Tibetans Slam Widespread Torture

Former Tibetan political prisoners say China carries out unequal policies against ethnic minorities.
2011-06-27
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Exiled Tibetan monks hold a vigil in India to protest Chinese treatment of monks at Kirti monastery, April 22, 2011.
Exiled Tibetan monks hold a vigil in India to protest Chinese treatment of monks at Kirti monastery, April 22, 2011.
AFP

Former Tibetan political prisoners have hit out at the widespread use of torture by China's ruling Communist Party in Tibetan regions of China.

The GuChuSum group of former political prisoners said in a statement on Sunday, marking International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, that torture was systemically practiced by Chinese authorities against Tibetans.

"Electric shocks, kicking and beatings, stripping naked, throwing boiling water on the face, standing barefoot on ice are commonly used by Chinese authorities on Tibetan political prisoners in a futile attempt to destroy their spirit and break their resolve," the statement said.

"In spite of attempts by the Chinese government to show off its ethnic unity to the rest of the world and its projects and work that it puts in to help Tibet, in reality it carries out a series of unequal and discriminatory policies against ethnic minorities," it said.

"For this reason, Tibetan people can no longer put up with its rule of violence."

The Chinese government habitually discriminates against ethnic minorities in its judicial system, according to lawyers and scholars.

Violent response

Analysts said the GuChuSum campaign highlights a system in which any form of opposition or complaint by Tibetans—or other ethnic minority groups—is likely to attract a violent response from the ruling Communist Party.

Tenzin Tethong, a Tibetan studies expert at the University of Virginia, said Chinese security forces in Tibet had been inculcated with racist ideas during their training.

He cited the story of a lama named Jigme from Labrang monastery in Sichuan, who was taken to an army camp for interrogation.

"The soldiers there were from Sichuan, and they said to him, did you know that these guns we carry were made with the purpose of killing old Tibetans like you?"

"Basically they are not keeping the peace or maintaining security; they have a discriminatory attitude towards ethnic minorities which has been inculcated in them over many years by the government," Tenzin Tethong said.

Difference in enforcement

Kirti monastery in Sichuan's Tibetan-majority Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture has been under siege by Chinese security personnel since a young monk from there set himself ablaze and died on March 16 in a protest against Chinese rule.

And recent protests against destruction of local grasslands by ethnic Mongol herders and students triggered a massive influx of troops into Inner Mongolia at the end of May.

Tenzin Tethong said Beijing often characterized talk of human rights as economic improvement, or a political weapon in the hands of Western countries wanting to attack China.

But the problem lay more with a difference in the way China carried out law enforcement work among the ethnic Han majority and among its ethnic minorities, he said.

"Whenever Tibetans oppose the Chinese government for whatever reason, for environmental, religious or linguistic reasons ... the local officials turn them into something highly political and highly sensitive," Tenzin Tethong said.

"So the chance that they will use violence [against Tibetans] is far greater than in Shanghai or Beijing."

Extralegal torture

Rights lawyer Xie Yanyi agreed that the concerns of China's ethnic minorities were too easily politicized.

"Once that has happened, I think then you will see human rights violations and a system that is destructive to the rule of law."

Xie said he had not seen a systemic use of torture in China's judicial system nationwide, however.

"From some cases I have been involved with, I can say that very few have involved torture in the course of interrogation," said Xie, who is based in Beijing.

"There is no systemic torture, but it is much more likely to happen secretly, outside the legal framework, for example in labor camps ... drug rehabilitation centers, forced psychiatric incarceration, during so-called disappearances and house arrest," he said.

"I don't think it's systemic ... but it is still an evil habit, a habitual behavior."

Last week, Hollywood star Richard Gere hit out at Beijing over reports of torture and killing in Tibet, showing an exhibition of photos he took in the Himalayan region.

One photo showed several drawings depicting the torture of Tibetan nuns by Chinese authorities, which Gere said he found on the wall of a convent in Dharamshala, the Indian city where Tibet's government in exile is based.

'No exceptions'

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on governments to take effective steps to prevent torture, which he said could never be justified.

"There are no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war, or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency or national security situation," Ban said in a statement on Sunday.

“On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we honor the men and women who have suffered, enduring their ordeal with courage and inner strength," he said.

"We mourn, too, those who did not survive.”

Ban welcomed the recent addition of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances into international human rights law, describing enforced disappearance as another manifestation of torture.

"At a time when the legitimate aspirations of people in many regions of the world for greater freedom, dignity and a better life are too often met with violence and repression, I urge states to respect the fundamental rights of all people," he said.

"Torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment and punishment, wherever they occur and whatever the circumstances, can never be justified.”

Brought to justice

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that those who perpetrate torture would be brought to justice.

"Torture is illegal, and if carried out on a systematic basis can amount to a war crime or a crime against humanity," she said.

"Neither a state of emergency nor conflict, neither the fight against terrorism nor the fight against crime excuses the use of torture,"
Pillay said, adding that torture was still practiced widely around the globe today.

But the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture said it had been forced to reduce funding for psychological, medical, and social services to thousands of torture survivors worldwide, citing a reduction in voluntary contributions from UN member states.

Reported by Yang Jiadai for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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Jul 03, 2011 02:17 AM

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