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Developing technological totalitarianism in Tibet: Huawei and Hikvision

December 17, 2018

In August 2018, US President Donald Trump signed a law that forbade US government agencies from buying surveillance products from Chinese firms including Hikvision, ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co. A month later, it was reported that the US was considering sanctions against companies and Chinese officials over Beijing’s mass detention of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in concentration camps.

Hikvision, a company that is controlled by the Chinese government and has internet-enabled cameras installed in more than 100 countries, has installed surveillance systems in a re-education camp in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) and mosques and has also been directly involved in a large-scale integrated surveillance program in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region that is terrifying in its scope and scale.[1] The company also has offices in Lhasa and has provided surveillance tech for the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

Hikvision’s work in Tibet is particularly associated with the former Chinese Communist Party chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chen Quanguo, who is now in charge in Xinjiang. In Tibet, Chen used surveillance tech supplied by Hikvision as part of the development of one of the most dystopian and intrusive police and security states in the world—a system of technological totalitarianism.

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ICT responds to Chinese ministry’s distortions on US Tibet legislation

Statement by Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet

December 15, 2018

“The Chinese Government’s reaction on Dec. 14, 2018 to the passing of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is a gross distortion of Congress’ intention to give Americans the same rights of access to Tibet that Chinese citizens have to the US. In fact, as revealed by the Washington Post on Oct. 11, 2018, the Chinese government “interfered” in the American legislative process when it wrote to some Senators urging them not to support the bill.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is about Americans getting the same rights from China that the US accords to Chinese visiting this country.”

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Dalai Lama commends Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for shining a light on human rights violations

December 12, 2018

The Dalai Lama has commended the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) on its 10th anniversary, praising its “positive contribution in shining a light on individuals throughout the world whose fundamental human rights are being violated by those in power.”

The message was posted on the TLHRC website after a December 11, 2018, anniversary reception.

“I have always looked to the United States as a champion of democracy, freedom, human values and creativity,” the Dalai Lama writes. “The U.S. is a leader among free nations, playing a pivotal role in the promotion of peace around the world. I commend the Tom Lantos Commission for its positive contribution in shining a light on individuals throughout the world whose fundamental human rights are being violated by those in power.”

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Legislative landmark: US Congress passes Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

December 11, 2018

In a triumph today for American citizens—including lawmakers, activists and human rights advocates concerned about the decades-long repression in Tibet—the United States Congress unanimously passed a bill that takes direct aim at the Chinese government’s unfair treatment of Americans and pushes back against its isolation of Tibet from the outside world.

The US Senate approved the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act on December 11, 2018. It now goes to the desk of President Trump, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018—which was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and in the Senate by Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.)—is bipartisan legislation designed to address China’s exclusion of American journalists, diplomats and citizens from Tibet.

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Drugkho

Young Tibetan man sets himself on fire; third self-immolation in Tibet this year

December 10, 2018

According to information from Tibetan sources, a young Tibetan man set fire to himself in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in the Tibetan area of Amdo on Dec. 8, 2018. News of the self-immolation circulated in Tibetan-language media but was difficult to immediately confirm because the Chinese government imposed an information blackout in the area and punishes Tibetans who discuss such incidents with outsiders.

The Tibetan language newspaper Tibet Times as well as the Tibet Post International identified the man as Drugkho from Ngaba. The Tibet Post also said that he set himself on fire while calling out for the long life of the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet. Radio Free Asia also reported the news, with one source telling RFA: “It has become an emergency issue and the details of the incident cannot be discussed at the moment. Everyone is aware of this self-immolation case in Ngaba, but no one has received a detailed account of the situation.”

It is not clear if Drugkho is still alive.

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The origin of the ‘Xinjiang model’ in Tibet under Chen Quanguo: Securitizing ethnicity and accelerating assimilation

December 10, 2018

Reports on the current situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region describe a climate of expansive surveillance and control, the mass detention of at least 1 million Uyghurs and Kazakhs in re-education camps and an effective information vacuum. In August 2018, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed grave concern over “numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.”

The international community has been justifiably concerned about Uyghurs and Kazakhs who have been severely targeted because of their ethnic identity, culture and religious practice. In November 2018, 15 western ambassadors in Beijing undertook the unprecedented move of writing to Chen Quanguo, the Party Secretary in Xinjiang, to request a meeting to discuss the current situation there. As Chen is the party secretary leading policy design and implementation in Xinjiang, the 15 western ambassadors have good reason to seek him out.

While the latter appears to be a promising development, it is questionable how forthcoming Chen would be at such a meeting. To best understand what is unfolding in Xinjiang and the motivation driving Chen and the Chinese Communist Party’s policies, observers should look to Tibet, where Chen previously served as the party secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region. Chen’s policy goals and projects in Tibet offer insights into the roots of what is being called the ‘Xinjiang model’ of repression, in particular the emphasis on cultural assimilation and the construction of an extensive architecture of surveillance and control.

