Amsterdam – The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Louise Arbour’s first official mission to the People’s Republic of China between 29 August and 2 September. Despite the shortness of the visit, ICT hopes the High Commissioner will use the opportunity to strengthen the civil and political rights of the Tibetan people when she meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

In particular, ICT has urged High Commissioner Arbour to seek a meeting with Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the missing 11th Panchen Lama, to finally ascertain his whereabouts and well-being after being held in incommunicado detention for the last decade.

During Mrs. Mary Robinson’s visit to China in 2002, the then-High Commissioner openly called for dialogue to resolve the Tibetan Issue and requested a meeting with the missing Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet, whom China contends is alive and well. The 6-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family were taken from their home by Chinese authorities in May 1995, just a few days after Nyima was recognized as Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama. Nyima and his family have not been seen since, despite numerous requests for access by the UN and national governments.

On 23rd August, at a meeting with officials of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Campaign for Tibet called upon the High Commissioner to use her China visit to communicate to the Chinese authorities the urgent need for real improvement in the situation of the six million Tibetans under Chinese rule.

“We have urged the High Commissioner to convey a clear message to Beijing that the Tibetan issue is not simply one of religious repression or human rights abuses, but that these violations are symptoms of a political problem that demands a political solution. To achieve a lasting solution, the PRC must enter wholeheartedly into negotiations with the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet,” said Ms. Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT-Europe.

While in Beijing Ms Arbour will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on human rights with Chinese officials. A timetable for China’s ratification of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is expected to be the main focus of the MOU and ICT has renewed calls that all human rights programs enshrined in the MOU be extended to the Tibetan areas of present-day China to ensure that international agreements have an actual impact on the lives of ordinary Tibetans.

“It remains to be seen whether China’s ratification of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights would enshrine the Tibetan right to self determination and protect Tibetans from the arbitrary detention, torture and persecution they currently face. There is still a massive gap between the international commitments China makes and the government’s willingness to actually implement them. Even today, Ngawang Phulchung and Ngawang Gyaltsen are sentenced to 19 and 17 years in prison for publishing and distributing the UN?s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Tibetan,” said Ms Jampa.