Leaders of the Group of Seven nations say that the human rights situation in Tibet is a “major concern to us” and that they will continue voicing their concerns about it.

In a communiqué following the group’s just-concluded annual summit, the G7 leaders say: “We will keep voicing our concerns about the human rights situation in China, including in Tibet and Xinjiang where forced labor is of major concern to us.”

“This communiqué by G7 leaders shows that China’s abuses in Tibet have not escaped the attention of some of the most influential leaders on the planet,” said the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group that promotes human rights and democratic freedoms for the Tibetan people.

“Rather than try to hide its oppression of Tibetans or lash out at criticism from foreign governments, the government in Beijing should get back to the negotiating table and respond positively to the initiative of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership in exile to peacefully resolve the longstanding conflict in Tibet.”

The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the High Representative of the European Union acting as an observer.

G7 leaders met for their annual summit May 19-21 in Hiroshima.

Human rights abuses in Tibet

The government of China has illegally occupied Tibet for over 60 years, forcing the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959.

Today, under Chinese rule, Tibet is the least-free country on Earth alongside South Sudan and Syria, according to global rankings from the watchdog group Freedom House.

A recent US State Department report chronicles allegations of “forced disappearances, arrests, physical abuse, and prolonged detentions without trial of monks, nuns, and other persons due to their religious practices” in Tibet last year.

In addition, the Chinese government has reportedly separated nearly 1 million Tibetan children from their families and sent them to colonial-style boarding schools, where they are forced to learn in Mandarin Chinese in a curriculum built around Chinese culture.

Since 2009, nearly 160 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet and China in a desperate attempt to draw attention to their people’s plight.

Coercive labor

Another disturbing aspect of China’s rule in Tibet is the alleged coerced labor of Tibetans.

According to reports, since 2015, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have been forced to abandon their traditional rural way of life and take low-paid jobs for low-skilled workers through an alleged “voluntary program.”

In 2020, scholar Adrian Zenz published a report documenting a large-scale program in the Tibet Autonomous Region—which spans roughly half of Tibet—that pushed over half a million rural Tibetans off their land and into military-style training centers in just the first seven months of 2020.

Just last month, six independent UN Special Rapporteurs released a statement expressing concern that China’s alleged “job transfer and vocational training programs” in Tibet are being used as a pretext “to undermine Tibet’s religion, language and culture, and to monitor and politically indoctrinate Tibetans.”

The experts urged the Chinese government to explain the steps it intends to take to comply with its international obligations to prevent forced labor and trafficking and to ensure access to remedy and compensation for victims of such practices.

Resolving the Tibetan issue

G7 countries have taken other steps to support Tibetans in recent years. In their summit in Germany in 2022, the G7 leaders said, “We are gravely concerned about the human rights situation in China. We will continue to promote universal values, including by calling on China to respect universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, including in Tibet and in Xinjiang where forced labour is of major concern to us.”

Similarly, the G7 foreign ministers also said in 2022, “We remain deeply concerned by the human rights situation in China, particularly in Xinjiang and Tibet.” They added, “We urge the Chinese authorities to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang and Tibet for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her potential visit to China.”

In February 2023, Democrats and Republicans in both the US House and Senate reintroduced the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act, a bill that will pressure China to resume negotiations with the Dalai Lama’s envoys for the first time since dialogue between the two sides stalled in 2010.

The bipartisan legislation will recognize that Tibetans have the right to self-determination and that Tibet’s legal status is yet to be determined under international law.

Learn more about the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act.

Read the G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué.