Tibet Rights Reach ‘New Low’

An exile group urges China to protect human rights for Tibetans.
2013-01-17
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An exile Tibetan woman cries while holding a photograph of a dead self-immolator during a candlelight vigil in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, Sep. 30, 2012.
AFP

Tibetan human rights have plunged to “a new low,” an exile group said in a report Thursday, urging Chinese authorities to release Tibetan political prisoners and investigate the “real causes” behind self-immolation protests.

China should also stop propaganda campaigns against exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and allow Tibetans to travel freely between the Tibet Autonomous Region and neighboring Chinese provinces, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in its latest annual report.

The Dharamsala, India-based group documented a series of human rights violations linked to arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, language and culture, and self-immolations.

In a wave of burnings that have drawn international attention, 96 Tibetans so far have self-immolated in protests against Chinese rule and calling for freedom for Tibetans and the return of the Dalai Lama. Eighty-two of the self-immolations occurred during 2012.

TCHRD urged authorities to refrain from criminalizing self-immolators and investigate conditions fueling the protests, saying the protesters had been “pushed to end their own lives in order to escape government repression.”

Political prisoners

The group documented new cases of political prisoners during 2012, many of them part of mass arbitrary arrests and detentions in a “major crackdown” on the self-immolations.

Some 269 political prisoners have been added to the group’s database, bringing its total number of confirmed cases to 988.

An “overwhelming number” of the cases are related to charges of “leaking state secrets” and “endangering state security,” said the TCHRD, which has been monitoring rights in the region for over a decade.

Many more detentions go unreported by detainees’ friends and family members for fear of retribution, it said.

Border controls

Authorities have also stepped up restrictions on those fleeing the region with tighter controls on the border with Nepal to prevent more Tibetans from fleeing to India.

The number of Tibetans fleeing to India has “dropped drastically,” with 374 Tibetans arriving in India in 2012, compared to 700 in 2011, the report said.

Inside the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan-populated areas of neighboring Chinese provinces, the Chinese government has blocked communication channels and prevented information about human rights abuses from leaking out.

“Even the inaccessible North Korea boasts more international media presence than the Tibetan capital Lhasa,” the report said.

Although the region remained closed to independent media, U.N. monitors, international fact-finding delegations, or visitors, some Tibetans were able to share information about widespread violations by putting themselves “at great personal risk,” TCHRD said.

On Monday, the group presented a separate report on alleged religious repression to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Tibet, urging him to visit the region and encourage China to protect human rights.

Reported by Rachel Vandenbrink.