“Legal education” claim purely propaganda, account for the disappeared

11 June 2011

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) welcomes the statement by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance released on 8 June 2011 expressing serious concerns over the fate and whereabouts of 300 monks disappeared by Chinese security forces on 21 April 2011.

TCHRD has been closely monitoring and documenting the human rights situation in Ngaba County, Sichuan, since the self-immolation of 20-year-old Phuntsok on 16 March 2011. The human rights situation in the area has been appalling and the local Kirti Monastery faced the brunt of the security crackdown.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) as an important member state in the United Nations has a responsibility to heed to the expert panel’s request for information on the whereabouts of the monks. Unfortunately the government through its foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, decided to play down the urgency of the situation. The government maintains its propaganda offensive in sugar coating political indoctrination campaigns as “legal education” to save its image rather than to address the issue responsibly.

Spokesperson of the foreign ministry in a reply to the media states, “It is legal to supervise religious affairs, and protect normal religious order. This issue of forced disappearance fundamentally does not exist”. Hong further said “According to our understanding, relevant local government departments are collectively implementing education on the legal system for staff of the Kirti Monastery.” The Ngaba government in late April said that it is giving the monks “legal education”, due to “illegal activities” like visiting prostitutes, getting drunk, gambling and pornography. The local as well as the central government steadfastly maintains the position that there have been no enforced disappearances. The TCHRD through its documentation, research and evidences has consistently proven that the human rights situation in Ngaba County is grave. The Centre has documented death of four Tibetans (including Phuntsok) due to police brutality, around 35 known cases of detention and enforced disappearance of 300 monks (partial list of identified monks available below).

Due to consistent criticism by the international community, the Chinese government has in recent years started to use the phrase “legal education” for what is essentially the so-called “patriotic re-education”. The term and concept “patriotic re-education” is an out dated concept which taints the sophisticated and “modern” image that PRC displays and strives for. In order to shoulder the responsibilities of being a power, the government should sincerely address the problems rather than to sweep issue under the carpet. The “patriotic re-education” is essentially still in place as function and components in the so called “legal education” are identical to the “patriotic re-education”.

China first implemented the campaign in monastic institutions in Tibet in 1996. Since then thousands of monks have been either expelled from their monasteries or thrown into prison for showing defiance to the authorities. In the ongoing campaign in Kirti Monastery, the monks have been made to study and write literatures criticizing the Dalai Lama and pledging their loyalty to the great motherland.

In light of the recent wave of enforced and involuntary disappearances in the whole of China and particularly in Tibet, TCHRD urges the government of PRC to ratify the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. As a key member state in the United Nations, PRC should respect the international laws and account for the disappeared Tibetan monks. Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law and it must not be permitted to occur anywhere under no exceptional circumstances. It is never an excuse to disappear people especially those who peacefully express their dissent with the government. China should abide by the standards of human rights and fully cooperate and account for those disappeared. The perpetrators of the crime must be brought to justice. It should unconditionally release those held in arbitrary detention for showing their solidarity with Phuntsok and dissent with the government.

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