In stark contrast to Chinese claims of a stable and peaceful Tibet, the U.S. Department of State has documented a litany of human rights abuses and economic, social and cultural discrimination faced by Tibetans under Chinese rule. The findings are contained in the special Tibet section of the State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010,” released today in Washington, D.C.
“The International Campaign for Tibet appreciates the serious work that goes into the human rights reports both in the field and in Washington and, therefore, the information brought to light in these reports should be well considered and well utilized as a barometer for how we engage with other countries, especially those like China, that are most important for a peaceful and stable world,” said Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.
The report catalogues a volume of human rights abuses perpetrated across Tibet by the Chinese authorities, focused on 2010. It finds that “Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial detention, and house arrest.” It cites specific cases of Tibetans detained, imprisoned, tortured and killed, and describes the ongoing climate of fear and repression.
In her remarks on the release of the report, Secretary Clinton mentioned the recent Chinese crackdown on “dozens of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals, and activists have been arbitrarily detained and arrested, including the prominent artist, Ai Weiwei. The report details a similar crackdown on Tibetan writers, bloggers and civil society leaders over the last three years.
While the recent death of Tibetan monk Jamyang Jinpa following torture suffered in Chinese custody was not covered in the reporting period, the report states that “the security regime employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners,” and discussed individual cases of torture.
The State Department’s findings on Tibet reinforce those in a human rights report issued by the UK Foreign Office on March 31. Just as British Foreign Minister described human rights as an “irreducable core” of UK foreign policy, Secretary Clinton stated that human rights is a “core element of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, because it actually is in line with our values, our interests, and our security.” The use of this term is significant, as the Chinese have used the term “core interest” to attempt to wall off certain topics, such as Tibet, from international scrutiny.
The repression facing Tibetans described in the U.S. and UK reports is contrasts markedly to the official Chinese depictions of conditions in Tibet. As an example, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) official Pema Trinley said on March 7 that “Tibet is stable and the people in Tibet live and work in peace and contentment.” Independent efforts to corroborate the Chinese narrative on Tibet are frustrated by the denial of access to Tibet by Chinese officials. The State Department report noted that “Officials continued to restrict severely the access of diplomats and journalists to Tibet.
Foreign officials and reporters were able to travel to the region only on closely chaperoned trips arranged by the Tibet Foreign Affairs Office.” It also revealed that “During the year three-quarters of the U.S. requests for official travel to the TAR were denied.”
On March 10, the Dalai Lama renewed his appeal for fact-finding delegations to travel to Tibet to gain an accurate sense of conditions facing Tibetans. A US Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff delegation, on a visit to Tibet in September 2010, found “discrimination, Han migration and growing income equality are also fueling discontent,” and that “restrictions on religious practice … are also a major source of unhappiness for many Tibetans.”
The Department also reported on protests by several thousand Tibetan students in Qinghai province objecting to a government decision to replace Tibetan with Mandarin as the main medium of instruction in Tibetan schools. The report discussed discrimination and obstacles faced by Tibetans due to the subordination of their language, and found that “Residents lacked the right to play a role in protecting their cultural heritage, including their environment,” a key element of regional autonomy allegedly accorded to minority nationalities by the Chinese constitution and law.
In light of the findings of this report and previous human rights reports on Tibet, the International Campaign for Tibet offers the following recommendations:
- During the upcoming Strategic and Economic Dialogue (May 9) and Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to China (summer), the Administration must move beyond “expressing concern” on the human rights situation and assign some cost to the US-Chinese relationship for continuing the crackdowns in China and Tibet. To conduct such high-level engagements as “business as usual” would send a damaging signal to the Chinese that their repressive practices carry no accountability.
- The Senate should convey in the confirmation hearing of the new Ambassador-designate to China, Gary Locke, the weight Congress attaches to human rights issues in China and Tibet and discern his action plan for achieving progress on human rights on the frontlines of diplomatic engagement in Beijing. Locke should also be urged to travel regulary throughout China and Tibet.
- The State Department should continue to prioritize its request for a U.S. consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, to provide needed visibility on the situation in Tibet and to safeguard the interests of American tourists there.
- Congress should conduct robust oversight of the Administration to ensure that the Country Report on Human Rights are integrated into policy formulation and implementation, so that the report’s findings are not an end in themselves.
The State Department also announced the launch of a website dedicated to news and reports on human rights: http://www.humanrights.gov.