Olympics and Tibet under a cloud of repression

On the eve of China’s first Olympics, as the world prepares to gaze more intently than ever on the grand spectacle of the 29th Olympics, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) deplores and expresses its deepest dismay on China’s failure to uphold the Olympic principles particularly with regard to continual of repression in Tibet. The communist regime continues to cling on to its old authoritarian ways and still ruthlessly suppresses peaceful dissent. Over the recent past the Chinese authorities under the pretext of security measures has intensified clampdown on the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people.

Spontaneous pan-Tibet protests since 10 March 2008 are sincere manifestation of brutality and oppression suffered by the Tibetans at the hands of the Communist party for more than half a century. This goes in contrast to the authorities’ projection of the image of “harmonious society” and failure of Beijing long held Tibet Policies.

Particularly this year, Tibetans in “Tibet Autonomous Region ” (‘TAR’) and other neighboring areas have witnessed unprecedented repression and crackdown following massive protests since 10 March across the Tibetan plateau which has resulted in the death of more than 120 Tibetans as a direct result of Chinese brutality. Over 6500 were detained in various places and hundreds injured with many cases remain unaccounted for due to various circumstances.

Practice of Torture unabated

There are many credible reports of people died from torture and inhuman treatment meted out to them. Just for instance, Nechung, a 38- year-old mother of four children from Charu Hu Village in Ngaba County, Ngaba “TAP”, Sichuan Province, died days after being subjected to brutal torture in a Chinese prison on 17 April 2008. In another instance, Dawa, a 31 year-old Tibetan farmer from Dedrong Village, Jangkha Township, Phenpo Lhundup County, Lhasa City, “TAR”, died on 1 April 2008 after being severely beaten by Chinese prison guards. Similarly three monks from Drango County in Kardze “TAP” were brutally crushed by the security forces for staging a peaceful protest in front of the County government headquarters. One of them, Tsewang Dakpa, a 22 year old from Jangtha Township, Drango County, in particular sustained multiple and severe injury that eyewitness recounted slight chances of his survival. There were even rumor of his death from torture he suffered and it could not be ascertained even today.

Thabkey, a 30 year-old monk of Labrang Monastery, arrested along with seven other monks for briefing a group of foreign media personal on a government managed tour in Labrang, was released after several days’ detention in a mentally unstable condition with bruise marks all over his body resulted from severe beatings in the police custody.

Ambiguous law to suppress dissent:

China still continues to use certain provisions of the Criminal Law as political tools to suppress dissent. The charges of “endangering state security”, “disrupting social order” and the term “terrorist organisation” in China’s Criminal Law are not defined, thereby allowing a broad and ambiguous range of interpretation, including criminalisation of non-violent political protests in the politically restive regions like Tibet and used to prosecute those engaged in legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. China justified its repression of free speech under a broad interpretation of “national security”.

Renewed “Patriotic Reeducation Campaign” in Tibet

At the beginning of April this year, alongside intensification of security measures, the Chinese authorities have ordered more stringent ideological education and ramped-up propaganda in Tibet “to build anti-separatist sentiment”. Under the renewed “patriotic reeducation” campaign launched across all section of Tibetan communities in Tibet which has resulted in the dramatic rise of religious repression, arrest, detention of those who opposed the campaign which requires people to sign and oppose the Dalai Lama. Almost all the major monastic institutions across Tibet virtually remains locked up with heavy security presence since 10 March protest. Not sparing even the ethnic Tibetan Communist party members, on 21 April, Dorjee Tsering, Lhasa City Mayor, has told that the “Patriotic re-education” campaign will be a standard litmus test for the party cadres and will be set as a standard barometer for testing one’s loyalty to the Party. The campaign is used as a tool to stabilize and exert control over what the Chinese authorities term “the hotbed of dissent activities,” referring to the monastic institutions. The forced implementation of the campaign in garnering loyalty to the state is in direct contravention of many international human rights provisions on religion.

New Measures to purge Monasteries and monastic populace

In addition to this campaign, the introduction of new measures in Kardze in 28 June 2008 aims to purge monasteries of monks and restrict religious practice was a clear revelation of systematic new attack on Tibetan Buddhism and have disturbing implications on the lives of monks and nuns in Tibet. TCHRD has documented numerous cases of people having detained for opposing the “patriotic re-education” campaign.

