The United Nations committee that fights racism should press China to abolish laws and policies that discriminate against Tibetans, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said today ahead of the Chinese government’s presentation to the committee on Aug. 10.

In a report delivered to the UN Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (CERD), ICT says that Tibetans “cannot practice their religion freely, nor can they protect their culture and language in a meaningful way. Instead, they suffer from repressive laws that deem any expression of their identity as extremist or even terrorist.”

ICT’s report highlights the official Chinese propaganda that has spread derogatory and racist narratives about Tibetans to ordinary Chinese, particularly since the time of widespread—and largely peaceful—protests in Tibet in 2008.

A historically independent nation, Tibet was invaded by China nearly 70 years ago and remains under a brutal Chinese occupation. Tibetans are frequently beaten, arrested and tortured for attempting to practice their faith, advocate for their rights and show their allegiance to the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader. When ethnic Chinese visit Tibet as tourists, they are often shocked to see the extent of their government’s repression.

ICT’s report says that “Chinese authorities must end their narrative on Tibetans’ ‘backwardness’ and start promoting a view of Tibetan culture that neither reduces Tibetans to folklore, nor falsely promotes notions of the superiority of Chinese culture.”

Instead, Tibetans should be allowed to steward their own affairs from the bottom up, the report adds. Laws and policies that criminalize Tibetan life, control and surveil religious practitioners and force Tibetan nomads and herders off of their ancestral lands must end. Among them are religious regulations and laws that are said to combat terrorism but, in reality, merely oppress ordinary Tibetans.

ICT also criticized the detention of Tibetans like Tashi Wangchuk, who was recently sentenced to five years in prison after he advocated for Tibetan language rights, and Karma Samdrup, a Tibetan environmentalist who was tortured by police and sent to jail for 15 years. Another unresolved case of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance is the fate of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has not appeared in public since he was reportedly abducted two decades ago by the Chinese government at age six.

Read ICT’s report to the UN Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (CERD) »