On March 17 the British Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, released the 2009 Annual Report on Human Rights. The report coversthe Foreign Office’s work in 22 countries, including China. Excerpted below isthe information pertaining to Tibet. The full report can be viewed here »
The Chinese authorities say that Tibet is now stable andsecure but the security presence in Tibet and in nearby provinces suggestsunderlying tensions remain. Foreign Officer Minister, Ivan Lewis, said of hisvisit to Tibet in September, “I saw rapid social and economic development andmet individuals and organizations who are doing good work for the benefit ofTibet. But I also left with the impression that the extremely importantunderlying human rights issues there – regarding freedom of religion andexpression, cultural and linguistic rights, or the rule of law – are yet to beproperly addressed”.
The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other Ministersregularly raise Tibet with their counterparts. The UK Government considersTibet to be part of the People’s Republic of China. We support meaningfulautonomy for the region within the framework of the Chinese constitution. Wehave consistently made clear the importance we attach to full respect for thehuman rights of Tibetan people. This includes respect for their distinctculture, language and religion. We remain of the view that only peacefuldialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama’s representativeswill result in a lasting and peaceful solution to the problem of Tibet andrespect for the full human rights of the Tibetan people. We continue to urgeboth sides to resume dialogue and to approach talks in good faith.
We are concerned about restrictions on religious freedom inTibet resulting from political involvement in the management of monasteries. Weremain concerned about reports of patriotic education campaigns in schools andmonasteries, which require Tibetans to reaffirm their loyalty to the state anddenounce the Dalai Lama. Ivan Lewis raised this most recently in Novemberduring his meeting with Mr. Lie Que, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous RegionalPeople’s Congress.
Freedom of Expression
There were increasingly severe restrictions on freedom ofspeech and association in 2009. Censorship of the internet and media grew.Tight restrictions are in place on domestic journalists, with politicalcontrols meaning that there is almost no independent media. There are stillonly limited forms of open communication to and from Tibet – a block oninternational text messages remains in place following the 2008 unrest.
Despite easing of restrictions on foreign journalists, manystill struggle to get access to Tibet or Xinjiang.
Kunchok Tsephel, founder of the Tibetan literary websiteChodme (Butter Lamp), which aims to promote traditional Tibetan arts andculture, was detained on 26 February and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.We have serious concerns that Kunchok Tsephel’s trial was not compliant withinternational fair trial standards. It took place behind closed doors and hehad no access to a defence lawyer. Tsephel’s family are reported to have had nocontact with him since his detention. We have raised his case with the Chineseauthorities.
Increasingly, the authorities are using criminal charges toshut down the activities of human rights defenders.
Xu Zhiyong and three others established the OpenConstitution Initiative in 2003. This organization consists of lawyers andacademics advocating the rule of law and greater constitutional protections. In2009, the organization published a report criticizing the Chinese government’spolicy in Tibet. On 14 July, the organization was fined 1.46 million Renminbi.The centre was declared illegal and closed by the authorities on 17 July. Xuwas detained on 29 July for tax evasion but subsequently released on bailpending further investigation. This is another example of the challenges facedby independent civil society organizations operating in China.