In a clear rebuke of official Chinese claims, the U.S. Department of State has provided a catalogue of human rights abuses and economic, social and cultural discrimination faced by Tibetans under Chinese rule. The findings are contained in the Tibet section of the State Department’s “Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2009,” released today in Washington, D.C.

“The Chinese authorities are determined that everyone, including Tibetans, believe that they are doing right by Tibet,” said Mary Beth Markey, ICT Vice President for International Advocacy. “But ignoring abuses against Tibetans is like ignoring the fact that the house you’re building has a rotten foundation. China may be pouring money into Tibet, but they are courting catastrophe if they continue to pave over injustices and policy failures, as detailed in this report.”

The report describes the “blunt censorship” of Tibetan language web content, minimal Tibetan-language schooling for children, the absence of Tibetan-language instruction in higher education, severe restrictions placed on freedom of movement for Tibetans – at the local, national and international levels – and the exclusion of Tibetans from much of Tibet’s commercial opportunity. “The economic and social exclusion of Tibetans was a major reason why such a varied cross-section of Tibetans … participated in the 2008 protests,” states the report.

The release of the State Department human rights report coincides by one day with the 51st anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and the occasion for the Dalai Lama’s annual statement to the Tibetan people. In his statement delivered from Dharamsala, India, yesterday His Holiness cautioned against any Chinese development in Tibet that could “damage our precious culture and language and the natural environment of the Tibetan plateau, which is linked to the well-being of the whole of Asia.” The Dalai Lama’s skepticism was reinforced by remarks made on the same day by Pema Trinley (Padma Choling), the Chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. In comments (reported by Xinhua) that reflected official discussions about Tibet underway in Beijing, as well as the results of the recently concluded Fifth Tibet Work Forum (January 18-20), Pema Trinley characterized the Chinese government’s plans for Tibet (‘Chinese Characteristics and Tibetan Traits’) almost exclusively in terms of the centrally-planned economic development model.

“This report provides validation of the grievances that underlie His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s efforts to seek genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people,” said Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his chief negotiator with Chinese officials. “Its findings on the areas of discrimination against Tibetans – in language, religion, culture, education, economic development, and freedom to travel — mirror the components of the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy that we have presented to the Chinese officials. Progress on these building blocks is essential toward achieving stability and a durable solution that benefits the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.”

The report contains a litany of human rights abuses perpetrated across Tibet by the Chinese authorities over the course of 2009, including the hundreds of political prisoners in Tibet and the ongoing climate of fear and repression. It concludes that “severe repression” of various fundamental human rights in Tibet “increased dramatically” over the reporting year.

In her introductory remarks to the 2009 Country Reports, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the reports “provide a fact base that will inform the United States’ diplomatic, economic and strategic policies toward other countries in the coming year… I view these reports not as ends in themselves, but as an important tool in the development of practical and effective human rights strategies by the United States Government.”

“The Obama Administration has several opportunities to put this approach on human rights into action,” said Mary Beth Markey, who noted the upcoming U.S.-China dialogues on human rights and strategic and economic issues, as well as the potential for raising China’s record of abuses at the U.N. Human Rights Council. “I think they know their approach to China in 2009 did not have the desired effect. We hope that this report, combined with Secretary Clinton’s more frequent statements on human rights and internet freedom, signal a recognition that standing on fundamental principles is both the correct moral and strategic approach to China.”