Today the International Campaign for Tibet called on U.S. and Chinese officials to make an end to the deepening crackdown against Tibetan monks and laypeople in Ngaba (ch: Aba), Sichuan Province, a priority at the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue. The dialogue is scheduled for April 27-28 in Beijing; the U.S. delegation will be led by Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner.

“Ending the siege at Kirti Monastery is a clear deliverable in this U.S.-China human rights dialogue,” said Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at the International Campaign for Tibet. “Tibetans are facing a life-or-death situation in Ngaba. The Chinese side should respond positively to any U.S. request to left the security clampdown at Kirti and to allow for diplomatic access to ascertain the veracity and severity of the situation.”

The crackdown in Ngaba, following the self-immolation of a 20 year-old monk on March 16, has deepened, as paramilitary police have forcibly removed more than 300 monks from the monastery, and two Tibetans have been reported killed (ICT report, Two elderly Tibetans killed as hundreds of monks detained from Kirti; crackdown deepens).

According to the State Department, the dialogue will focus on “human rights developments, including the recent negative trend of forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, and arrests and convictions, as well as rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, labor rights, minority rights and other human rights issues of concern.” It is the first dialogue session in a full year, and comes during not only the crisis in Ngaba, but the government’s continuing crackdown against Chinese artists, bloggers, human rights defenders and others exercising their right to free expression.

Recent human rights dialogues, with the U.S. and European governments, have not resulted in any demonstrable improvements in the human rights situation in China or the release of notable political prisoners. Some observers have questioned the utility of the dialogue as a tool to advancing rights in China, and asked whether the increasingly intransigent Chinese government uses the human rights dialogue as a means to limit human rights discussion in broader bilateral engagements with the U.S. and Europe.

“President Barack Obama raised ‘America’s fundamental commitment to the universal rights of all people’ in his summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and Secretary Clinton recently re-affirmed identified human rights as a “core element” of U.S. foreign policy,” said Todd Stein. “The ongoing crackdowns in Tibet and China further make the case that China’s human rights record must be a central part of the larger Strategic and Economic Dialogue to be held in Washington next month.”

In response to the crackdown at Kirti monastery and in advance of the dialogue, ICT has urged the State Department to:

  • raise the situation at Kirti Monastery as a matter of priority in the upcoming bilateral human rights dialogue, requesting an urgent response by the Chinese government in the form of de-escalation and an examination of underlying grievances;
  • gain a commitment that U.S. diplomatic personnel be allowed to travel to Ngaba to ascertain as best they can what is the situation at Kirti Monastery and its environs;
  • demarche the Chinese Foreign Ministry with the expectation that local authorities in Ngaba will end the lockdown, threats of relocation of monks from the monastery to unknown points for “re-education,” and pull back the armed police that are escalating tensions, battling with the crowds, and reportedly causing serious injuries; and
  • launch an international action at the U.N. Human Rights Council to enquire into the consequences of China’s interference in Tibet’s monastic communities where there are clearly strong reasons to believe that gross violations of religious freedom systematically.