The United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Geneva was informed on July 27, 2004 about the findings of International Campaign for Tibet’s new report on the state of religious freedom in Tibet.
Speaking on behalf of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY), Tsering Jampa said the issue of Tibet is now the question of the survival of the distinct religious, cultural and national identity of the six million Tibetan people. Jampa said, “IUSY appeals the Sub-Commission to consider paying a close attention to the human rights situation in Tibet by reaffirming resolution 1991/10 which urged China ‘fully to respect the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people.’ IUSY also appeals to this session to concretely call upon the Chinese authorities to enter into substantive dialogue on the future political status of Tibet.”
Copies of the report were distributed to the delegates at the Sub-Commission. The fifty-sixth session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights began in Geneva on July 26, 2004 and will end on August 13, 2004.
Tsering Jampa is the Executive Director of International Campaign for Tibet-Europe. Following is the full text of the statement.
Commission On Human Rights
Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any part of the World:
Oral statement by Ms. Tsering Jampa on behalf of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY)
The International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) remains gravely concerned about the current state of human rights in Tibet, particularly since the adoption of resolution 1991/10 by the Sub-Commission. We raise Tibet at this forum because the freedom struggle of the Tibetan people is a unique one that has consistently adhered to the principle of non-violence to achieve freedom in their homeland.
Mr. Chairman, in this statement IUSY wish to particularly dwell on the present status of religion freedom in Tibet, in view of the recent report, “When the Sky Fell to Earth” released by the International Campaign for Tibet. This report documents the following trends:
- From the mid-1990s onwards, China’s position towards the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s leader in exile, has become more hostile.
- A wide-ranging patriotic education campaign has been carried out in the monasteries and nunneries throughout Tibetan areas in present-day China with the aim of undermining the Dalai Lama’s influence, indoctrinating monks and nuns in Communist Party policy and ideology and identifying defiant monks and nuns.
- Democratic Management Committees established in large monasteries are now being strengthened, and set up in all monasteries, in order to assert great state control and surveillance over the daily life of monks and nuns.
- Limitations imposed on the numbers of monks and nuns in reach religious institution remain in place and are selectively being enforced more than they were a decade ago.
- Beijing is more aggressively asserting control over the search and identification of Tibetan reincarnate lamas.
- The demolitions of homes and expulsion of monks and nuns in the religious institutes of Larung Gar and Yachen Gar show a new determination to enforce state-specified limitations on monastic life and control the activity of influential and charismatic, spiritual leaders like the late Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, the founder of Larung Gar.
- Obtaining a complete religious education remains extremely difficult or impossible in Tibet.
- Imprisonment for terms of 5-10 years or more, and brutal torture continues to be a likely consequence of dissent for monks and nuns in Tibet.
This new report says that the measures used to implement state religious policy have been particularly harsh in Tibet because of the close link between religion and Tibetan identity. Tibetan Buddhism continues to be an integral element of Tibetan identity, and is therefore perceived as a threat to the authority of the state and the unity of China. The Chinese leadership views the Dalai Lama as the main obstacle to the political stability in Tibet, a “wolf in lama’s clothing.” The very practice of Buddhism and display of a picture of the Dalai Lama have become, for many Tibetans, a means of expressing their Tibetan identity, and in some cases, their opposition to the Chinese Communist Party. Hence, issues relating to religion are perceived as being highly relevant to political control and the suppression of “separatism” in Tibet – both factors underpinning China’s strategic concerns and development aims in Tibetan areas of China.
Mr. Chairman, the Chinese authorities arrest and detain Tibetans as much for their religious beliefs and practices as for so-called political reasons. This is apparent from the fact that almost 90 percent of currently incarcerated political prisoners are monks and nuns. The large percentage of arrests and detention of clergy occurs because of their express allegiance to Dalai Lama. Simple acts such as possession and display of the Dalai Lama’s photograph, conducting prayer ceremonies for his long life, and refusing to denounce him during political education sessions lead to crackdowns.
