China in Tibet: Striking Hard Against Human Rights. Annual Report 1997

In 1996, reports of grave human rights violations against Tibetans in occupied Tibet continued on a monumental scale. The brutal repression of freedom of religion is outstanding in Tibet where the peaceful beliefs and customs of Buddhism play such a profound role in cultural life. Under the aegis of the national “Strike Hard campaign”, the authorities of the People’s Republic of China have focused on “splittists” in Tibet in an attempt to stifle the voice of Tibetans calling for independence and fundamental freedoms.

China’s campaign of “Strike Hard” against Tibetans comes in the wake of growing resentment among the Tibetans against various sanctions imposed by China on the religious practices of the people. Chen Kyui yuan’s five-point proposal, adopted by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is clearly aimed at completely destroying the cultural identity of the Tibetan people, besides overlooking the fact that such a strategy would constitute gross interference in the religious matters of the Tibetan people and a violation of their right to religious freedom.

Chinese “work teams” have been sent in to Tibetan monasteries and nunneries to conduct forcible “re-education” sessions. The refusal of the monks and nuns to renounce their religious beliefs and their leader, the Dalai Lama, has resulted in more than 110 known arrests, at least two deaths and some 1300 expulsions in 1996.

The effects of the Panchen Lama dispute continued throughout 1996 in Tibet. Seven individuals are known to be still in detention following their support of the child recognised by the Dalai Lama, while four others have disappeared.

In 1996 the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy recorded 204 known cases of arrests of Tibetans for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly. Arrests have resulted from peaceful actions ranging from the possession of a picture of the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan national flag, the voicing of “Free Tibet” or a non-violent demonstration of just a few minutes duration.

Including the number of Tibetans placed under detention in 1996, there are as many as 1042 political prisoners who have already spent years of their life in custody and still today remain behind bars. Such cases represent ongoing violations of human rights – years of denial of due process, torture and ill-treatment, and frequently the arbitrary extension of prison sentences for the exercise of human rights whilst in detention.

The great majority of imprisonments constitute arbitrary arrests and detention. Often individuals have not been informed of the charge against them, they have been denied legal access, they have been detained for unreasonably lengthy periods, their relatives and families have not been informed of their whereabouts and they have not been accorded a fair trial.

Officials have acted with impunity in perpetrating a variety of inhumane torture methods against Tibetan political prisoners. In 1996 eight reports of Tibetans dying as a result of police torture and ill-treatment were received. Three of these were deaths in custody.

There are 12 known cases of disappearances in Tibet for 1996. Seven year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima, recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, and his parents have been missing since May 1995 and Chadrel Rinpoche, head of the Chinese appointed Search Committee for the reincarnation, has disappeared since 17 May 1995.

Reports in 1996 reveal that the PRC authorities continue to directly implement policies of racial discrimination against Tibetans in various spheres of life including public, education, employment and housing. The rights of Tibetans as a minority group regarding their culture, religion and language have also been denied.

Groups particularly vulnerable to Chinese brutalities in 1996 were Tibetan women and children. Tibetan women have been subjected to torture and sexual violence in prisons and their reproductive rights have been violated by Chinese official policies. In 1996, 21 women were arbitrarily arrested and there were a total of 278 female political prisoners. 51 Tibetan political prisoners under the age of 18 were detained in Chinese prisons and over 280 student monks under the age of 16 were expelled from their monasteries. Two young monks, Gelek Jinpa, aged 14 and Dorje, aged 17, were shot in the leg by Chinese troops in May 1996.

The increasing Chinese population transfer into Tibet has reduced the Tibetan people to a minority group in their own land. In Tibet today there are over 7.5 million non-Tibetan settlers including Chinese and Hui Muslims while Tibetans inside Tibet comprise only six million. As the Chinese control over all spheres of economic, social and political life is tightened, the Tibetan people are further and further marginalised and disempowered.

In 1996 there were several serious reports of Nepal violating the right to seek asylum and other refugee rights of Tibetan asylum-seekers. One hundred and sixty Tibetan refugees were reported to have been arrested by Nepalese authorities in 1996 and others have been tortured, denied prompt and adequate medical attention, and deported.

Due to the extraordinary difficulty of obtaining information and statistics of human rights abuses within Tibet , this report is by no means a complete report of incidents which have taken place in 1996. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has relied primarily on testimonial provided by Tibetan refugees in India, in addition to sources within Tibet, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, and other concerned human rights and Tibet support groups. Wherever possible, we have cross referenced information from more than one source.

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