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Monks who studied in India banned from teaching in Tibet; new ruling bans schoolchildren from religious activity

May 17, 2018

  • Highly educated Tibetan monks who studied in India are being banned from teaching Buddhism when they return home to the Lithang area in eastern Tibet. The new ruling by the Chinese authorities is an indication of China’s denial of religious freedom to Tibetan Buddhists who seek to receive teachings from qualified masters, as monks who have studied in India are highly valued for their deep understanding of the teachings. It is also a chilling signal of the Communist Party’s intentions of eradicating the Dalai Lama’s influence and using religion as an instrument to achieve hardline political objectives.
  • In another alarming measure, the Chinese authorities have prohibited Tibetan schoolchildren in the Tibet Autonomous Region from engaging in traditional devotional practices during the holy Buddhist month of Saga Dawa, which began yesterday (May 16).
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USCIRF report recommends re-designating China as a Country of Particular Concern and advocates for passage of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

April 27, 2018

In a scathing annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found that Tibet under Chinese rule has increasingly come to resemble a police state. The Commission recommends that the United States government re-designate China as a Country of Particular Concern, use the Global Magnitsky Act against Chinese officials and agencies responsible for human rights abuses, appoint a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, and pass the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.

Characterizing China’s strategies towards Tibet as ones of “antagonism and hostility,” the Commission describes pervasive controls on the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and heightened interference at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, culminating in the eviction of almost 5,000 monks and nuns. The report covers China’s increasingly concerted efforts to isolate the Dalai Lama and punish Tibetans for expressing loyalty to him:

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French President Macron’s statement on the Dalai Lama and Tibet

April 26, 2018

George Washington University – On April 25, 2018 French President Emmanuel Macron, on his first official visit to the United States, held a town hall question and answer session with George Washington University students in the U.S. capital. One student raised a question on a possible meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, leading to the following exchange:

Question: Hello President Macron. Thank you for being here, we welcome you. My name is Walter James, I am a Senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs. In 2016, the Dalai Lama made an official visit to France, but President Holland did not meet with him, nor any member of the French government. Given Beijing’s repression of Tibet and its persecution of the current Dalai Lama, who’s exiled in India, and given France and EU’s positive relations with the PRC, would you meet with the Dalai Lama if he were to return to France?

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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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Congressional Delegation visits Dharamsala, meets Dalai Lama and Tibetan leadership

April 6, 2018

A US Congressional Delegation composed of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and accompanied by staffers from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the US Embassy in India concluded a three-day visit to Dharamsala, by meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the morning of April 6, 2018.

The Dalai Lama welcomed the delegation and thanked the United States Congress and government for their decades-long support for the Tibetan cause. This support, he added, provides inspiration not only to the Tibetan people, but also for communities that are battling oppression all around the world. The Dalai Lama reaffirmed his commitment to the preservation of Tibetan culture and identity as they can provide benefit not only to Tibetans, but also to the entire world.

Following the meeting, Representative Ros-Lehtinen expressed her feelings in a tweet saying, “Blessed to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala. It was great to listen to his wisdom, knowledge and compassion. I reaffirmed my support and that of the US Congress for the people of Tibet. Beijing should listen to him too!”

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Photo with Tibetan flag led to Tibetan activist’s 10-day detention in Nepal

March 28, 2018

A Tibetan activist in Nepal was detained for nearly 10 days by Nepalese police and threatened with deportation after he posted a picture of himself with a Tibetan flag on Facebook in early March, and wrote to international embassies in Kathmandu about human rights concerns in Tibet. There are increasing dangers for Tibetans in Nepal as the Nepalese authorities deepen their relationship with China, with rumors of a high-level Chinese delegation visit to Kathmandu soon.

Three days after posting the image, the Tibetan activist, Adak, was near the Boudha stupa in Kathmandu when he was approached by police, he told ICT. They showed him the photograph and when he confirmed that it was his picture in response to their query, they took him into custody. Adak, who is in his early forties, said that he was slapped and kicked in the process but was not further beaten in custody. He said that police threatened to deport him to Tibet. Prior to his arrest at Boudha, Adak had also taken photographs of police at a nearby Buddhist monastery, according to Nepalese human rights supporters who helped to facilitate his release.

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Tibetan man dies after self-immolation; oppressive measures intensified in March 10 anniversary week

March 7, 2018

A Tibetan man in his forties, Tsekho Tugchak, set fire to himself and died today (March 7) in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), eastern Tibet, the first self-immolation in Tibet this year. It is the 153rd self-immolation in Tibet, and happens at a time of intense securitization across Tibet in the buildup to the sensitive anniversary of the March 10 Uprising in 1959, and the tenth anniversary of protests that swept across Tibet in 2008 on the same date.

