Statement on the 59th anniversary of International Human Rights Day

On the occasion of the 59th International Human Rights Day today, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) salutes those around the world who struggle to defend, protect and promote the fundamental freedoms, the inherent dignity, and the equal and inalienable rights that are the birthright of all members of the human family. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was passed by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 and was proclaimed as the ‘common standard of achievement for all people and nations’ in respect of human rights. Despite taking years to formulate and decades of existence, the struggle to ensure just entitlement of the thirty rights and freedoms enshrined in the UDHR requires our attention today and everyday.
On 10 December, Tibetans commemorate not only International Human Rights Day, but also the conferment in 1989 of the Noble Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama for His continued struggle for peace and human rights through non-violence. TCHRD commemorate the UDHR, the values it enshrines and our ongoing effort to promote and defend human rights of Tibetan people in Tibet.
In the past eleven months, the human rights and freedom of Tibetans in Tibet have witnessed an unprecedented beating at the hands of Chinese authorities. It is highly regrettable and condemnable that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), despite being a permanent member of the United Nations and a state party to UN treaties on human rights, fails to respect and uphold the basic principles set forth in the UDHR and that the most blatant forms of violations are regularly occurring in the region with impunity. Chinese authorities continue to practice a systematic denial of human rights of the Tibetan people.
During the past eleven months of 2007, TCHRD has documented, among others, the following known events:
• TCHRD received information on scores of new known cases of arrests of Tibetans suspected of political activities;
• On 1 January 2007, new “Measures for the ‘Regulation on Religious Affairs'” with 56 articles, issued by the 11th Standing Committee of the “TAR” People’s Government was entered into force. This new regulation, instead of providing protection for religious affairs, aimed to enforce compliance with governmental regulations and policies on religious organizations, religious personnel and religious citizen, place of worship and activities;
• Tibetan Communist Party members, and civil servants, even the ordinary people, in Lhasa were banned from visiting temples for a week corresponding to the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference being held in Beijing in March. Party members and civil servants were issued stark warning of facing expulsion and dismissal, if they prayed at Buddhist temples in the Capital.
• China intensified prohibition of religious activities in Tibet with severe restrictions and prohibitions during the holy month of Saka Dawa, which began on17 May 2007. The China State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) office’s issuance of the 14-article; “Management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism,” which came into effect as of 1 September this year, clearly demonstrates the Chinese Communist Party’s adamant attempt to undermine and tarnish the centuries-old Tibetan tradition of religious practice. The new measures described by the official press as ‘an important move to institutionalize the management of reincarnation,’ are deliberately targeted at one of the core belief systems of Tibetan Buddhism and set out ‘approval procedures’ for new living Buddhas. It also underscores the Communist Party’s agenda to undermine and supplant the Tibetan religious hierarchy and weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders including the Dalai Lama;
• China intensified restrictions in Trulku Tenzin Delek’s Kham Nalanda Thekchen Jangchub Choeling Monastery with the arrest of two elderly women Odho and Apha Bomo, both in their late 50’s and residents of Othok Village, Nyagchuka County, Kardze “TAP” Sichuan Province, on 19 July 2007 by the Nyagchuka County Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials. The women were alleged to have committed the ‘crime’ of instigating people to join their call for Trulku Tenzin Delek’s release. They were later released on 27 August after the authorities called the head of the Othok village to stand as guarantor for their release;
• On 1 August 2007, Ronggye A’drak was arrested for staging a public protest during the annual Lithang horse race festival. In the aftermath of Ronggye A’drak’s arrest, severe restrictions were imposed in Lithang and surrounding areas for the fear of massive popular uprising by his supporters. The authorities sent additional contingents of People’s Armed Police (PAP) forces as reinforcements to monitor and restrict the activities of his supporters. Later on 21 August 2007, three nephews of A’drak-Adruk Lopoe, Adruk Nyima and Adruk Gyatso were arbitrarily arrested. Although Nyima and Gyatso were released after six hours, A’druk Lopoe’s whereabouts remained unknown until his court trial;
• On 19 August 2007, Lothok, a 36-year old Tibetan nomad and a father of five children from Drakar Latse Village, Lithang County was arbitrarily detained from a guesthouse in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan Province;
• A near complete gold and copper plated colossal statue of Guru Rinpoche in Samye Monastery, in Dranang County, Lokha Prefecture, “TAP” was demolished by Chinese People’s Armed Police (PAP) during the Buddhist holy month of Saka Dawa in mid May this year; and another statue of Guru Rinpoche was also demolished in the first week of October in Ngari Darchen, Purang County, Ngari Prefecture, “TAR”. In a similar incident on 14 August 2007, a statue of Guru Rinpoche under construction at Rongpatsa Village, Kardze County, Kardze “TAP” was suspended following the local authorities’ issuance of an order prohibiting construction of the statue;