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Richard Gere receives German Sustainability Award for lifetime commitment for human rights

December 7, 2018

ICT Chairman Richard Gere has received the Honorary Award of the German Sustainability Awards 2019 for his advocacy and lifetime commitment for human rights and for his “work to draw attention and practical solutions to humanitarian crises rooted in injustice, inequality and intolerance,” a statement by the German Sustainability Award Foundation said.

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Dalai Lama letter

Dalai Lama’s message to global climate summit shows need for urgent action in Tibet

December 6, 2018

As a native of one of the world’s most beautiful and endangered landscapes, the Dalai Lama has sent his prayers and advice to the largest annual global climate change summit.

“We have to take serious action now to protect our environment and find constructive solutions to global warming,” the Tibetan spiritual leader wrote in a message to the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as the COP24 Climate Conference.

The event, taking place now in the Polish city of Katowice, has brought together delegates from nearly 200 countries to create a roadmap for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

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Yabshi Takster

Former home of Dalai Lama’s parents demolished in Lhasa

July 30, 2018

  • The former home of the parents of the Dalai Lama, one of the largest and most important of the few remaining historic buildings in Lhasa, has been demolished and a new concrete structure is being built in its place.
  • The Yabshi Taktser residence appears to have been razed within weeks of Lhasa’s protection being discussed at an annual meeting of the world’s leading heritage body, UNESCO from June 24.

The Yabshi Taktser residence was close to the Potala Palace, where the Dalai Lama lived until his escape from Tibet in 1959. It had a particular significance as the home of the late parents of the Dalai Lama. Over many years, the building was neglected and had fallen into a state of disrepair. Tibetans were afraid to recommend maintenance or renovation work because of the building’s association with the Dalai Lama, according to expert sources.

The Yabshi Taktser residence appears to have been razed two months before Lhasa’s protection was discussed at an annual meeting of the world’s leading heritage body, UNESCO, beginning June 24.

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Senior American officials call for international coalition to press China on religious freedom in Tibet

July 27, 2018
Describing the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom as “just the beginning,” Vice President Pence and other U.S. government officials repeatedly raised China’s human rights violations in Tibet as they promised ongoing new efforts to combat religious freedom violations around the world. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, who recently re-affirmed America’s commitment to seeing the release of the Panchen Lama, answered a question about religious freedom in Tibet by describing a new multi-lateral effort to end China’s assault on Tibetan Buddhism:

We had a number of Tibetan Buddhists testify and speak here, and people that have experienced the persecution that’s taken place for years in Tibet… What we are working on doing and pulling together is an international consortium to press China about religious freedom… It’s Tibetan Buddhists, it’s Uighur Muslims, Christian house church leaders, Falun Gong – there’s a whole series, and this has been going on for some period of time. We’re trying to do is get that international coalition pulling together to push on the Chinese Government to let people practice their faith freely as they see fit.

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VP Pence and Golok Jigme

Vice President and Secretary of State meet Tibetan activist, discuss China’s human rights violations

July 26, 2018

The aspirations of the Tibetan people were heard at the highest levels of the United States government this week when a well-known Tibetan activist was among a select group of survivors of religious persecution who met with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Golok Jigme, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was jailed and tortured by Chinese authorities for speaking out against their oppressive rule in Tibet, talked with the two American leaders in the sidelines of the U.S. State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The three-day event in Washington D.C. was a first-of-its-kind gathering of elected officials, international organizations, religious leaders and civil society members to advocate for greater religious freedom around the globe.

Jigme told Pence and Pompeo that the people of Tibet—a historically independent nation that China has occupied for nearly 70 years—are prevented from receiving teachings from the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, Tibetans can be punished simply for having portraits of the Dalai Lama.

Jigme urged Pence to encourage China’s leadership to work with the Dalai Lama to resolve the Tibetan issue and allow the Tibetan people to have true religious freedom.

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Judiciary Committee

House Judiciary Committee unanimously approves Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

July 25, 2018

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act took a big step forward today when the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill unanimously. The next step is for the act to move to the floor of the House of Representatives.

One by one, committee members spoke up at this morning’s hearing in support of the bipartisan legislation, which seeks to ensure that Americans are given the same access to Tibet that Chinese citizens have to the United States.

“Moving this bill is the right thing to do,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the committee. “It is time that Congress take a stand with regard to access by foreign nationals to the Tibetan regions.”

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China must immediately stop illegal ban on religious activities for Tibetan schoolchildren, ICT says

July 24, 2018

China’s ban on religious activities for schoolchildren in Tibet grossly violates international human rights law—as well as China’s own legal requirements—and must immediately be put to an end, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said today.

Chinese state media reported this week that underage students in the Tibet Autonomous Region must not take part in religious activities during their summer vacation, as stipulated in school regulations. According to an English-language report in the state-run “Global Times,” notices have been sent to both students and their parents, while authorities “have had students sign an agreement that they will not take part in any form of religious activity during the summer vacation,” the head of the political education department at Lhasa Middle School said in the report. The report does not state how students and families who breach the agreement would be punished.

