Tibetan speaker repeatedly interrupted by Chinese delegates at UN session in Geneva

Thinlay Chukki was allowed to finish her statement on the treatment of Tibetan nomads.
By Rigden Dolma for RFA Tibetan
2023.03.16
Tibetan speaker repeatedly interrupted by Chinese delegates at UN session in Geneva Thinlay Chukki from the Tibet Bureau Geneva speaks during a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, March 15, 2023.
Photo courtesy of the Central Tibetan Administration

Chinese delegates repeatedly interrupted the Tibetan representative of the Dalai Lama as she spoke Wednesday about cultural rights violations in Tibet on behalf of a humanitarian group during a meeting of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Thinlay Chukki from the Tibet Bureau Geneva, the official agency of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile, began describing the treatment of Tibetan children and nomads in China’s far-western Tibet Autonomous Region on the behalf of the Society for Threatened Peoples.

Almost immediately, Chinese representatives interrupted her in the spacious room – raising a “point of order” concern – and proceeded to call Chukki a “separatist” and said she was involved in “anti-China separatist” activities.

Then a member of the American delegation requested that Chukki be allowed to speak and to not be interrupted without first listening to the content of her statement.

After U.N. officials considered procedures, Chukki was allowed to resume speaking – only to be interrupted by the Chinese delegation again. An official said she “severely undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China” and called for an immediate stop.

After again considering the matter, the session leader noted that there had not been any violations of the rules and allowed Chukki to resume speaking. 

In her statement, Chukki noted that authorities had closed down several Tibetan schools catering to the children of the Tibetan nomads and forced them to attend “colonial-style residential schools.” 

She also highlighted a concern raised by U.N. experts that authorities in Tibet are forcibly assimilating nearly 1 million Tibetan children, and the concluding observations of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, which called on the Chinese government to abolish the coerced residential school system.

Tibetans have complained that the measures violate their cultural rights and are intended to wipe out their national culture.

Forcing children to learn Chinese

In the past, Chinese authorities shut down schools catering to Tibetan nomad children, arguing that their operation interfered with government plans to move herders and their families off their pastoral lands and into townships. 

In more recent years, authorities have closed down private Tibetan schools offering classes taught in the Tibetan language, forcing students to go instead to government-run schools where they are taught in Chinese. 

The interruptions occurred at the Council’s interactive dialogue with Alexandra Xanthaki, the U.N.’s special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, on her report on migration and cultural rights. The report identified gaps that exist in the protection of the cultural rights of no less than 280 million around the world. 

Chukki requested that Xanthaki issue “clear guidelines and recommendations to the Chinese government to protect the cultural rights of Tibetans, particularly of Tibetan nomads who are forcibly relocated from their traditional lands with cultural heritage.”

After the incident, Chukki issued a statement saying it wasn’t the first time that Chinese officials had tried to interfere with her. 

“Chinese representatives sitting behind me were taking videos of me, my bag and also my phone, trying to threaten me," she said about a February session of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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