TCHRD Statements

Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche
Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) observes with deep concern the 12th anniversary of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s arbitrary arrest on 7 April 2002 which eventually led to life imprisonment.

Popularly known as A-Nga Tashi, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a highly-respected lama in Lithang County, Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, in the Tibetan province of Kham. Rinpoche is renowned for his active involvement in the restoration of Tibetan culture and religion, social welfare activities and his bold statements about repressive Chinese policies in Tibet. On 5 December 2002, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and his nephew Lobsang Dhondup were sentenced to death with two years’ reprieve and death sentence respectively. Lobsang Dhondup was executed but Rinpoche’s suspended death sentence was commuted to life due to international pressure.

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Tashi Rabten aka Theurang
Tashi Rabten aka Theurang

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) welcomes the release of writer Tashi Rabten, also known as Theurang, who served four years at Mianyang Prison in Sichuan Province. He was sentenced on charges of “inciting activities to split the nation” by the Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Intermediate People’s Court on 2 June 2011.

Tashi Rabten was a student at the Northwest Nationalities University in Lanzhou, Gansu Province. He went missing on 26 July 2009, when the university closed for summer vacation. His whereabouts remained unknown until 6 April 2010 when he was traced to a detention center in Ngaba’s Barkham County.

The sentencing of Tashi Rabten violated, among others, article 19 of the United Nation’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which calls for the protection of freedom of expression. China signed the ICCPR in 1998 and since then it has dragged its feet on ratifying the covenant despite numerous recommendations from UN member states during China’s first and second Universal Periodic Review in 2009 and 2013 respectively. 

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Created in 1985, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is today the main coalition of international non-governmental organisations (NGO) fighting against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the main coalition of international non-governmental organisations fighting against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Speaking for itself and TCHRD, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) read a joint statement (below) during the 25th session of the Human Rights Council condemning the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) failure to sign the optional protocols to the Convention Against Torture and to prevent arbitrary detention, torture, and the killing of prisoners.  The statement specifically focused on the gap between the PRC’s rhetoric and its practice. Despite the many well-documented cases, the PRC continues to deny that there is any torture, arbitrary detention, or persecution of human rights defenders.

The joint statement also mentioned the death of Cao Shunli, a human rights defender who died on 14 March 2014 after she was denied medical care while in imprisoned by the PRC. Other NGOs also tried to discuss Cao Shunli’s death and Chinese Human Rights Defenders tried to hold a minute of silence to honor Cao Shunli, who submitted documents on the PRC’s human rights progress to the Human Rights Council before her abduction in September 2013. The PRC was able to delay the session and block the minute of silence.

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khenpo_kartseThe Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has received information concerning the status and treatment of Khenpo Kartse, also known as Khenpo Karma Tsewang, who was arrested at 1 am on 7 December 2013. Khenpo Kartse is a popular senior religious figure and well respected for his social work and the promotion and protection of Tibetan language, culture and religion. He is the abbot of Jhapa Monastery in Nangchen (Ch: Nángqiān) County in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

Thousands of supporters of Khenpo Kartse staged a five hour-long sit-in protesting his arrest and demanding an explanation for his arrest. Sixteen monks were arrested during these protests. The last monk was released on 21 January 2014. Despite the sit-in and assurances from the local Monastery Management Committee, Khenpo Kartse was not released and his detention, which has now lasted over three months, has only been justified in the most vague terms. In just over three months of detention, Khenpo Kartse has been subjected to an enforced disappearance, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

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Ngawang Jamyang in a photo taken in early 2000's.  The learned Buddhist scholar died in police custody less than a month after his arrest in December 2013
Ngawang Jamyang in a photo taken in early 2000’s. The learned Buddhist scholar died in police custody less than a month after his arrest in December 2013

On Thursday morning just before Max Baucus was confirmed by the US Senate to be the next US Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), President Obama addressed the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Obama recognized the National Prayer Breakfast as an opportunity to set aside labels of party and ideology. He used the opportunity to discuss the importance of religious freedom abroad. Obama said that freedom of religion is necessary for peace and human dignity.

Tibetans know the truth of those words all too well. In Tibet, Buddhism is strictly controlled by the Chinese government. After the destruction of almost every monastery, nunnery, and religious, historic or biographic text in Tibet in the first 25 years of Chinese rule the Chinese government still violently denies Tibetans religious freedom. Tibetan Buddhists are prevented from freely exercising their religious beliefs. Monks and nuns are subjected to Patriotic Education Campaigns, which require monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama or be kicked out of their monasteries or nunneries. By February 1998, 3,993 monks and nuns were kicked out of their monasteries and nunneries. According to official Chinese figures 1,200 monks were expelled from monasteries near Lhasa.

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Mao ZedongOn 26 December 2013, China held a grand celebration to commemorate the 120th birthday of Mao Zedong (毛澤東). This involves a careful balance for Xi Jinping and other members of the Chinese Communist Party, who hope to exploit Mao Zedong’s rhetoric and status without endorsing his policies or ideology, both of which are contrary to the PRC’s current policies and announced reforms.

In Tibet, there is no contradiction between Mao Zedong’s legacy and his policies. Both were brutal and led to mass arrests, death, and destruction in Tibet. While the PRC quietly distanced itself from some of Mao Zedong’s worst policies after his death in 1976, many continue to cast a shadow over Tibet.

