Washington, D.C. – The U.S. State Department said yesterday in its annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices that China’s human rights record in Tibet “remained poor”.

The State Department said the level of religious repression is high, with the government continuing to view the Dalai Lama with suspicion and frequently associating Tibetan Buddhist religious activity with “separatist sympathies”. The State Department reported that “positive developments” in the year included a fourth round of dialogue between the Chinese government and envoys of the Dalai Lama, a visit to released political prisoner Phuntsog Nyidrol by an international delegation and the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to Tibet for the first time. The State Department stressed that controls on information made it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses in Tibet.

“The State Department is really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it highlights a visit to a released political prisoner and the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as key positive developments, given the scope of human rights abuses detailed in this report,” said Mary Beth Markey, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet. “The Administration’s freedom message needs to extend to China and Tibet and we will be looking to President Bush to pursue a human rights agenda when he meets with Chinese President Hu in Washington next month.”

The State Department report, which tracks governments’ practices during the year, is traditionally based primarily on information from U.S. embassy officials but also from non-governmental organizations. As in the past, this year’s report covers all Tibetan areas currently under the People’s Republic of China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan areas incorporated into provinces of Qinghai, Yunnan, Gansu and Sichuan. The State Department acknowledges the limitations of its reporting due to the Chinese government’s strict controls on information about, and access to, these Tibetan areas.

The report said the Chinese authorities “continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, house arrest and other non-judicial surveillance of dissidents, detention without public trial, repression of religious freedom, and arbitrary restrictions on free movement.”

The report found that repressive social and political controls continued to limit the fundamental freedoms of Tibetans and risked undermining Tibet’s unique cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage. Most of the information in the report is from Tibet-related news sources including a human rights monitoring organization, a Canada-based mailing list and a Tibetan-language radio station, indicating a lack of access to information for US diplomats stationed in the Chengdu consulate in Sichuan province. The State Department report also referred to a continued lack of response to their queries to China regarding specific abuses, such as a call for an inquiry into the death in custody of Nyima Dragpa, a monk from Nyatso monastery in Kardze prefecture, Sichuan, in custody, allegedly from injuries sustained during severe beatings.

Specific violations, excerpted from the report, include:

  • Ngawang Jangchub, a 28-year old Tibetan monk, was found dead in his room at Drepung monastery, Lhasa, in early October 2005, following a heated dispute with the monastery’s ‘work team’ over his refusal to denounce the Dalai Lama.
  • During the year the authorities in Sichuan did not respond to international calls for an inquiry into the case of Nyima Dragpa, a monk from Nyatso monastery who died in custody in 2003.
  • Legal safeguards for Tibetans detained or imprisoned were inadequate in both design and implementation, and most judges had little or no legal training.
  • The level of repression in Tibetan areas remained high, and the government’s record of respect for religious freedom remained poor during the year.
  • Spiritual leaders in Tibet encountered difficulty re-establishing historical monasteries due to lack of funds, general limitations on monastic education, and lack of authorization to build and operate religious institutions; officials in some areas contended such religious institutions were a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community. The government routinely asserted control over the process of finding and educating reincarnate lamas.
  • Despite the government’s efforts, many monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution were never rebuilt or repaired, and others remained only partially repaired. Government funding of restoration efforts ostensibly supported the practice of religion, but also promoted the development of tourism in Tibetan areas.
  • In September Chinese border forces opened fire on a group of 51 Tibetan asylum-seekers trying to travel to Nepal; their whereabouts and well-being remain unknown.
  • Rapid economic growth, the expanding tourism industry, and the introduction of more modern cultural influences have disrupted traditional living patterns and customs and threatened traditional Tibetan culture. Residents lacked the right to play a role in protecting their cultural heritage.
  • The authorities in Tibetan areas required professors and students at institutions of higher education to attend political education sessions and limited course studies and materials in an effort to prevent separatist political and religious activities on campus.
  • The Tibetan-language services of Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and Voice of Tibet, suffered from jamming of their frequencies.

The US State Department Annual Country Report is available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61605.htm