“By banning schoolchildren from religious activities, the Chinese authorities are infringing upon basic principles of freedom of religion, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which China ratified in 1992. A state simply cannot ban children from religious activities,” ICT said.

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State Department notes ‘severe’ repression in Tibet in 2017 Human Rights Report

April 20, 2018

The State Department’s latest Human Rights Report, released on April 20, 2018, documents pervasive repression and high levels of deployments by the paramilitary People’s Armed Police in Tibet. Among other issues, the report tracks the many fronts Chinese authorities have opened in their attacks on the Dalai Lama, including strengthened punishments for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members who secretly harbor religious beliefs, and the detention of Tibetans who express support for him.

“The U.S. report on the situation of human rights in Tibet confirms the information that the International Campaign for Tibet has been gathering about the deteriorating situation in Tibet,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet. “This message from the Administration complements a series of legislations before the United States Congress, including the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, and their approval would strengthen the call for human rights in Tibet,” Mecacci added.

Examining the ethnic dynamics of Chinese rule in Tibet, the report notes that ethnic Chinese CCP members hold “the overwhelming majority of top party, government, police, and military positions” in Tibet, and that on the national level, none of the members of the CCP Politburo or the Standing Committee of the Communist Party are Tibetan.

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Sweden charges Tibetan with espionage for Chinese government, highlighting pressures on exile communities

April 19, 2018

In the first known case of a Western government bringing criminal charges against a Tibetan accused of espionage, Sweden has indicted a 49-year old man for spying on Tibetans in exile for the Chinese government. The case, which will be the subject of a court trial, highlights the threats to Tibetan communities all over the world as China continues to intensify both its heavy securitization and surveillance mechanisms in Tibet and its overseas influence operations.

While it is known that Tibetans are informed upon across the Tibetan diaspora, particularly due to the heightened and more systematic activity of China’s United Front Work Department, this is the first time that a Western government has brought criminal charges against a Tibetan. In 2010, in a linked investigation, Sweden sentenced a Uighur man who had been caught informing on other Uighurs to a year and ten months in prison – the highest penalty ever for an intelligence case of this kind in Sweden.

In a strongly-worded statement on Wednesday (April 11), state prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist described the Chinese government as a “totalitarian regime”, telling the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that: “This is a very serious crime. Espionage affects very vulnerable people. People who have escaped to Sweden from totalitarian regimes must feel safe to enjoy their basic freedoms, such as the right to protest against a regime without their relatives being put at risk.”

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Marriott Hotels’s statement on Tibet raises serious concerns for endorsing Chinese government’s propaganda

January 17, 2018

Following Chinese government’s objection to its labelling of Tibet (amongst others) on a survey drop-down menu under “countries” the President of Marriott, Arne Sorenson, issued a statement on January 11, 2018 in which it said, “…we don’t support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”

The International Campaign for Tibet is seriously concerned and feels inappropriate for a multinational corporation to have a political position on a future of a community.

The right of people to self-determination is a cardinal principle that is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We have therefore written to Mr. Sorenson expressing our concern and saying that since he has opined on the political future of the Tibetan people, he should also state his position on the universally acknowledged human rights violations suffered by the Tibetan people under the rule of the Chinese government. Failing to do so would mean endorsing the Chinese government political propaganda on Tibet.

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French President Macron should raise situation in Tibet on upcoming visit to China

January 4, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron should use his first visit to China from 8-10 January to send a signal to the Chinese leadership that France will not remain silent in face of the Chinese government’s attacks to the fundamental rights and freedom of the Tibetan people, said the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) today.

“This visit, which will be the first of President Macron in China, will set the tone for the Franco-Chinese relationship in the next few years and is therefore crucial,” said ICT’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten. “The French President must use this opportunity to take a clear and strong stand on the gross human rights violations in Tibet. He should convey to his Chinese interlocutors, including President Xi Jinping, that the only way to reach a peaceful, mutual and long-term solution for China and Tibet lies in the resumption of a constructive dialogue between the Chinese government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama.”

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ICT fears for lack of fair trial for Tibetan language advocate

January 3, 2018

Tibetan shopkeeper Tashi Wangchuk, who has been in prison since January 2016 after he sought to defend Tibetans’ right to education in their own language, is due to be tried on January 4.

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “Tashi Wangchuk did nothing more than defend a cultural right to use one’s own language, protected under the Chinese Constitution and international human rights law. He should never have been arrested, and it is indefensible that he now faces criminal prosecution, and the lack of a fair trial, and should be released immediately.”

Tashi Wangchuk was critical of Chinese cultural and educational policies on Tibetans in an interview with The New York Times in 2015, published in both print media and as a video that circulated widely. According to a microblog posted by his attorney, Liang Xiaojun, the Yushu Intermediate Court in Qinghai Province has scheduled the trial for January 4, 2018.

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