For the next 26 years since PRC’s invasion of Tibet in 1949, Tibetans were subjected to horrific, inhumane conditions. On 23 May 1980, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) publicly apologized for the failed policies that made conditions in Tibet worse than in 1959 and that the then-party general secretary Hu Yaobang accused the Chinese cadres of throwing the money entrusted to them to help Tibetans into the Lhasa River. Despite this acknowledgement, many of the most brutal and destructive policies from Mao’s rule still continue today.

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UN_LogoOn 12 November 2013, China was elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council (HRC) was created in 2006 and replaced the former UN Commission on Human Rights; it is the UN’s top human rights body and is made up of 47 Member States, elected by the UN General Assembly. The HRC has the mandate to strengthen the promotion and the protection of human rights worldwide as well as to address situations of human rights violations. One of its most important mechanisms is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which assesses the compliance to human rights norms and standards by all UN Member States.

For the past months, there has been a great concern in the international community regarding China’s candidature to become part of the HRC. The UN Resolution 60/251 which created the HRC establishes in its article 8 that “when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and the protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto”. China has succeeded to win a seat at the Council, despite its poor human rights record and the calls from many civil society organisations to exclude China from becoming a member.

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A huge contingent of armed police surround Tibetans attending the Monlam Chenmo prayer festival in Rebkong County in February 2013
A huge contingent of armed police surround Tibetans attending the Monlam Chenmo prayer festival in Rebkong County in February 2013

This week, China issued a white paper titled Development and Progress of Tibet which contained stunning claims of improved situation inside Tibet. Indeed the release of the white paper on the day of China’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council was a strategic move. However, if China thought that a mere white paper filled with omissions, human rights doublespeak and calculated obfuscation would help blunt criticisms against its egregious human rights record in Tibet, it turned out to be just another exercise in self-delusion.

Like its white papers on Tibet issued in the past, the latest one begins by distorting not just the current reality of Tibet, but also Tibet’s history, denying its distinct identity as a nation and civilisation having its cultural influence beyond its Himalayan borders – in regions and countries as diverse as Sikkim, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Baltistan, Kalmykia, Mongolia and so on.

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Jigme Gyatso before his incarceration and torture in Chinese prison
Jigme Gyatso before his incarceration and torture in prison

On 3 April 2013, after 17 years Jigme Gyatso was released from prison. He entered prison a strong and healthy 35 year-old and left with weak eyesight, heart complications and kidney damage that kept him from walking upright.  Eight years before his release Jigme Gyatso met the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, who strongly recommended Jigme Gyatso be released because his conviction for “endangering state security” by creating an illegal organization was based on information extracted by torture. During his 17 years imprisonment, he was electrocuted with electric batons and brutally beaten.  Today, three months after Jigme Gyatso’s long-awaited release from prison, is the International Day in Support of Torture Victims as Jigme Gyatso struggles with his broken body to live again.

International Day in Support of Torture Victims commemorates the entry into force of the Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment (or Convention Against Torture) on 26 June 1987 with the goal of eradicating torture.

No act, except for slavery, has been prohibited as unanimously and repeatedly as torture.  The international community recognizes that the prohibition of torture, like genocide and slavery, is a jus cogens norm, a preemptory norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted.  The universal rejection of torture forces torturers to deny its existence and hide their victims from the world by placing them in “black sites” and secret detention facilities or denying their existence.

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Tibetan students protest in Rebkong County in 2012
Tibetan students protest in Rebkong County in 2012

Last week, the Information Office of the State Council, or China’s Cabinet, issued a white paper on “Progress in China’s Human Rights in 2012”[i] as a part of its propaganda activity for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review later this year.  Unsurprisingly, the white paper praised Chinese progress in human rights—pointing almost exclusively to the benefits of China’s continued economic development.  However, behind the self-congratulatory praise and statistics lie China’s underlying philosophy of human rights, which fundamentally misunderstands the international human rights system. China’s white paper is oblivious to the indivisible and universal nature of human rights, and that guaranteeing human rights requires action and not just mere hollow proclamations.

According to the white paper, human rights are divisible and unrelated by treating economic development and the corresponding rights as supreme. The first section of the white paper concerns “Human Rights in Economic Construction” and states that, “it would be impossible to protect people’s rights and interests without first developing the economy to feed and clothe the people.”  Rhetoric from China concerning the importance of economic development before even addressing civil and political rights is not new.  During the Cold War both capitalist and communist states frequently advocated for either civil and political right or economic, social and cultural rights and ignored the other.  This division was a political tool and never accurately described the international human rights system or the philosophy of human rights.

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Tibet's XIth Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
Tibet’s XIth Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibet’s XIth Panchen Lama, one of the most important Tibetan spiritual leaders, turns 24 today under house arrest. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was born on 25 April 1989 in Lhari County in Nagchu, Tibet. It is his 18th year in Chinese custody at an undisclosed location after he and his parents disappeared in 1995. He was only six years old when he was disappeared by the Chinese authorities.

For about 18 years, the Chinese authorities have wilfully misled the international community on the actual whereabouts and wellbeing of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family members, almost always sticking to the standard, unverifiable response that the “perfectly ordinary boy” is in “protective custody”, growing up in “excellent state of health” and that his parents “did not want to be disturbed”.

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