The Commission on Human Rights referred to the status of Tibetan women during its discussion last week on the item dealing with the integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective-Violence Against Women, the Tibet Bureau reports from Geneva.

In her report, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka), the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, expressed her concern about the situation of Tibetan women. She said, “Women in Tibet continue to undergo hardship and are also subjected to gender-specific crimes, including reproductive rights violations such as forced sterilisation, forced abortion, coercive birth control policies and the monitoring of menstrual cycles. There have been many reports of Tibetan women prisoners facing brutality and torture in custody.”

When the Commission debated the item dealing with civil and political rights, it also received the annual report by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia), the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief established in 1986 by the Commission on Human Rights. The Chinese authorities officially responded to several interventions he made with regard to the situation of religious freedom in Tibet. Mr. Amor said that China responded to one of his interventions saying in May 2002, Tamdin Tsering, Asher Dhargye and Tsultrim Dhargye were condemned to one year’s re-education through labor for their involvement in the same criminal case. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Tamdin Tsering and the others were detained for questioning and received penalties strictly because they had violated, or were suspected of having violated, the law and these measures were in no way concerned with their religion or belief. The letter from the Chinese authorities dated November 14, 2002 also informed the Special Rapporteur that on August 20, 2002, the procuratorial authorities had instituted criminal proceedings against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Phondup (Lobsang Dhondup) for “the crimes of fomenting separatism, causing an explosion and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.”

On the Special Rapporteur’s intervention over the crackdown at Serthar Buddhist Institute and Yachen Gar Monastery in Eastern Tibet, the Chinese authorities responded that in recent years the management of the Yachen monastery has deteriorated and that it has become seriously overcrowded; the building lack any planning and the problem of unauthorized building has emerged; the surrounding areas is dirty and untidy; and there are serious violations of relevant State laws and regulations, entailing serious threats to safety and health and endangering the lives of the monks, nuns and local people…with regard to Jigme Phuntsok, the local government has made arrangements for his medical treatment and his health condition is now greatly improved.

On the issue of expulsion of thousands of monks and nuns from Serthar Institute, the Chinese authorities told the Special Rapporteur that no pressure was placed on any monk or nun to return to secular life nor was any monk or nun placed in detention. On the contrary, China contributed a considerable amount of money to assist with the resettlement of those monks and nuns who wished to return to their villages and with the reconstruction of the Institute’s buildings.

On April 9 and 10, under the item dealing with civil and political rights, the Commission heard two NGO oral statements from Ms. Tsering Jampa and Ms. Norzin Dolma on behalf of the International Union of Social Youth (IUSY) and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) respectively. Oral statements by NGOs are now restricted to 2 and 1/2 minutes due to time constraints the Commission is now faced with.

The IUSY statement dealt with the issue of political prisoners in Tibet and the need for the Chinese authorities to issue a standing invitation to all thematic special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights. The IFOR statement informed the Commission about recent developments on religious freedom in Tibet and called upon the Chinese authorities to invite the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for a follow-up visit to Tibet and China. The Special Rapporteur officially visited Tibet in November 1994. A written statement by another NGO Society for Threatened Peoples under the civil and political rights item informed the Commission about the status of the independence of the judiciary in China with reference to the case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Lobsang Dhondup and other Tibetans. This statement (E/CN.4/2003/NGO/255) can be accessed from

Under this item of the Commission’s debate, the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances in its report under the section on China said, “Most of the 106 cases of disappearance reported to the Working Group in the past are said to have occurred between 1988 and 1990, or between 1995 and 1996. The majority of these cases concern Tibetans, 19 of them monks who were allegedly arrested in Nepal and handed over to the Chinese authorities. Other cases concern persons who reportedly disappeared following celebrations to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region.”

Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo (Kenya), the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, in his report regretted that the Chinese authorities did not respond to his October 2002 letter in which he had reiterated his wishes to undertake an official visit to China.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in their report to the Commission welcomed the release of Ngawang Choephel whose detention has been considered arbitrary by a legal opinion of the Group in 1999. The Working Group made an official visit to Tibet in October 1997. On April 10, a briefing, “Chinese Speak Up Against Chinese Human Rights Abuses” was organized at the United Nations by Transnational Radical Party. Several speakers, including by Mr. Temtsiltu Shobtsood, Chairman of the Inner Mongolian People’s Party, referred to the situation in Tibet in their statements. Mr. Chen Nai Liang from the Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in Germany speaking about China’s education policy told the small gathering that one of China’s approach “to deceive the Han Chinese consists of providing much worse education conditions for Chinese minorities, considered as “less human”. The refusal of teaching native languages to minorities such Tibetans and Uyghurs is only one of the many ways for the Chinese government to intentionally destroy their cultural identity and pride.”

As the Commission concluded its fourth week of work on April 11, 2003, Tibetan participants found that this year the Chinese delegation includes a Tibetan named Sithar who works at the United Front Department of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. In one of his earlier post, Mr. Sithar worked at the Chinese Consulate in Zurich. He was also seen at the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, as a delegate of one Chinese GONGO (government-organized non-governmental organization).