Tibet: Statement on International Human Rights Day
In March 2004, China made a historic amendment to its Constitution by adding the clause "The State respects and safeguards human rights". However, the amendment fell short of details, leaving the interpretation of the term "human rights" open and ambiguous. After almost two years of the amendment, there are no explicit signs of respect for human rights and any improvement in the human rights situation in China and Tibet.
In 2005, the human rights situation in Chinese occupied Tibet remains to be tense and grim. Throughout the year, the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has received consistent reports of human rights concerns.
Torture remains to be one of the gravest issues in Tibet. The Tibetan prisoners of conscience are subjected to severe torture and maltreatment in a network of detention centres and prisons in Tibet. Following ten years of appeals and negotiations, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, finally made an unprecedented trip to the People’s Republic of China from 20 November till 2 December 2005. Upon the completion of his visit, he reported that torture “remains widespread” in China and Tibet and also complained that his fact finding mission was obstructed by the authorities. TCHRD documented 88 known deaths of Tibetan prisoners of conscience since 1987 and is equally concerned about the 145 known Tibetan prisoners currently detained in various Chinese detention centres and prisons.
Religious repression in Tibet continues unabatedly despite Beijing’s repeated claim of religious freedom in Tibet. The authorities in Tibet unleashed a renewed implementation of the “patriotic re-education” campaign in the monasteries and nunneries of Tibet. Throughout the year, TCHRD received reports of expulsion and arrests of monks and nuns during the implementation of the Campaign in various monasteries and nunneries. At least one known death of a monk, Ngawang Jangchub of Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, in early October 2005 can be attributed to the “patriotic re-education” campaign. The Campaign which was first started in 1996 forms one of the major causes of religious repression in Tibet. The campaign is used as a tool to stabilize and to exert control over what the Chinese authorities term "the hotbed of dissent activities," referring to the monastic institutions. The forcible implementation of the campaign in garnering loyalty to the state is in direct contravention with many international human rights provisions on religion. 17 May 2005 also marked the tenth year of the Eleventh Panchen Lama’s abduction by China. Despite repeated appeals by the UN, governments and non-governmental organizations, the Chinese authorities have not released any information as to where he is being held.
On 1 September 2005, China commemorated the 40th founding anniversary of the so-called “Tibet Autonomous Region”. In order to portray a “happy, modern and prosperous” Tibet to the outside world, China made a grand celebration to mark the day. As a preventative measure to avoid any disturbances during the celebration, the authorities stepped up the security and detained several Tibetan former political prisoners and also those under suspicion of political activities. Sonam Gyalpo, 43, a former political prisoner was arrested by the Chinese security officials on 28 August 2005 from his home in Lhasa. Till date no information could be obtained about his whereabouts.
On the 57th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, TCHRD urges the Chinese leadership to put an immediate end to the practice of torture in Tibet and the conduct of “patriotic re-education” 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 ratify the optional protocol to the CAT and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Centre would also like to call upon the Chinese government to respect and comply with international standards of human rights practices and its constitutional guarantees.