On the other hand, China refuses to publicly declare the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet after his detention in May 1995 when he was six years old. The boy and his parents have now spent the last nine years in custody. Reincarnation is at the heart of Tibetan Buddhist practices. Through its interference in the identification process and spiritual training of important incarnates, the Chinese authorities not only deliberately create division among the Tibetan people but also showed complete disregard to one of the fundamental principles of the Tibetan Buddhist faith.
China’s “patriotic education” measures under the “Strike Hard” campaign remain active in Tibet’s monasteries and nunneries. According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, since the mid-1990s, more than 10,000 monks and nuns have either been expelled or left their monasteries and nunneries after the “patriotic education” sessions were introduced.
Mr. Chairman, Tibetans are today trapped in the contradictions between the promise of “freedom of religious belief” in the Chinese Constitution and the enforcement of the atheist doctrine of “communist spiritual civilization” by the Chinese Communist Party. The current campaign promoting atheism in Tibet has gone hand-in-hand with an increasing number of restrictions on public expressions of belief such as bans on hoisting prayer flags and pilgrimages. China controls and restricts the limits and depth of Tibetan Buddhist transmissions to the extent that the essence of Tibetan Buddhism is now degenerating.
The Special Rapporteur on right to education in the mission report on China submitted to the 60th session of the UNCHR said: “An education that would affirm minority rights necessitates full recognition by the majority of the worth of minority languages and religions in all facets of life. Otherwise, education is seen as assimilationist and hence not compatible with China’s human rights obligations. On the denial of religious education in schools, the report stated that “Contrary to China’s international human rights obligations, religious education remains prohibited in both public and private educational institutions.”
The demolitions of homes and the expulsion of thousands of monks and nuns at Larung Gar and Yachen Gar Institutes, beginning in 2001, reflects the determination of the Chinese authorities to gain firm control over religious institutions in Tibet. For example, Larung Gar established in 1980, reportedly had more than 7,000 students, including Chinese nationals. As expected, the Chinese authorities informed the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief that: “The Government expended considerable resources to make appropriate arrangements to help monks and nuns return to their homes and to repair the Institute’s buildings, and there was in fact no demolition of the monastery and expulsion of monks and nuns”.
Mr. Chairman, on 15 April this year, three thematic mandates of the UNCHR, in a press statement, expressed concern over the detention of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a well-respected Tibetan spiritual teacher and a social worker. The press statement said: “We are concerned that Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche might be executed at any time upon the expiration of the suspension of his death sentence on 3 December 2004. We are similarly concerned at the alleged lapses in respect for human rights during the trial proceedings and urge the authorities to grant Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche a new trial ensuring respect for international norms and standards of due process.” The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution have also intervened over the detention of this Tibetan lama.
On the 10 March statement this year, the Dalai Lama described the present situation in Tibet as not beneficial to both Tibetans and the Chinese authorities saying: “The development projects that the Chinese Government has launchedin Tibet – purportedly to benefit the Tibetan people – are however, having negative effects on the Tibetan people’s distinct cultural, religious and linguistic identity. More Chinese settlers are coming to Tibet resulting in the economic marginalization of the Tibetan people and the sinicization of their culture. Tibetans need to see an improvement in the quality of their life, the restoration of Tibet’s pristine environment and the freedom to decide an appropriate model of development.”
Mr. Chairman, the issue of Tibet, is now the question of the survival of the distinct religious, cultural and national identity of the six million Tibetan people. It is for these reasons that the Tibetans have been calling for earnest negotiations with the Chinese leadership to achieve genuine self-rule in Tibet. However, the Chinese authorities refuse to open substantive negotiations on Tibet.
In conclusion, IUSY appeals the Sub-Commission to consider paying a close attention to the human rights situation in Tibet by reaffirming resolution 1991/10 which urged China “fully to respect the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people.” IUSY also appeals to this session to concretely call upon the Chinese authorities to enter into substantive dialogue on the future political status of Tibet. We note that the Chinese authorities have invited the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief on a follow-up mission and hope that an early date for this visit will be agreed by Beijing.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.