Tashi Dhondhup Tsering and Harry Wu

Tashi Dhondhup Tsering (left) and Harry Wu (right)

The human rights situation in Tibet was paid close attention by members of the Swedish Parliament last week when they held an inaugural seminar on “Human Rights in China”. The seminar, organised by members of the Swedish Left, Green, Liberal and Christian Democrat parties, addressed the ongoing human rights violations by China in Tibet, with speakers making specific references to the torture of Tibetan monks and Falung Gong followers.

The seminar was attended by internationally respected Chinese experts, including Mr Harry Wu, Laogai Research Foundation; Mr Erping Zhang, Association of Asian Research; and Mr Maiping Chen, Independent Chinese (PEN-Centre). The Tibetan Community Sweden was represented at the seminar by Tashi Wangyal and Tashi Dhondhup Tsering.

The seminar is part of the Swedish parliament’s ongoing efforts to mobilise awareness of human rights violations in China, both domestically and at the EU-level. In recent months, Swedish parliamentarians have raised a number of questions about Tibet to their government officials.

In response to a parliamentary question posed by Mr. Kent Olsen, chairperson of the Swedish All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, the Swedish Foreign Minister, Ms. Laila Freivalds, on 11 March said: “The question of a special EU representative for Tibet has been brought up on several occasions in the EU. The overall judgment of the EU member states, however, has been that the possibilities for a successful work of such a representative are limited. Sweden, however, is open to consider a special representative for Tibet, should it be believed that the conditions have improved for the possibilities for such a representative to work”. On 24 March, the Foreign Minister responded to another question about Tibet by Mr. Olsen, saying that Sweden considers “that the autonomy granted to Tibet should be given concrete substance” and that it is “urgent” that China’s economic development of Tibet “take place in such a way that the respect for culture and religion is granted”.

Press Release from Tibetan Community Sweden

On the 12th May 2004, Tibetan Community Sweden represented by Tashi Wangyal and Tashi Dhondhup Tsering participated in a seminar on the subject of Human Right Violation in China in the Swedish Parliament. Tashi Wangyal highlighted the human rights violation in Tibet in the following speach delivered at the seminar which is organised by the swedish parliament and parliamentarians. The seminar is attended by internationally well known chinese expert guest speakers like Mr Harry Hu (US) from the Laogai Research Foundation, Mr Erping Zhang (US) from the Association of Asian Research and Mr Maiping Chen from the Independent Chinese (PEN-Centre). The chinese speakers often refer to the torture of tibetan monks and FalongGong followers by China as example of human rights violation in Tibet. The seminar becomes a forum on which the swedish parliamentarians kan continue to work on at the EU-level to mobilise awareness and respect for Human Rights Violation in China.


Respected Members of Parliament and guest speakers.

My name is Tashi Wangyal and I am speaking on behalf of the Tibetan Community Sweden.

There are serious concerns about a wide range of human rights issues in China, including the use of the death penalty, the treatment of dissidents, freedom of religion, the use of arbitrary detention and torture, freedom of expression, the situation in Tibet.

China has been trying to compromise the issue of human rights with the international community by releasing a few high profile political prisoners of conscience a month or so before a visit by international dignitaries and the commencement of annual UN Commission on Human Rights. Thus far China has found this policy effective in deflecting international criticism at the UN Commission on Human Rights and in bilateral dialogues.

Human Rights situation in Tibet have a distinct character of preventing Tibetans as a people from asserting their own identity and culture. The violations are a result of policies of racial and cultural discrimination and religious intolerance.

The practise of bhudhist religion by monks and nuns is considered punishable by the “work team members of the Religious repression of Tibetan Bhuddhist practices” who would visit the religious institutions regularly and they would in turn forcefully conduct patriotic education and denouncement. Police imformants inside the monastaries are a fact of life that has to be tolerated. Simple acts like possession of picture of Dalai Lama or uttering a word of Human Rights would immediately lead to punishment by prison sentence of many years and very often the prison term is prolonged further by many more years without any valid reason. Torture of prisoner is more or less a part of the system in prison. Forced sterilization and abortion of tibetan women in all parts of Tibet through propaganda and coersion, through strict and systmatic organised manner corresponds to the Chinese polpulation transfer policy. By denying Tibetan women their reproductive rights China further marginalises the ethic Tibetans in Tibet.

