orders to disperse. Although a rumour, the incident clearly showed the continued reverence to the Dalai Lama by the Tibetans in Tibet. While Chinese authorities in Tibet carry vilification campaigns against the Dalai Lama, the international recognition of the Dalai Lama as a global leader and statesman grew. The United States, Canada and the Republic of Kalmykia offered their recognition to the meritorious works of the Dalai Lama. In June 2006, Canada’s new government led by PrimeMinister Stephen Harper granted honorary citizenship to the Dalai Lama. The United States in September this year awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his contribution to “interfaith religious harmony and non-violent conflict resolution”. On 10 December 2006, the President of the Republic of Kalmykia awarded the Dalai Lama with the White Lotus order, the republic’s highest honour, “for his outstanding merits and considerable contribution to the spiritual revival and prosperity of the republic.”
Two important changes occurred in the leadership of the so-called “TAR” this year. First, was the appointment of hardliner Zhang Qingli as the new “TAR” Party Secretary on 26 May; he had already been acting Secretary since November 2005 and took full responsibility of the office in June. The second was a major shift in the composition of Lhasa’s Communist Party Committee, which now seats only 8 Tibetans, or 26 percent of the Committee’s thirty seats.
A close ally of President Hu Jintao, Zhang was appointed to Tibet just as the Gormo-Lhasa railway was nearing completion suggested that Beijing wanted to tighten control overTibet in 2006, which Zhang was quick to do. In June 2006, he expanded the patriotic re-education campaign and shortened government contracts with Tibetan NGOs from five to two years. Tibetan representation in the Lhasa Communist Party Committee has declined over the years and is now at a historical low. For the first time in 25 years,Qin Yizhi, a non-Tibetan leads the Lhasa CPC.The low Tibetan representation (26 percent only) is a mockery of the PRC’s Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law, whose preamble states, “Regional ethnic autonomy reflects the state’s full respect for and guarantee of ethnic minorities’ right to administer their internal affairs.The Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance of the then UN Commission on Human Rights in a report in December 2002 said “Although laws guarantee Tibet self-government, Tibetans’ governing power is very restricted and is subject to strict supervision and authorisation by the central authority”. Instead of the public representation improving, the year saw the lowest Tibetan representation. In 2006, TCHRD documented 26 known Tibetans arrested for alleged political activities.There are currently 116 known Tibetan political prisoners in Tibet.This year some prominent cases of imprisonment of Tibetans; Dolma KyabSonam Gyalpo and Namkha Gyaltsen’s standout from the rest owing to the utter harshness in serving long-term sentences between 8 to 12 years prison term. Dolma Kyab, a 29-year-old teacher and writer was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for writing a manuscript “Restless Himalaya” whichnever got published. His writings about democracy, self-determination and other Tibetan issues landed him in jail on charges of “Endangering State Security”, a crime otherwise not understandable to the international community and human rights law.In a hand-written letter to the UN written from prison, Dolma said that he was accused of “espionage” and “separatism” for writing a manuscript. He further stated his firm commitment and belief of raising awareness among humanity in promotion of environmental protection and women’s health protection. In another case, Sonam Gyalpo who was last heard of being led away by Chinese State Security Bureau officers on 28 August 2005, a few days ahead of the commemoration of the founding anniversary of the so-called “TAR”, was reported to be served with 12 years prison term on charges of “Endangering State Security”. His crime was possession of audio and videotapes of teachings by the Dalai Lama and few literatures of political nature.Being a fervent Tibetan nationalist who was earlier put in jail for three years for participating in a peaceful demonstration on 27 September 1987, Sonam was looked upon with suspicion by the Chinese authorities as a routine practice. Another prominent case was that of Namkha Gyaltsen, a monk from Thinley Lado Village, Kardze, sentenced to eight years jail term for alleged painting “separatist” slogans on government property and circulating pro-independence posters and displaying banned Tibetan national flag.Chushul (Ch: Qushui) Prison in Tibet, which began operational around April 2005, is highlighted this year. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr.Manfred Nowark, in his report to the UN HumanRights Council this year described the abominable conditions of the prison and called for the release of three prisoners (Jigme Gyatso, Bangri JigmeTsamtrul Rinpoche and Lobsang Tsultrim)who he was able to meet convicted “of a political crime, possibly based on information extracted by torture”.The Chinese authority in Tibet use the new prison to imprison Tibetans served with long prison terms.Not much is currently known about the prison but in light of the Special Rapporteur’s report, the conditions and maltreatment in Chushul Prison seems to be harsher than Drapchi Prison. It was reported that many Tibetan political prisoners served with long-term sentences have been transferred from Drapchi to Chushul Prison.