Graphic images circulated online of Tsekho Tugchak’s blackened body, lying on the ground, his arms outstretched. He was from a nomadic village in Meeruma township in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, the Tibetan area of Amdo. The last Tibetan to set fire to himself, Konpe, was also from Ngaba, and set himself on fire on December 23, 2017, close to the area of the first self-immolation in Tibet in February, 2009.[1]

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‘Wall of steel’ in Tibet with major military drill in buildup to March 10 anniversary

March 5, 2018

On the same day as a major prayer festival in Tibet on March 2 (2018), the Chinese authorities held a major military drill in Lhasa termed as a ‘wall of steel’ in the buildup to the sensitive political anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, March 10, in 1959. This week is also the tenth anniversary of a wave of overwhelmingly peaceful protests that swept across Tibet from March 10, 2008.

The joint military drill on March 2 (2018) consisted of a mass show of force of ‘combat-ready’ troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police (PAP), underlining the heavy militarization of Tibet and the political importance at the highest-levels in China of Tibet’s ‘stability’. In its extreme nature, this massive show of force – which has become an almost annual ritual at this time of year – is also an indicator of CCP anxieties over its authority in Tibet.

The military drills coincided with the mass presence of troops at prayer festivals in monasteries in eastern Tibet, giving the impression of a war zone. Despite the heavy show of force, thousands of Tibetan pilgrims still came to monasteries and religious sites to offer prayers.[1]

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Images of repression and resilience from Tibet on ‘Day of Miracles’

March 3, 2018

A major show of military force was in evidence today (March 2) during an important prayer festival at Kumbum monastery in eastern Tibet as Tibetan New Year (Losar) rituals draw to a close. Footage from Kumbum shows marching ranks of black-uniformed troops in riot gear, giving the impression of a war zone rather than a peaceful prayer festival, the Monlam Chenmo.

Footage and images circulating on social media showed celebrations of the Monlam Chenmo across the Tibetan area of Amdo over March 1 and 2 (2018), with a particularly strong military presence at the ancient Kumbum monastery (in present-day Qinghai), where thousands of devotees gather each year to offer prayers and view the famous butter sculptures.

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International NGOs urge Governments and UN to Act on China’s Human Rights Abuses, including in Tibet

February 26, 2018

A group of international NGOs, including the International Campaign for Tibet, has sent a private letter to a select UN member states about raising China’s human rights abuses at the UN Human Rights Council. The letter’s authors say, “The Human Rights Council should take further steps to show China that undermining key legal protections for freedoms of expression and association and the rights to a fair trial, not to mention disappearing or arbitrarily detaining dissenting voices, is unacceptable behaviour – especially for a would-be “global leader” “.

The letter highlighted five cases of human rights defenders, including that of Tibetan education advocate Tashi Wangchuk, which “show that the ferocious crackdown on human rights defenders, including lawyers, that has intensified since President Xi Jinping assumed power continues unabated’.

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U.S. committed to supporting the aspirations of the Tibetan people, says Under Secretary Steve Goldstein at State Department Losar Reception

February 23, 2018

The State Department hosted its annual reception for Losar, the Tibetan New Year, on February 20, 2018. Under Secretary Steve Goldstein and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Samuel D. Brownback, addressed the gathering of Administration and Congressional staff, diplomats, NGO representatives, and members of the Tibetan American community. Representative Ngodup Tsering offered greetings on behalf of H.H. the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration while Capital Area Tibetan Association President Namka Tenzin spoke on behalf of the Tibetan American community. Khenpo Samdup of the Drikung Dharma Chakra center offered the opening prayers of auspiciousness. There was Tibetan cultural performance by Karma Gyaltsen and Tashi Yangzom, and observance of Losar rituals, including the offering of traditional Chemar, Dresil, Kapse, and Chang.

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Amnesty International Says Tibetans continued to face discrimination and restrictions in 2017

February 22, 2018

A new Amnesty International Report says Tibetans continued to face discrimination and restrictions on their rights to freedom of religion and belief, of opinion and expression, of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Amnesty International Report 2017/18, released on February 22, 2018, documents the state of the world’s human rights in 159 countries and territories during 2017. The report said, “Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan education advocate, remained in detention awaiting trial at the end of the year, without access to his family.”

