The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) launched today the #WhyProtest digital campaign to promote and protect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly or the right to protest. The right to protest is universally recognised as a fundamental human right that is crucial to creating a tolerant and pluralistic society in which groups with different beliefs, practices, or policies can coexist peacefully. This fundamental right is necessary for the exercise of other human rights.
But for Tibetans in Tibet, it has become virtually impossible to peacefully assemble and express collective dissent due to political repression and human rights violations. China’s systematic and brutal crackdown on peaceful protests led a wave of self immolations as a form of political protest, which not only indicated a fast shrinking space for free expression and free assembly but that the Tibetans were left with no other recourse to safer forms of peaceful protest. The subsequent criminalisation of self-immolation through the policy of collective punishment on families and relatives of the protesters has resulted in the enforced disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial killings of peaceful protesters.
China’s current policies and practices with regards to suppression of peaceful assembly, such as the use of lethal force and arbitrary punishment, do not conform with international human rights standards and violates its legal obligations to recognise, uphold, and protect Tibetans’ fundamental human right to freedom of peaceful assembly pursuant to numerous multilateral human rights treaties as well as its own constitution.
The #WhyProtest campaign will shine light on the brave and inspiring stories of peaceful Tibetan protesters that will tear through the cloak of coronavirus pandemic used by China to hide escalating repression and persecution of peaceful dissent in Tibet.
During the months leading up to this year’s International Human Rights Day on 10 December, the campaign will feature messages of hope, inspiration, and defiance from 30 Tibetan activists and human rights defenders including the veteran Tibetan activist, Tenzin Tsundue.
“We protest [because it is] our natural right. And sometimes it is our moral duty to protest. Most importantly, we protest because it is our conscience. Our conscience does not allow us to sit when there is injustice in front of us,” Tsundue says in his video message. “Today there is injustice all around us; sometimes the cause of protest is because there is a huge nexus of corruption and bullying. And such kind of structural violence exists so much around the world that common people have nowhere to go, they have no imagination of alternative worlds, and therefore, we protest.”
Despite being jailed for 16 times and taken to court for his peaceful protest actions, Tsundue is determined to continue protesting, challenging injustices, and speaking truth to power. “Sometimes I am made to stand in the court and answer for my actions, my protest actions. One particular [court] case went on for 11 years. And yet I am willing to protest. I am willing to go to jail. I am willing to stand in the court and answer.”
The campaign calls on China to immediately conform its practices, with regards to peaceful assembly, to international human rights standards; end its policy of allowing security officials, such as the armed police, to resort to lethal force to suppress peaceful protests; end the practice of arbitrarily detaining protesters merely for their participation in peaceful protests; punish government officers who regularly practice arbitrary detention and torture of peaceful protesters; ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; invite UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association to assess the current situation in Tibet regarding the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.