Amnesty International has said that Chinese repression of political dissent and religious freedom in Tibet has continued in recent months despite signs of tentative Tibetan-Chinese dialogue. In a new report on China’s human rights practices, released on October 28, 2003, Amnesty said it is concerned by the continued repression of the rights to freedom of expression and association in Tibet, including scores of Buddhist monks and nuns who remain in prison as prisoners of conscience.

The new report, People’s Republic of China, Continuing abuses under a new leadership – summary of human rights concerns, was released to time with the Sixth EU-China Summit taking place in Beijing on October 30, 2003. The European Union will be represented by the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in his role as President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and the High Representative for External Affairs, Javier Solana. The Chinese side will be led by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. The European leaders will also meet Chinese President Hu Jintao.

“In the light of the serious human rights abuses outlined in this new report, Amnesty International calls on EU leaders to seize the opportunity of their first-ever summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao to fundamentally rethink their approach on human rights with China. Delivery on human rights protection must now be an imperative of a more mature relationship between the EU and China,” Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office in Brussels said.

The report detailed Amnesty’s concerns at reports of serious human rights violations committed throughout China. Despite a few positive steps, China’s new administration has yet to grapple with the basic legal and institutional weaknesses, which allow such violations to continue.

“Until now, the European Union has been held hostage to China’s insistence on mutual respect and non-confrontation on human rights issues, locked in a formal ‘human rights dialogue’ that has produced no relief for the victims of human rights abuses in China,” Oosting said. “But in a mature relationship, all parties recognize that the relationship has to achieve results.”

The EU-China Summit will be the first occasion for leaders from both sides to meet since China issued its policy paper on EU Relations, and the EU approved its strategy for relations with China during the next years. In its strategy, the EU outlined its priority on Tibet as encouraging China and the Dalai Lama to further strengthen ongoing direct contacts with a view to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the question of Tibet in the context of ensuring a genuine autonomy for this region.

In its section on the situation in Tibet, Amnesty expressed its concerns at the detention and imprisonment of Tibetans after unfair trials since the beginning of 2003. Amnesty International is also concerned about a climate of repression and intimidation that continues in Kham in Eastern Tibet. Amnesty also expressed concern at the fate of Tibetan asylum seekers in neighboring countries following the deportation of 18 Tibetans from Nepal in May 2003.

Following is the full text of the Tibet section of Amnesty International’s Report. The complete report can be seen on Amnesty’s website.

Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)

Despite the release of several prisoners of conscience before the end of their sentence during 2002, and signs of a tentative dialogue between the Chinese authorities and the Tibetan government in exile, repression of political dissent and religious freedom has continued in recent months in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and in some Tibetan autonomous areas in Sichuan, and Gansu provinces. Since the beginning of 2003 several people have reportedly been detained and imprisoned after unfair trials, for peacefully expressing their political and religious views. In the majority of cases, the Chinese government does not reveal the charges against those arrested, their whereabouts, legal status or their health conditions.

In April 2003, Jigme Jamdrup (Jigme Jamtruk), 37, and Kunchok Jamyang (Kunchok Choephel Labrang), 40, two monks from the Labrang Tashikyel monastery in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, were detained apparently for being in possession of booklets containing speeches by the Dalai Lama. According to reports, Jigme Jamdrup was released on bail on 23 April 2003 while Kunchok Jamyang is still in custody. His current whereabouts and legal status are unknown. Both monks are well-known political activists who had been under heavy scrutiny since the early 1990s. Jigme Jamdrup was arrested in 1995 for pasting posters containing slogans such as “Stand up, Tibetans!”, and was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda”; Kunchok Jamyang was also detained in 1995 for three months for engaging in political activities, and reportedly suffered beatings while in detention.

Over 100 Tibetans, mainly Buddhist monks and nuns, remain imprisoned in violation of their fundamental human rights(27). Many have been tortured in detention and are held in conditions which often amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They include Phuntsog Nyidron, a Buddhist nun, who was imprisoned for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa to call for Tibetan independence. She continues to be detained in Tibet Autonomous Regional Prison No.1 (commonly known as Drapchi Prison) where she has reportedly been subjected to torture or ill-treatment, including frequent beatings and solitary confinement. Her sentence was extended by eight years after she and another 13 nuns, including her fellow cell-mate Ngwang Sangdrol, secretly recorded pro-independence songs which were then smuggled out of prison. Her 17 years’ imprisonment was later reduced by one year and she is now due for release in March 2005. According to Ngawang Sangdrol, Phuntsog Nyidron is in very poor health due to the torture she has suffered and a lack of proper medical care. She often faints and vomits and she is also suffering from depression.(28)

Amnesty International is also concerned about a climate of repression and intimidation that reportedly continues in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province following the suspended death sentence passed against Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche and the execution of Lobsang Dhondup in January 2003.(29) Reports indicate that people have been detained and questioned by the authorities over recent months for gathering in groups and discussing the case.

Following the recent forcible return of Tibetans from Nepal in May 2003, Amnesty International is increasingly concerned for the safety of Tibetan asylum seekers in neighbouring countries. On 31 May 2003, 18 Tibetan asylum seekers were forcibly returned to China from Nepal in a joint operation carried out by Nepalese and Chinese officials in violation of international refugee law and human rights standards. The 18 people were among a group of 21 Tibetans, including 11 under the age of 18, who had been detained by the police in mid-April 2003 after crossing the border into Nepal from Tibet. They were charged with entering Nepal “illegally” and, unable to pay fines imposed by Nepalese authorities, were given prison sentences of up to 10 months. At least eight of the prisoners were ill and were reportedly denied access to proper medical care.

Eye witnesses reported that Chinese and Nepalese officials worked closely together throughout the operation: the 18 Tibetans were removed from their detention centre by Nepalese officials, loaded on to a bus with a covered number plate and escorted to the border by Chinese and Nepalese officials. A Chinese police vehicle was waiting on the Nepalese side, from where the 18 were driven in a Chinese vehicle to the other side.

The UNHCR publicly stated that it had strong reasons to believe that the individuals would be of concern to them but that they had been denied access to them to assess their claims. It warned that returning people before their status had been determined would be in clear contravention of international law.

Following the deportations, the 18 Tibetan asylum seekers were reportedly held in a detention centre in Shigatse, in southern TAR. In August 2003, the Governor of the TAR was reported as saying that all detainees had been released and allowed to “go back to their farms and herds”.(30)