It was inspiring to note that Phuntsok Nyidron, formerly a nun at Michungri Nunnery who spent 15 years in Drapchi Prison, was able to testify about the atrocities being carried out in Tibet to the UNSub Commission on Human Rights on thePromotion and Protection of Human Rights on 14 August 2006. On behalf of the Tibetan peopleshe thanked the Sub-Commission for the historicresolution on Tibet adopted on 23 August 1991. In June 2006, two of the formerly “Drapchi 14 singing nuns”, Rigzin Choekyi and Lhundrup Sangmo, arrived in exile in India. Along with Phuntsok and other nuns they recorded songs of freedom and inspiration in 1993. Rigzin and Lhundrup served 12 and 9 nine years prison term respectively in Drapchi Prison. Upon arrival, they too spoke of the maltreatment political prisoners receive in Chinese administered prisons in Tibet. Similarly Palden a.k.a Phuntsok Tsering and Tsering Dhondup who served six and five years in Drapchi Prison respectively upon arrival in exile testified of the abominable conditions and maltreatment political prisoners receive in Drapchi Prison.In a good development this year, the situation in Nepal improved making it easier for the fleeing Tibetans to transit Nepal for exile in India. For the past few years the Tibetans faced enormous hardship during the government of King Gyanendra and the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. The political agreement this year between the democratic government of Nepal and the Maoists paved way for an easier transit for the Tibetans. Resident Tibetans in Nepal could observe important Tibetan national days including the birthday of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan National Uprising Day, and Tibetan Democracy Day etc, which were otherwise prohibited in Nepal. A total of 2445 Tibetan refugees escaped into exile and reached Dharamsala this year. Of these, majority comprises of teenage Tibetans and novice monks and nuns who seek religious education that is banned in Tibet; children sent by their parent to study in Tibetan exile schools, feeling that it is their only chance for a reasonable education; and nomads and farmers leave because they have been relocated from their land for development projects, like the Gormo-Lhasa railway.The status of education in Tibet is grim. About half the total exodus from Tibet continues to be minors below 18 years seeking educational opportunities in exile in India. Majority of the fleeing Tibetans who were struck with tragedy at the Nangpa Pass were minors. When images of the tragedy and its survivors flashed across the globe, the world wondered at the innocent face of 7-year-old Dekyi Paltso who was part of the fleeing group. Like many others, despite the risks involved Dekyi was also sent by her parents to get broad-based education in Tibetan schools set up in India, an apparent dissatisfaction over the quality of education in Chinese controlled Tibet. For many Tibetans who graduate from higher educational institutions inTibet, discriminatory practices by Chinese authorities in hiring Tibetans for civil services is rampant. There is also rampant practice of giving  jobs to only rich, affluent and those having connection to officialdom [Ch: Guanxi ]. In a December 2002 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance said that “Tibetans in the “TAR”suffer various forms of systematic and institutional discrimination in the fields of employment, healthcare, education and public representation.” In late October 2006, Tibetan students of the Tibet University staged a rare public protest in front of government offices in Lhasa over discrimination by Chinese authorities in hiring Tibetan graduates to civil service jobs. Public Security Bureau (PSB)officers quickly acted upon the incident by rounding up the students and forbade them from mass gathering. In May 2006 Tibetan graduates in Golog “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” (“TAP”) in Qinghai Province petitioned to the local government to give jobs without bias and discrimination as promised in a policy implementation between 2001 – 2005 but apparently failed. Fake household registration in Tibet by mainland Chinese students usurp opportunities meant for Tibetans. The Education Department of “TAR” in a rare public acknowledgement in the official media said,“…these days many Chinese students from mainland China were making “TAR” household registration card…” In an important landmark this year, a committee from the National People’s Congress visited the“TAR” in August 2006 to review the implementation of Regional National Autonomy law promulgated in 1984.The visit by the committee is first of its kind since the promulgation of law. Although little is known about the visit, the Centre sees this as an important positive development in light of the ongoing Sino-Tibet dialogue. Envoys of the Dalai Lama visited China for a fifth round of talks from 15-23 February 2006.The delegation had a day long meeting withthe Executive Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department, Zhu Weiqun, on 22 February 2006, in Guilin City. The latest round of discussion saw the two parties agree that there is a major difference in approaching the issue and agreed that more discussions and engagements will clear the obstacles. The host arranged a trip to GuangxiZhuang Autonomous Region for the envoys to observe the situation; an interest the envoys had shown in their earlier visits.In the early part of 2006, human rights organisations and free speech campaigners have heavily criticised internet corporate giants Google and Yahoo Inc. Bowing to official diktat, Google launched a censored service in China. For their weakness in fighting for a right to information, protesters followed Google workers at conferences, university lectures and at its headquarters inCalifornia. Almost all Tibetan organisations and Tibet supporters removed Google services from their respective websites. Yahoo Inc, for helping Chinese authorities in jailing a Chinese writer, was also heavily criticised by the international community. All the big names in internet business have now bowed to the Chinese authorities in an effort to expand their presence in the Chinese market.Microsoft, Cisco were earlier criticised for their meekness in filtering information for internet users in China, and Google and Yahoo followed suit. It is deplorable that internet corporates help abusive states like PRC in their crackdown on online dissidents and deprive correct information to millions of information hungry citizens.2006 marks the 10th anniversary of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, which was established in 1996. Over the decade, TCHRD has endeavoured to uncover human rights violations in Tibet and reveal its findings to the rest of the world. As the Centre embarks upon another decade of human rights research, it remains firmly committed to realising the goals set out in its mission. Despite the dedicated hard work by individuals and various organisations in the world including TCHRD, the human rights situation inTibet remains grave. In light of the courageous selfless activities and calls for freedom by Tibetans in Chinese occupied Tibet, TCHRD is inspired to work harder and will continue to highlight the situation more vigorously in the years to come.

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