Several countries, including the EU, New Zealand, Norway, and Canada, referred to the situation in Tibet as the UN Commission on Human Rights began to deliberate on the agenda item that deals with the question of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world (an item also known as country situations), the Tibet Bureau reports. It is under this item that resolutions are normally submitted against countries. New Zealand urged China to begin dialogue on Tibet as a way to resolve the human rights situation in Tibet.
Over the past two weeks the work of the Commission was overshadowed by discussion on the Middle East situation and the consideration of the Commission’s confidential procedure.
The Spanish Ambassador Mr. Joaquin Perez-Villanueva Y Tovar, speaking on behalf of the European Union said that the Union “remains extremely concerned about the intensified repression against persons belonging to ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang. The fight against terrorism should be pursued with full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It should not be used as an excuse to curb the rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities.”
The EU statement also said that it places great importance on the EU-China human rights dialogue and expects this dialogue will produce progress on the ground and measurable results. The following countries aligned themselves to the EU statement: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.
Although the statements by the United States of America and Australia failed to mention Tibet, New Zealand and Norway expressed their concerns on the human rights situation in Tibet. Ms. Deborah Geels of the New Zealand Observer delegation said: “With regard to Tibet, we urge China to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama and to involve the Tibetan people more fully and directly in decisions regarding their development.”
Mr. John Petter Opdahl of the Norwegian Observer Delegation told the Commission that his government “attaches great importance to the preservation of the culture and religious identity of the Tibetan people”. The United States said that China human rights record remains poor. Ambassador Kevin E. Moley said: “The Chinese have failed to carry through on commitments made during human rights dialogues. Thousands remain jailed for expressing their beliefs and China remains a country of particular concern for its restrictions on religious freedom.”
Ms. Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, the Head of the Canadian Delegation said that her country was “very concerned about the persistent scale and scope of restrictions on the freedom of expression, association, press and religion, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang.”
Mr. Les Luck, the Australian Ambassador said that his government was “pleased at the development of our bilateral human rights dialogue with China and the positive approach China is taking to it. At the same time, we are concerned by the use of its judicial system to take action against individuals and groups that appear to have done no more than exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. We also urge China to ensure the rights and freedoms of its ethnic and religious minorities.”
Mr. Sha Zukang the Chinese Ambassador devoted a part of his statement to defend his government on Tibet and Eastern Turkestan. With regard to the human rights situation in Tibet, he said: “At present, sea change has taken place in the field of human rights in Tibet…the Tibetan legal system, set up according to the Constitution and the Law on the Autonomy of Minority Nationality Regions, provides effective guarantee to the full enjoyment of autonomy, democracy, human rights and freedoms by Tibetans.”
Mr. Jan Kavan, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic addressed the 58th UN Commission on Human Rights as a guest speaker on 28 March highlighting the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in China in his speech. In one part of his speech that focused on countries like China, Mr. Kavan expressed his government’s concern on the situation of human rights in countries that “publicly defend their own essentially one party system, whilst at the same time attempting to persuade the world that they are enjoying political plurality.” He further emphasized his point by stating that: “These countries then label any legitimate interest of the international community as interference in their internal affairs. These countries can easily be identified by the fact that the representatives of the democratic opposition and human rights defenders are branded as criminal elements engaged in subversive activities…We often hear of the persecution of journalists in Belarus or religious and ethnic minorities in China.”
During the past week, the Tibetan Delegation was joined by Drapchi Prisons Nuns, Choeying Kusang and Passang Lhamo who spoke at a Tibet Briefing on 3 April, which was followed by a meeting with the press at the United Nations. The nuns were also able to meet with human rights investigators of the Commission, like the Special Rapporteur on Torture. Switzerland was the last part of the Nuns’ European tour.
On 4 April, the Tibetan Community in Switzerland organized another Vigil outside the United Nations, which was attended by around 150 people. On 5 April at a Meet with the Press organized by Human Rights in China with speakers from Tibet, Eastern Turkestan and Falun Gong. Mr. Chhime R. Chhoekyapa, Representative of H. H. the Dalai Lama for UN Affairs said China needed to be discussed on an equal footing with other countries. “Some (at the Commission on Human Rights) seem to shy away from talking about human rights in China,” he said. “In order to help the international community prevent gross violations of human rights it is very important to talk about it on an equal footing, not in a selective way. I hope many governments will have the courage to talk freely and frankly.”
As regards the submission of a China resolution at this year’s session, the USA Ambassador said on 3 April that the United States had now forwarded a text to all the EU countries but had not received a positive response from any EU country on co-sponsorship. The resolution has to be submitted three working days before the vote on country resolution, which will take place on 16 April. “Even if a resolution is not submitted this year, we believe the issue of Tibet received a good hearing at the Commission this year which is equally important,” said Mr. Chhoekyapa. “We are really grateful to all those governments, NGOs and UN human rights investigators, who spoke for Tibet. The pressure on China continues,” he added.