'Genocide' Questions in Tibet

An international advocacy group raises the question of genocide in Tibet following a period of 'cultural repression' in the region.
2012-04-25
Email story
Comment on this story
Share story
Print story
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Email
tibet-prayer-305.gif
Tibetans pray at a temple in Lhasa, Aug. 20, 2009
ImagineChina

Chinese authorities are committing “cultural genocide” in Tibet through policies that could set the stage for the possible systematic destruction of Tibetans, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a report Wednesday, calling on the international community to act swiftly to end the “repression” in the region.

Chinese restrictions on Tibetan religion and language, the imposition of inappropriate development policies, and attacks on Tibetan intellectual and nonreligious cultural life are all robbing Tibetan culture of its “essence,” according to the Washington-based ICT’s report, “60 Years of Chinese Misrule: Arguing Cultural Genocide in Tibet.”

Additionally, “Tibetans have been subject to consistent discriminatory practices under Chinese rule on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, and political beliefs,” ICT said in its report.

“These elements of cultural genocide, combined with certain conditions such as: a history of acts of genocide against Tibetans as a religious group, unprecedented communal tensions, and officially sanctioned statements that provoke prejudice and hatred directed at Tibetans," the report said.

"[These] have been recognized as precursors to conventional genocide elsewhere, and should sensitize the international community to take robust action in the case of Tibet.”

'Attempts to destroy'

Following the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet in the 1950’s, the International Commission of Jurists, a group of eminent lawyers and judges based in Geneva,  produced two reports of evidence relating to the question of genocide in Tibet, the report said.

Its 1960 report  found that “acts of genocide had been committed in Tibet in an attempt to destroy the Tibetans as a religious group.”

In one of its recommendations, the ICT report released today said the international community has a “clear role” to play in addressing the situation in Tibet through bilateral efforts with China and multilateral mechanisms, “including those targeted to the prevention of mass atrocities” and through expanded monitoring programs.

“Beyond the preservation of Tibet’s unique culture, the nature of China’s attacks raises serious concerns,” the 148-page report said.

“For those in the genocide prevention and elimination field, the Chinese government’s behavior in Tibet should hold substantial interest as an important test case for early warning systems that attempt to address pre-genocidal behavior.”

It called on the Chinese authorities to change their policies in Tibet, saying Beijing “bears responsibility for the cultural devastation it is perpetrating“ in the region.

'Potential markers'

The report said China's “cultural repression” in Tibet has been most visible and most intensely felt by the Tibetans in about a dozen areas, including discrimination against Tibetans as an ethnic group, severe and systemic state repression, intercommunal conflict, unjust discriminatory legislation and related measures, hate propaganda, and severe economic disparities.

The author of the report, a former State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity, made it clear that ICT was not predicting a physical genocide in Tibet, however.

“But in terms of putting this into the international debate that’s out there, of trying to find a way to bring that into this discussion, I think that there’s a lot of relevance.”

“There’s a lot of interest in the genocide scholarship community in looking at these issues as potential markers and potential warning signs for a situation that moves into mass atrocities or violence against a targeted group.”

Also speaking to reporters, ICT president Mary Beth Markey said, “We hope that this report will help people look at the situation in Tibet in a qualitatively different way and respond in a qualitatively different way.”

“The response from much of the international community [so far] has been to specific human rights violations as they occur, rather than understanding this as a process driven by a Chinese ideology of Tibetan assimilation and the destruction of Tibetan culture as an end goal.”

Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai and Richard Finney.