Lengthy Prison sentences

Of the number of people sentenced so far, none of the arrestees were given the standard due process and legal representation as required in the international legal norms. On 29 April, the Intermediate People’s Court of Lhasa handed down 30 people with prison sentences ranging from three years to life sentence. On 19 and 20 June, four local courts in Lhasa and the Shannan Prefecture announced prison terms for another 12 Tibetans without due process and legal representation in an arbitrary and summary execution of judicial process. This was in tune with the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (‘TAR’) Communist party and Government officials call for a “swift and quick judicial process to strike back at the “separatists” and the “Dalai clique”. TCHRD remains very skeptical and fear for the worst scenarios for the Tibetan protestors who were held as prisoners of conscience after political motivated trials and are still in detention and waiting for the court sentence. Judging from the gravity of sentence handed down on those who peacefully exercised their fundamental human rights in the recent months. TCHRD fears for the worst kind of sentence, for those who led the protest and those authorities deemed as sole perpetrator of protests, has been substantiated by the Executive Vice Chairman of “TAR”, Pema Trinly’s briefing at a press conference on 10 July, saying another 116 suspects who were on trial “would be decided under Chinese laws whether some would be sentenced to death.”

While it is widely known that the Tibetans were sentenced for showing their political dissent, the state media has downplayed the whole nature of their activities as petty criminal offenses by projecting the cases as that of looting, arson, theft, rioting etc., rather than acts of ‘expression’ of political dissidence. Beijing refuses to see the reality of the political nature of the pan-Tibet popular protests. In order to shun its repression in Tibet, China has virtually sealed off the Tibetan plateau despite the promise to increase openness in the buildup to the Olympics and imposed communication blackout. Clearly the harshness of sentences handed down indicate that it is not a case of petty criminal activity only, but involves the larger issue of political dissidence — which the state media deliberately fails to mention.

Fresh Ultimatum on “TAR” Party members and Civil Servants

In addition, recently the Chinese authorities have embarked on numerous premeditated measures and steps to tighten control over the Tibetan people targeting every strata of Tibetan society. The latest targets are identified as ethnic Tibetan Communist Party members and the civil servants with the issuance of two-month ultimatum on 14 July 2008 to recall their children studying in educational institutions run by the “Dalai clique” or face expulsion from party membership and government job.

Politicisation of Olympics

While the government of the People’s Republic of China complains about the politicization of Olympics to avert international criticism of her human rights records, it is but PRC government herself who from the very onset of the Olympic Games has involved the issue of human rights to politicize the Games at the first place. China is still using the Games as a tool to push forward its political agenda. During the Olympic torch relay in Lhasa, Tibet, the “TAR” Party Secretary, Zhang Qingli bombarded the selected audience with political rhetoric that, “Tibet’s sky will never change and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it,” Tibet’s hardline Communist Party Secretary General Zhang Qing Li said at the relay ceremony: “We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique.”

Broken Promises

During the bidding process and after International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted Beijing the 2008 Olympic Games on 13 July 2001, Chinese and Olympic officials made assurances that human rights in China would improve as a result of hosting the Games. However, in contrary, the human rights situation in Tibet over the past few months has gone from bad to dismal in the run up to Beijing Olympic Games with intensification of security measures and creation of climate of fear thereby resulting in the restriction on the movement of the people and the curtailment of their fundamental human rights. The suppression of political dissent has increased because of the Olympics, rather than lessened, and China has failed to honor the pledge to improve its human rights record that she made when awarded the games.

TCHRD calls upon the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to cease the arbitrary detention, clampdown on religious practice and religious institutions, stop “patriotic re-education” campaign, release those currently imprisoned, allow free access to international media into Tibet, stop use of torture to extract confession on the detainees, fair trial to those who are detained and calls for substantial reforms in some of the major areas linked to the core Olympic values of “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” and the preservation of human dignity.

TCHRD pledges the world leaders and dignitaries attending the Beijing Olympics to publicly raise their voice over Beijing crackdown in Tibet, the Communist hardline policies in Tibet and voice their support of individual Chinese human rights activists. A failure to do will send a wrong signal that it is acceptable for a government to host the Olympics in an atmosphere of injustice and repression.

TCHRD releases a short video documentary entitled “Uprising in Tibet 2008” with commentary both in English and Tibetan on the recent protests since 10 March across Tibet in a chronological order highlighting various human rights violations by the Chinese authorities on Tibetan people in Chinese occupied Tibet.

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