There are times when the level of violations are so high, when the consequences for the victims, the region and the world are so great, and when the political will to tackle the problems, alone or in cooperation, is so manifestly absent, that we have to take more immediate action. In these situations, we must sometimes rely on collective pressure (such as UN & EU) as the only means left by which to protect and promote those human rights which constitute the freedom, justice and peace to which we all aspire.

On 3rd May 2004, a 32-day long hunger strike by 3 tibetan youths was called off in New York after the UN Asst. Gen. Sec, Carolyn McAskie aggreed to take up the Human Rights Violation in Tibet through relevent UN channels.

The classic case is that of Lobsang Dhondup who was summarily executed on 26 January 2003 under closed trial for alleged involvement in a series of bombings. At the same time Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, a respected Buddhist scholar in Tibet, was sentenced to death with two-year suspension for a crime he did not commit. Despite growing international concerns, it is feared that Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche could be executed in December 2004.

However, we welcome the release of Phuntsok Nyidron, a longest serving female tibetan political prisoner of conscience who was released recently on 26th Feb, 2004 from Drapchi Prison on medical parole – one year before the completion of her 17 years of prison sentence. We also welcome the release of Tanak Jigme Sangpo on medical parole after completion of 32 years in prison, 9 years before completion of his 41 years prison sentence that would otherwise end on 2011). Nawang Sangdrol was detained for the first time at 9 year age in 1987 and has served since then totol of 14 years in prison. She was released on medical parole on 17th Oct, 2002. Her prison term is otherwise to complete in 2013. We call upon China to release other thousands of tibetan prisoners of conscience as well.

China is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For the past more than four decades of Chinese rule in Tibet, Tibetan have been deprived of seeking an education based on Tibet’s history, culture, language and religion. For instance, study conducted a few years ago by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy showed that 93″ of Tibetan refugee children arriving in India and Nepal had no education about Tibet’s separate history, its Buddhist religion or culture.

It is because of such discriminatory situation of education in Tibet, that thousands of Tibetan children flee each year walking through the mighty Himalayas during the winter months in order to seek modern and traditional education in Tibetan schools established in India. Some of these children are as young as six years old. Many do not survive the harsh conditions on the journey and die on their way, while others are deported back to chinese police by the nepalese border guards in exhange for economic benifit.

Tashi Dhondup Tsering was detained in Kumbun prison for 2? years at the age of 14 years in 1991. He would be talking about his experience in chinese prison and how he managed to survive 33-days journey crossing the himalayas without proper equipement or food reserve, to seek opportunity for education in India.

We are deeply concerned about the status of education being provided to the young Panchen Lama of Tibet who has been in detention by China, against his wish, since May 1995. As one of the most revered spiritual teachers in Tibet, the young Panchen Lama is now at a crucial age when his traditional and religious education should be ensured. This, of course, cannot be guaranteed when his entire upbringing is orchestrated by the Chinese authorities. We remain deeply concerned about the continued detention of the Panchen Lama and urge the Chinese authorities to allow the Committee on the Rights of the Child to visit him, so as to ascertain his wellbeing.

The current situation in Tibet benefits neither the Tibetans nor the government of the People’s Republic of China. The development projects that the Chinese government has launched in Tibet including the railway contruction, purported to benefit the Tibetan people, are however, having negative effects on the Tibetan people’s distinct cultural, religious and linguistic identity and it only facilitates China?s access to Tibet?s resources and deployment of China?s milatary to tighten Chinese control.

As China continues to emerge as an active player in the international arena, refining its diplomacy to become one of the world?s great powers, the free world must remind itself that it also has a responsibility to ensure that China repects the human rights, of not only the Tibetans, the Ughuirs, the Christians, the followers of Falong Gong but of its own people within its teritory. China may have become smarter and more sophisticated “but not necessarily kinder or gentler to its own people”.

In conclusion I call upon the swedish parliament and EU and its citizens to urge China to allow the UN Commission on Human Rights, government monitoring agencies, journalists and NGOs to freely visit Tibet. Further more the EU should call on China to release all prisoners of conscience, including Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, who is the youngest political prisoner in the world today.

Tibetan Community Sweden
12th May 2004, Swedish Parliament.