In a direct appeal to China’s President Hu Jintao, two major human rights organizations have called on the Chinese government to end the “repressive” policies in Tibetan areas that are being blamed for 11 self-immolation protest deaths so far this year.
The Nov. 3 letter by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International asks that China carry out a “comprehensive review of the human rights situation across the Tibetan plateau and to end legal and policy restrictions that breach human rights in the region,” the two groups said in a joint statement on Monday.
“The Chinese government must put an end to repressive policies that infringe on the fundamental freedoms of ethnic Tibetans,” Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty said in the statement.
“Years of restrictions on Tibetans’ rights have led to further unrest and acts of desperation,” added Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“It is clearly time for the Chinese government to fundamentally rethink its approach by listening to and addressing Tibetans’ grievances.”
‘A profound indictment’
The fiery protests this year by Tibetan monks and nuns, in which at least six are believed to have died, represent a “profound indictment of the Chinese government’s policies toward Tibetans,” said Washington-based HRW China Director Sophie Richardson, speaking to RFA.
“People don’t resort to this kind of behavior unless they feel they haven’t got anything left to lose,” Richardson said.
“We have spent an enormous amount of time not just in mobilizing public support, but in getting governments to respond in a constructive way.”
“And by constructive I mean getting the Chinese government to answer for a host of abuses in Tibetan areas, but also to go back to the table to speak with Tibetan representatives about their grievances,” Richardson said.
“I think these [protests] are a way of saying, ‘The world has lost sight of us and our problems, and we need your support to push for that outcome.’ And that is exactly what we are trying to get governments to do.”
Meanwhile, thousands of Tibetans gathered on Sunday near a monastery in China’s Sichuan province for the cremation of a nun who died last week in the 11th self-immolation incident in Tibetan-populated areas this year.
Palden Choetso, a 35-year-old nun from a nunnery in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture set herself on fire Nov. 3 while shouting slogans calling for freedom for Tibet.
“Palden Choetso’s body was cremated at 5:00 a.m. on Nov. 6 at the same spot near Nyitso monastery where [earlier self-immolation protester] Tsewang Norbu’s body was cremated,” Lobsang Jinpa, a former Tibetan political prisoner now living India said, citing sources in the region.
“Unprecedented numbers of people converged on Tawu to show their solidarity and support” for the deceased nun, Lobsang Jinpa said.
Led by monks and nuns from Nyitso and from other monasteries in the area, hundreds of laypeople joined in the funeral procession for the nun.
“People were holding butter lamps in their hands and saying prayers,” Jinpa said.
“The monks had planned to erect a monument for the nun at the cremation site, but the Chinese authorities will not allow this,” Jinpa said, adding that Chinese police and security forces have now surrounded Nyitso monastery.
“Armed police are also taking up position at an old cinema hall next to the monastery, but are not coming out.”
Lama photos unburned
Palden Choetso was carrying photos of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and of the Karmapa, another senior religious figure, under her hat when she set herself ablaze, Yama Tsering, another Tibetan living in India said, citing contacts in Tawu.
“Strangely, the pictures remained intact, though her entire body was engulfed in flames,” Yama Tsering said.
Tibetan residents of the area have urged Tibetans in exile to bring their plight to international attention, Lobsang Jinpa said.
“Word is going around among Tibetans in Tawu that if China fails to negotiate with the Dalai Lama, and if the Dalai Lama is unable to return to Tibet, the situation may grow even worse.”
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.