GENEVA -- Together with two other NGOs and a Tibetan witness, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) presented a briefing on self-immolations in Tibet and Chinese policy at the Palais Des Nations in Geneva where the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is meeting for its 21st session (10-28 September, 2012). The panel discussion entitled "The significance of self-immolations in Tibet and Chinese policy' featured new video footage of the crackdown in Tibet presented by a Tibetan witness, Namkho. Other speakers were Kate Saunders from ICT, Pierre Dam, Human Rights Watch advocate for the Human Rights Council and Gianfranco Fattorini, Mouvement Contre Le Racisme Et Pour L'Amitie Entre Les Peuples (MRAP).
Showing footage shot in Ngaba of the armed crackdown following the self-immolation of Kirti monk Phuntsog in March, 2011, Tibetan witness Namkho said: "I feel that if I can at least bear witness then that is something I can do. It is deeply important for Tibetans that the Chinese do not tell their story. Tibetans want to tell their own story. They want you to know the reality."
The briefing was attended by representatives of official member delegations, including the Chinese mission in Geneva and NGOs. When official Chinese speakers took the floor to complain about the panellists' comments about Tibet, Namkho pointed out that unlike those in the Chinese government who propagate the Party line on Tibet, many Chinese people are sympathetic to the suffering of Tibetans. He said that during his travels in Tibet he spoke to many Chinese and in one area some Chinese even joined the Tibetans in shuttering their shops as a mark of respect after a self-immolation of a Tibetan. The panel also referred to internal criticism in China of policies against human rights.
ICT concluded that as the Party Congress approaches in Beijing, it has become increasingly evident that a fundamentally new approach is warranted in Tibet. The Chinese government needs to take immediate steps to address the current emergency in Tibetan areas. ICT called upon governments in the international community meeting for the UN General Assembly next week to seek to coordinate their efforts with other like-minded countries and explicitly call upon the Chinese government to address the policies in Tibet threatening Tibetan culture, religion and identity that are at the root cause of the current crisis.
ICT also recommended that: The international community should also prevail upon the Chinese leadership to end the military buildup and limit the dominance of the security apparatus, factors that have intensified the dangers in Tibet, increasing the risk of more self-immolations. The Chinese government must acknowledge the importance of the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan people and his critical role in Tibet's future, and engage in a broader and more substantive dialogue with Tibetan representatives as a matter of urgency. The international community should re-evaluate its approach on Tibet as an issue tied to Asian and global security, of increasing geopolitical significance.
Pierre Dam, Human Rights Watch representative Pierre Dam said during the panel discussion that governments concerned about the worsening human rights situation in Tibet should meet on the sidelines of next week's UN General Assembly to discuss the formation of a Tibet contact group to press the Chinese government to consider resuming meaningful negotiations with Tibetan representatives, and visibly demonstrate heightened international concern about deteriorating conditions.
As Tibetans continue to self-immolate and peacefully protest the Chinese government's repressive policies and practices, ICT representatives and other NGOs will continue to remind the international community of the grave human rights situation in Tibet during the remainder of this session of the UN Human Rights Council.
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