Call for international commitment on Human Rights Day as Tibetans face harsh consequences for dissent

Labrang Jigme

42-year old Jigme in hospital following torture during his period of detention from March 22.

On the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights today, Tibet remains under severe crackdown following six months of protests from March 10 across the plateau. Reports from eyewitnesses indicate an intense climate of fear, following the ‘disappearance’ and detention of hundreds of Tibetans, including monks, nuns and schoolchildren, and a stepped-up military presence amounting to de facto martial law in Tibetan areas of the PRC, including Sichuan and Lhasa.

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for Advocacy for the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “There must be a new international commitment to human rights to mark this important anniversary. The strong criticism of China expressed by the UN Committee Against Torture, which focused on the brutal treatment meted out to peaceful protesters, was an important step. It is also encouraging that despite pressure from China, European Parliamentarians hosted the Dalai Lama in Brussels last week, and French President Sarkozy went ahead with his meeting with the Tibetan leader. This seems to indicate a shift within the EU towards more support for the Dalai Lama’s efforts to find a solution for Tibet, as well as a sense of solidarity with the Tibetan people, who are suffering under such intense repression. Now is the time to build on the strength of the EU commitment and the opportunity presented by a new US administration to press China to end its human rights abuses in Tibet.”

Referring to the Polish people’s brave struggle against Communist repression before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Dalai Lama said in Poland this week where he was attending an event honoring the founder of the Solidarity trade union leader Lech Walesa: “I believe that the spirit of Solidarity should be accepted by society; we have to act as one society with common goals.”

The crackdown since March has been characterized by a high number of ‘disappearances’ of Tibetans, who have often been taken from their homes in the middle of the night, with their families unaware of their safety or whereabouts. ICT has identified over 900 Tibetans who have been detained since the uprising against Chinese rule swept across the plateau, including the following three urgent cases:

Norzin Wangmo

Norzin Wangmo

Norzin Wangmo

Thirty-year old Tibetan cadre Norzin Wangmo (pictured), was sentenced in November to five years’ imprisonment for sending emails and making phone calls abroad about the situation in Tibet. Norzin Wangmo is from Ngaba Trochu County, and worked at the Judicial Bureau of Trochu County, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Kham).

A moving letter about her imprisonment, written by a friend, is published in English on the website www.highpeakspureearth.com: “For the truth you, and many other heroes like you, had to separate from your parents, partners, and walk alone leaving your children in a destitute state. Five years is one thousand eight hundred and twenty five days. Forty three thousand eight hundred hours. How sad it is to spend the prime of one’s life within these dark walls of prison? Even though you can take pride in the sacrifice and courage you exhibited, you are also well aware that the reality behind this name and courage lies in the unspeakable ocean of suffering. These experiences can hinder your growth, love and dreams.” Whilst in detention, Norzin Wangmo’s articles titled Games of Politics (chabs kyi rtse mo’i sko ra) was published in the magazine “Popular Arts” (Mang tshogs sgyu rtsal). According to the same website, “The protests in Tibet destroyed the lives of so many bright people who were at the forefront of cultural activism in Tibet.”

Labrang Jigme

Senior monk Jigme Guri (or Gyatso), whose account of a period in detention following the March protests in his monastery, Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe) was videoed and uploaded on Youtube, is being held in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of Gansu. Jigme Guri (also known under the honorifics ‘Akhu’ Jigme and Lama Jigme), deputy director of his monastery’s ‘Democratic Management Committee’ and Director of Labrang’s Vocational School, was taken from his monk’s quarters at Labrang on November 4 by around 70 police. Images with this report show 42-year old Jigme in hospital following torture during his period of detention from March 22. It is Jigme Guri’s third detention, and there are serious fears for his welfare after he endured severe torture during a 42-day period of imprisonment from March 22.

‘Leaving Fear Behind’ film maker

There are fears for the welfare of film maker Dhondup Wangchen, who interviewed Tibetans for a documentary film, Leaving Fear Behind, who remains in prison. The authorities told a relative of Wangchen on August 31 that the filmmaker was being held at the Ershilipu detention center in Xining, the provincial capital of Qinghai, but that family was not allowed to visit. Dhondup Wangchen’s wife, Lhamo Tso, who lives in exile in India, does not know of her husband’s current whereabouts and had not received official notification of his detention. Wangchen, who is in his mid-thirties, was born in Qinghai but moved to Lhasa as a young man. He had relocated to Dharamsala, India, with his wife and four children before returning to Tibet to begin filming. He and monk Golog Jigme, who was also detained, but later released on parole, traveled across the Tibetan plateau to make their film, asking ordinary Tibetans what they really feel about the Dalai Lama, China, and the Olympic Games. The filmmakers gave their subjects the option of covering their faces, but almost all of the 108 people interviewed agreed to have their faces shown on camera, despite the risks.

Military presence in eastern Tibet

New eyewitness reports from eastern Tibet received by ICT indicate an intimidating presence of People’s Liberation Army, People’s Armed Police and Public Security Bureau personnel in Tibetan areas of Sichuan province (Kham, eastern Tibet), with roadblocks to prevent the movement of monks and nuns. A source who has recently returned from the area stated: “All roads going into and out of every town beyond Dartsedo (Chinese: Kangding, Sichuan), are heavily fortified, camouflaged bunker style, mounted automatic rifles, People’s Armed Police in riot gear with shields and metal batons, short shotguns (likely for tear-gas) and People’s Liberation Army soldiers. These roadblocks prevent the movement of monks and nuns, I was told, but it seemed as though local lay people were waved through quickly. Some towns’ checkpoints were tighter than others. All government buildings were fortified with bunkers and People’s Liberation Army troops.”

A further account of the climate of fear in Tibetan areas was given by a young Tibetan student whose identity has been withheld, and who wrote about the current situation in a letter that has been obtained by ICT: “In Kham and in Tso-ngön (Qinghai), knowing the despicable deceit and cruel strategies of the Chinese government, [Tibetans organized] ‘peace marches’ to express for once their deep longing for freedom and democracy, but even so, the government still branded them as ‘separatists’ and ‘terrorists’, and many Tibetan brothers and sisters were savagely beaten, and are in jail even now. Many Tibetans, including children, the elderly, youth, women and so on, providing sport for the soldiers in prison, gave their lives for the freedom of their people, or for the sake of the future generation. According to one Tibetan who was released from prison: ‘The means used by the Chinese government to implement this suppression are unspeakably cruel. Those used on Tibetans languishing in dark prison cells are even more terrible. When I was in prison, the soldiers beat and killed Tibetans indiscriminately, some were used for martial arts practice, some were stabbed, some were pissed on, kicked in the face, and then put to death, many shot.”

The United Nations Committee against Torture, which presented its findings on November 21, noted a “deepened climate of fear” in Tibet in recent months. China, like other State parties to the Torture Convention is required to submit periodic reports to the Committee on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention.

The Committee expressed deep concern about allegations “corroborated by numerous Chinese legal sources, of routine and widespread use of torture” and, in its section on Tibet, “longstanding reports of torture, beatings, shackling and other abusive treatment, in particular of Tibetan monks and nuns, at the hands of public officials, public security and state security, as well as paramilitary and even unofficial personnel at the instigation or with the acquiescence or consent of public officials.”

 

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