The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) released its Annual Report: Human Rights Situation in Tibet, 2004. The Annual report details the current Human Rights situation in Tibet compiled from independent research along with the testimonies of newly arrived refugees in the exile community. This year’s report focuses on the continued violation of Tibetans Right to Development; Right to Education; Civil and Political Rights; the Right to Information, and Religious Freedom.
The year 2004, saw the release of some prominent political prisoners from Chinese prisons. However, TCHRD also recorded 21 known cases of arrests on charges of suspicion of activities that the Chinese government deemed “endangering state security”- activities that have called for the freedom of Tibet or simply for the expression of allegiance to the Dalai Lama. At the end of 2004, TCHRD recorded 146 known political prisoners still serving prison terms in various Chinese prison networks across Tibet. Of which 55 Tibetans are serving sentences of 10 years or more, with monks constituting 63 percent of the total known political prisoners. TCHRD believes that there are many more cases of unconfirmed arrests.
Additionally, the right to unbiased and free information in Tibet continued to be restricted, and supplemented with state sponsored information. There was government interference in the free exchange and dissemination of information and the prevention of access to information that should be freely available to the public.
The state of religious freedom in Tibet in the year 2004 continues to be of grave concern with religious repression affecting many levels of Buddhist life and practice. Religious leaders in Tibet face ongoing persecution, official harassment and intimidation by the Chinese authorities. The “patriotic e-education” campaign has also continued in an attempt to forcibly indoctrinate monks and nuns with State ideology. The year also saw the reinstatement of the Geshe Lharampa Degree, after a ban of 15 years. The Geshe Lharampa Degree (the highest degree in Buddhist philosophy) was reinstated after a stipulation that now requires all candidates seeking the Geshe Degree to study and be tested on six books of political ideology; thus undermining the tradition of the degree.
Often, the Chinese government has attempted to discredit criticism of its human rights record by claiming that the Tibetan people have benefited as a result of the development strategies carried out by Beijing. However, research findings including numerous interviews of Tibetans from Tibet clearly suggests otherwise. Tibetans have been systematically denied the right and opportunity to express their opinions or to actively participate in the development of Tibet. The migration of Han Chinese into Tibet continues to create livelihood problems for Tibetans. Instead of being the main beneficiaries of China’s development plans, the majority of Tibetans have remained margainalized and discriminated against in all spheres of life.
The Tibetan people’s right to education continues to be overlooked in favor of a state driven educational agenda aimed at instilling loyalty to China and the socialist cause. In this regard, over the last year, there have been no tangible measures taken by the Chinese government in preserving Tibetan historical, cultural, or linguistic identity by improving the educational system in Tibet. The main medium of education in Tibet continues to be Chinese, wherein students are taught a Chinese version of history and are instructed to denounce the Dalai Lama.
On a positive note, on March 14th 2004, China’s 10th National People’s Congress adopted a constitutional amendment that included a general provision regarding human rights. Thus article 33 of the Chinese Constitution now states: “The State respects and preserves human rights.” This amendment has been welcomed as an important step in the acknowledgment of human rights in China; however actual steps towards respecting Human Rights in Tibet have yet to be taken by the Chinese Administration.
TCHRD urges the international community to continue its pressure on China not only to respect the human rights of its people, but also to uphold the international human rights instruments that the PRC has signed or ratified. TCHRD also calls on the People’s Republic of China to release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including those who have been incarcerated for exercising their right to freedom of speech, expression and worship, while also revising the domestic legal proceedings to ensure a fair and just judiciary process. It is not enough for China to ratify international human rights laws or offer verbal commitments to adhere to human rights laws alone, it is time for the people in China to see concrete improvement’s and a genuine level of respect and action in the promotion and protection of their human rights.
NOTE: TCHRD will shortly release two additional reports: State of Education in Tibet: A Human Rights Perspective and Strike Hard Campaign: China’s Crackdown on Political Dissidence.