The report said that the Chinese Government “continued to draft and enact new laws under the guise of “national security” that presented serious threats to human rights.” It continued, “Activists and human rights defenders were detained, prosecuted and sentenced on the basis of vague and overbroad charges such as “subverting state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Controls on the internet were strengthened. Repression of religious activities outside state-sanctioned churches increased.”

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ICT Welcomes UN experts call for immediate release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk

February 21, 2018

Six UN human rights experts have called for the immediate release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk. In a statement released today, the experts “expressed serious concern over the ruling by a Chinese court to uphold charges of ‘incitement to separatism’ brought against a human rights activist who appeared in a documentary calling for linguistic and cultural rights in Tibet.” The experts from various fields of human rights expertise said “all of the charges levelled against Tashi Wangchuk (…) should be dropped”. In unusual strong language, the experts “condemn the continued detention of Mr. Wangchuk and the criminalization of his freedom of expression as well as his right to stand and speak up for what he perceives as human rights violations in his region and country”.

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Fears for extent of damage after major fire at sacred Jokhang Temple during Tibetan New Year

February 18, 2018

  • There are fears that a major fire might have damaged the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, one of the holiest and ancient sites in Tibet, on the second day of the Tibetan New Year (Losar). Videos posted online showed flames shooting from the direction of the roof of the seventh-century temple on Saturday (February 17); Tibetans could be heard weeping and praying.
  • Damage may be more widespread than the authorities acknowledge, and reports that communications are being blocked and posts about the fire on social media deleted, consistent with the oppressive political climate in Lhasa. Thousands of pilgrims are currently in Tibet’s capital for New Year.
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ICT and FIDH ask EU to urge for Access to Tibet as it observes 2018 EU-China Tourism Year

February 15, 2018

On the occasion of the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY), which was launched in January in Venice, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) have written to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and to the European Union High Representative, Federica Mogherini, to express a number of concerns in relation to the promotion of tourism in Tibet.

The letter, dated February 14, 2018, highlights amongst others the lack of access to Tibet for foreigners (when Chinese tourists enjoy free and open access to the EU), the restrictions imposed on Tibetans’ freedom of movement and the lack of involvement of Tibetans in the decision-making process of tourism policies and projects. It also raises a number of questions and recommendations to EU leaders, and urges them to extend the notion of reciprocity -a notion promoted by the EU with regards to its trade relationship with China- to “the respect for fundamental rights, including the freedom of movement and the freedom of information of European citizens in China and Tibet”.

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Chinese police circular urges public to report on loyalty to ‘evil forces’ of Dalai Lama

February 13, 2018

  • Chinese police have issued a circular urging the public to inform on people they suspect of being loyal to the Dalai Lama and his “evil forces” across Tibet. According to the Chinese state media, the circular is aimed at deterring the “gangsters” that “the Dalai group uses to spreading its message of separatism.”
  • The circular on “illegal behavior” was posted on February 7, a month before the politically sensitive March 10 anniversary period, when the Tibet Autonomous Region is closed to foreigners. This year marks a decade since overwhelmingly peaceful protests swept across Tibet in 2008, with many demonstrators calling upon the Chinese government to allow the Dalai Lama to return home.
  • Underlining the hostile anti-Dalai Lama message it seeks to send to the world, the Chinese state media also made a harsh critique of the German company Daimler this week despite the auto-maker already apologizing twice to China for using a quote by the Dalai Lama to advertise Mercedes-Benz on Instagram.
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Tibetans in Tibet and in exile appeal to Chinese courts over use of Tibetan language, express support for Tashi Wangchuk

February 12, 2018

  • A group of Tibetans has written to the Supreme Court expressing their concern about the failure by regional courts to use the Tibetan language, which they state contravenes the Chinese Constitution. In a rare and bold step, the appeal letter, published on the Tibetan-language website Trimleng, an important forum for discussion particularly on legal and policy issues affecting Tibetans in Tibet, is signed with the names of 117 Tibetans who are both in Tibet and in exile.
  • The appeal is also a carefully-worded expression of support for businessman and shopkeeper Tashi Wangchuk, who was imprisoned in January, 2016, following the release of a New York Times video[1] profiling his efforts to request additional Tibetan language classes at schools in his home area of Yushul (Yushu) in Qinghai.
  • A group of 15 internationally known scholars and professors on Tibet, from France, the UK, US, Czech Republic, Canada and Australia called for clemency for Tashi Wangchuk in a letter published in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong on February 8 (2018).[2] This follows expressions of concern and support for Tashi Wangchuk from German[3] and Latvian[4] Parliamentarians, and an emergency resolution by the European Parliament.[5]
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