• Since the first week of September 2007, the Chinese authorities have commenced an intense “Patriotic Education” Campaign in Lithang and the surrounding counties. On 2 September, Adruk Kalgyam, a Tibetan nomad from Youru Kharshul Village, was arrested for challenging the Chinese authorities during the campaign. In a similar case on 3 October 2007, Jamyang Tenzin, a monk of Youru Geydenling Monastery in Lithang County was arrested for his open opposition to the authorities during the ‘Patriotic Education’ Campaign. The fate of these two still remains unknown;
• On around 7 September, police detained some 40 students alleged to have written slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and a free Tibet the previous day on the walls of the village police station and on other walls in the village. Within 48 hours, all but seven of the students were released from police custody. The seven students, all from nomadic families, are students of Amchok Bora Village Secondary School, in Labrang County (Ch: Xiahe xian), Gannan/Kanlho “TAP” in Gansu Province. Four schoolboys from the group of seven detained are still in custody after being tortured for the alleged offence of scribbling graffiti. The use of torture is still an endemic and prevalent practice in Tibet despite China’s signature and ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture. The prohibition on torture is well established under international law. It is unambiguous and absolute. It is binding on all States in all territories under their jurisdiction or effective control. It applies in all circumstances and times. Nor is torture permissible when it is called something else: cruel and inhuman treatment is unacceptable and illegal, irrespective of the name it is given;
• Heightened vigilance and strict measures prior to and after the conferment of the highest civilian award by the US to the Dalai Lama on 17 October 2007 have resulted in China’s violation of fundamental human rights of Tibetans in Tibet. The Chinese authorities utilized various precautionary measures including heightened vigilance, closer supervision of suspected individuals and former political prisoners, even resorting to arbitrary arrest and detention. In particular, the atmosphere at Drepung Monastery remains tense, with monks under continued heightened surveillance. A massive contingent of PAP forces were deployed around the monastery, restricting people’s right to freedom of movement. A monk and four laypersons were arrested in Amdo Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in Sangchu County, Kanlho “TAP”, Gansu Province following offering of Sangsol Prayer and bursting firecrackers in celebration of the award to the Dalai Lama. There were also reports of two Tibetans having been arrested from Othok Village, Lithang County, Kardze “TAP” on 17 October following hoisting prayer flags and offering Sangsol prayer in honor of the Dalai Lama’s receiving the US’ highest civilian award;
• Another shooting incident on fleeing Tibetan refugees at Nangpa Pass on 18 October this year left nine missing and three arrested from the initial group of 46 Tibetans;
• On 20 November, Kardze Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Ronggye A’drak to eight years of imprisonment and deprivation of political rights for four years on charges of “inciting to split the country to undermine the country unity,” and “severely disrupting the public order”. Whereas Adruk Lopoe, a nephew of Ronggye A’drak received the heaviest sentence of ten years’ imprisonment on charges of “colluding with foreign separatist forces to split the country and distributing political pamphlets.” Kunkhen (“Jacmyang Goinqen”), an artist who was arbitrarily arrested on 22 August by the Lithang County PSB officials for unknown reason, was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment on charges of “carrying out splittist activities,” and Lothok was given three years imprisonment by the same court.
• Over 130 Tibetans still remain detained in various prisons in Tibet for exercising their freedom of expression. The Panchen Rinpoche, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and many more senior religious leaders’ whereabouts still remain unknown.
The case of Ronggye A’drak and three others from Lithang County and the lengthy prison terms given by Kardze Intermediate People’s Court under vaguely defined charges of ‘endangering state security’, clearly epitomize the magnitude of repression and the price Tibetans inside Tibet are paying for the peaceful exercise of rights enshrined in Chinese constitution and other fundamental human rights, which are protected by international covenants which China is a party.
On this important occasion, TCHRD expresses its concerns over China’s increasing use of the vague terms – “endangering state security”, “disrupting social order” and “public order crimes”, etc., as a part of Chinese law, to arrest and imprison Tibetans. TCHRD urges the Chinese leadership to put an immediate end to the practice of torture in Tibet and the conduct of “patriotic education” campaigns in the monastic institutions of Tibet. The Centre urges China to respect the provisions in the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), both to which it is a state party. China should honor its commitments to and ratify the optional protocol to the CAT and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Centre also calls upon the Chinese government to respect and comply with international standards of human rights practices and its constitutional guarantees.
On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, TCHRD has released a poster and sticker entitled “Celebration of Human Rights Violations, Beijing 2008- One World, One Dream, Let There Be Human Rights In Tibet.” It depicts various human rights violations -viz. torture, curtailment of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy prison term, and repression of religious freedom – taking place inside Tibet by using the symbolic Olympic mascots inside the five Olympic rings. The overall human rights situation in Tibet and China remains grim despite international scrutiny of China’s human rights policies and practices before the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics. The international community should remind itself that behind all the glitz and glamour of the biggest international sporting event next summer, there are people inside China and Tibet who are harassed and imprisoned everyday for exercising their fundamental human rights enshrined in the UDHR and in China’s very own Constitution.

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