The State Department made public on March 31 its annual Human Rights Country Reports for 2002, describing a high level of repression in the Tibet Autonomous Region and incidents of rights violations throughout Tibetan autonomous areas.

In releasing the report, Secretary of State Colin Powell commented on its harsh criticism of China’s human rights practices by expressing “concern” for “slippage over the past year.” Powell, however, did not commit to seeking a resolution critical of China at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (in session in Geneva through 25 April), saying “We have not made a decision on that.”

“It has been the correct and commendable practice of the United States to pursue a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Commission if China’s behavior so merits, regardless of its likelihood for passage,” said Mary Beth Markey, U.S. Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet.

“We hope it will not be diverted by discrete gestures or Chinese maneuvering on other bilateral issues.”

The report credited Chinese authorities with the early release of seven Tibetan political prisoners (by sentence reductions ranging from 2 months to 12 years), for the visit of emissaries of the Dalai Lama and for somewhat greater access to the region by reporters and foreign officials.

The report concludes that, “repressive social and political controls continued to limit the fundamental freedoms of ethnic Tibetans and risked undermining Tibet’s unique cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage.” Among its specific findings for 2002 are:

  • The level of repression of Tibetans’ religious freedom remained high;
  • Unrepentant political prisoners were mistreated by torture and other physical abuse;
  • Legal safeguards were inadequate in both design and implementation. A majority of judges were ethnic Tibetans, but most had little or no legal training;
  • Chinese held many positions of political authority and made most key decisions;
  • There were restrictions on movement and increased difficulties in obtaining passports, as well as arbitrary detention of Tibetans, particularly monks, returning to Tibet from Nepal;
  • The ban of the public display of photographs of the Dalai Lama continued;
  • Patriotic education activities for monks and nuns continued on a regular basis and many monasteries and nunneries were disrupted severely;
  • Restrictions prevented the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday;
  • The Government maintained management control of monastic institutions, which it claimed were a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community;
  • Tensions increased and heightened authorities’ efforts to exert control over the process for finding and education reincarnate lamas;
  • Repeated requests for access to the 11th Panchen Lama to confirm his well-being and whereabouts were denied, and pictures of him were banned;
  • Government-sponsored development and the prospect of economy opportunity led to a substantial increase in the non-Tibetan population;
  • Job discrimination against Tibetans was reported, and worker rights were broadly denied;
    A UNESCO-protected downtown area of Lhasa was demolished;
  • Malnutrition among Tibetan children was widespread;
  • At Tibet University, established to train Tibetan teachers for the local educational system, Chinese representation in the student body and faculty far exceeded their proportion in the population;
  • Prostitution was a growing problem and HIVS/AIDS incidence was believed to be relatively high;
  • Employers of Tibetans educated in India were pressured to dismiss such employees, especially in the tourism industry; and
  • Radio Free Asia stated that Tibetans were subject to intimidation and fines for listening to foreign-language broadcasts.