Today is the 63rd anniversary of the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), commonly celebrated as Human Rights Day all over the world. On this occasion, we remember and pay tribute to all human rights defenders – from Tibet to Tunisia – who symbolizes, in word and deed, the universality of fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the UDHR.
The year 2011 witnessed unprecedented scale and influence of grassroots resistance movements against repressive dictatorial regimes. Ordinary people, like the Tunisian vegetable seller and a 21-yr-old Tibetan monk, asserted their rights in protest. The Tibetan monk, Phuntsog, died after self-immolation as Beijing, testifying to its egregious human rights record, reacted with force and violence that have caused 12 immolations this year in Tibet.
This year, TCHRD noted widespread crackdown on the Tibetan people’s right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate against policies practiced by China with no regard to Tibetan sentiments and opinions. Tibetan activists were criminalized with trumped-up charges of “endangering state security” and “disclosing state secrets”, and subjected to arbitrary arrests, detentions, disappearances, torture, etc. In 2011, TCHRD received about 230 known cases of Tibetans arrested and over 51 sentenced. Currently, there are about 970 political prisoners in Tibet.
Policy decisions taken during the 2010 Fifth Tibet Work Forum and follow-up meetings are now being enforced in the name of stability in Tibet. Guidelines are issued to police officers to maintain law and order, resulting in additional restrictions and control on Tibetan lives. These policies have directly attacked Tibetan identity and way of life, driving many Tibetans to a life of pain, loss, and desperation; some burnt themselves to death. Peaceful protests, cultural preservation, environmental protection, religious devotion, freedom of speech and opinion, are viewed as activities inimical to official policies and thus, ‘politically motivated’.
As new, confident voices continue to rise in Tibet, the Chinese government is censoring and filtering online writings, monitoring internet users and commercial photocopiers in Tibetan areas. There are laws, often justified as “laws with Chinese characteristics”, specifically aimed to control Tibetan Buddhist institutions.
Both Art 33 of the Chinese constitution and International Human Rights Conventions protect and safeguard human rights, but the Chinese provisions are not implemented in Tibet even as repression continues. The story of Tendar, a Tibetan youth in Lhasa, highlights the grave situation of rights violations in Tibet. In March 2008, Tendar was beaten by a group of policemen and stabbed on his back with a bayonet after he tried to stop them from beating an old man. Later he was imprisoned without proper medical care. To escape accountability, the Chinese police released Tendar, who died a few days later at his home.
TCHRD urges international NGOs and governments, especially the UN Human Rights Council to help address Tibetan grievances, release political prisoners, and put an immediate end to repression in Tibet.
On behalf of Tibetan rights defenders, TCHRD would like to thank our supporters for sharing our fight for human rights and freedoms in Tibet.