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China identifies new ‘terrorist crimes’ strengthening legal stranglehold on Tibetans

June 26, 2018

  • China has identified “new crimes of terrorism” in a further escalation of oppressive measures that are focused less on protecting China’s citizens and more on the elimination of dissent and enforcement of compliance to Communist Party policies. Guidelines released to judges, prosecutors and security personnel on June 16 (2018) represent a chilling expansion of intrusive measures in which merely sending a text message, involvement in someone’s marriage, or wearing a slogan on a tee-shirt can constitute “extremist” activity or “terrorism”.
  • In a rare acknowledgement of enforcement of counter-terror policies, which have a strongly political application in Tibet linked to an expansion of militarization across the plateau, a Chinese state media article said that the cases of 42 people in one area of Qinghai had been “resolved” involving crimes against “social stability”. This is a reference to the focus on ensuring allegiance to the CCP authorities in order for the authorities to pursue their strategic and economic objectives on the plateau without impediment. The Tibet issue is framed by the Chinese authorities as a “security problem”, despite the absence of violent incidents against civilians or the Chinese government.
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‘Destruction, commercialization, fake replicas’: new report on Lhasa as UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets

June 25, 2018

A new report by the International Campaign for Tibet reveals how Lhasa’s unique and precious remaining cultural heritage is at risk as China flouts its responsibilities under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The U.N. organisation for protecting the world’s heritage meets this week in Bahrain (June 24-July 4) and will vote on a decision requesting information from China about the state of conservation in Tibet’s historic and cultural capital.

In ‘Destruction, commercialization, fake replicas’, the International Campaign for Tibet reports:

  • Since the Dalai Lama’s former home, the iconic Potala Palace, and other significant buildings were recognized as UNESCO World Heritage, dozens of historic buildings have been destroyed and replaced by fake ‘Tibetan’-style architecture. Official Chinese planning documents obtained by the International Campaign for Tibet confirm that this is set to continue with the remaining historic buildings, which number around 50 as new construction continues at a staggering rate.
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International Campaign for Tibet statement on US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council

June 21, 2018

As an organization dedicated to working for human rights and democratic freedom of the Tibetan people, the International Campaign for Tibet regrets the US decision to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council. The United States has been among those countries that have consistently raised the issue of human rights of the Tibetan people in the UN Human Rights Council.

US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley, while explaining the US decision on June 19, 2018, said that it was the US position that reforms were needed to make the Human Rights Council a serious advocate for human rights. She said that the Human Rights Council has become a protector of human rights abusers, and listed China among the countries that “attempted to undermine our reform efforts this past year.”

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Mass migration program highlights contested nomads’ resettlement policies in Tibet

June 21, 2018

  • China has announced the displacement of more than 1,000 Tibetans from a nature reserve in northern Tibet to a settlement site in Lhasa, describing it as the first “high-altitude ecological migration”. Framing the removal of Tibetans – along with other mass relocations across the Tibetan plateau – in terms of “conservation and protection” fundamentally disregards the essential role of Tibetans in sustaining the wildlife, the long-term health of the ecosystems, and the water resources that China and Asia depend upon.
  • The state media also reported that fencing previously used to control and prevent movement of people across nomadic pastures in the reserve will now be removed – to ensure Tibetan antelopes can roam freely, not Tibetan herders. The fencing of the grasslands, an integral element of policy, had affected the mobility of the antelopes, which Tibetan nomads risked and sacrificed their lives to save in the 1990s when they were threatened with extinction due to poaching.
  • The “ecological migration” program is part of a new approach to set up national parks on the Tibetan plateau, contingent upon the removal of Tibetans from the land. National park status is imposed from the top-down, situating the state as the sole agency of control, and ignoring the concerns and expertise of local people. These policies are increasingly contested even within the PRC.
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Tibetan American Tenzin Dorjee Unanimously Elected as Chair of US Commission on International Religious Freedom

June 13, 2018

The International Campaign for Tibet congratulates Dr. Tenzin Dorjee whose unanimous election as Chair of Bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was announced on June 12, 2018. USCIRF is a federal government commission established by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.

In a statement, USCIRF said, “In a show of bipartisan collegiality and support for the new Chair, the Commissioners opted to hold the election openly, rather than following the Commission’s usual procedure of voting anonymously by closed ballot.”

Commissioners are appointed for two-year terms, and are eligible for reappointment. In December 2016, Dr. Tenzin Dorjee was first appointed as a Commissioner of USCIRF, having been nominated by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In May this year, the House of Representatives announced his appointment for another term at the Commission.

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TYLP 2018

Tibetan American Youths Learn about American Political Process during ICT’s 2018 Tibetan Youth Leadership Program

June 11, 2018

Ten Tibetan students from colleges in Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington State participated in the International Campaign for Tibet’s 2018 Tibetan Youth Leadership Program (TYLP) held in Washington, DC from June 2 to 9, 2018.

During their program, they participated in workshops, team-building exercises, meetings with congressional leaders and Administration officials, and interaction with civil society advocates. Speakers talked to them about relevance of the Tibet Movement in the United States; Chinese perspective of the Tibetan issue; US-China relations; role of civil society in shaping American foreign policy; meditation, and work of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

They spent a full day on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress and staffers advocating for their support to initiatives on Tibet, including the Reciprocal Access to Tibet. They visited the State Department, as part of their exposure to the U.S. political and foreign policy process, understanding the Administration’s work on Tibet. They also met with the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.

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Secretary Pompeo reiterates US Commitment to urge China to engage in dialogue with envoys of the Dalai Lama and voices support for reciprocal access to Tibet for Americans

June 7, 2018

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who took charge of his office on May 2, 2018, has said in response to written questions from Members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he will publicly ask China to engage in direct dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama, without preconditions, to resolve the Tibetan problem. He further said he is committed to pressing for respect for human rights for Tibetans, including freedom of religion and belief, in his conversations with Chinese officials, and advocating for the release of Tibetan political prisoners. He said he will also raise concerns about the lack of regular access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) for US journalists, diplomats, academics, and others.

“I will recommend that the United States express publicly, and at the highest levels of government,” Pompeo wrote, “that Chinese authorities need to engage in meaningful and direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to lower tensions and resolve differences.” Although President Donald Trump and then Secretary Rex Tillerson have met senior Chinese leaders several times, they have not publicly raised Tibet with their Chinese counterparts.

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Trump administration’s first Tibet Negotiations Report to Congress reflects the absence of a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues

June 6, 2018

The State Department has submitted a report to Congress detailing the steps taken by the Trump Administration in 2017 to encourage dialogue between envoys of the Dalai Lama and representatives of the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan issue, in line with the requirements of the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002.

The report, a first by the Trump administration, says, “The U.S. Government remains concerned by the lack of meaningful autonomy for Tibetans within China, ongoing violations and abuses of the human rights of Tibetans in China, and efforts by Chinese authorities to eliminate the distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural identity of Tibetans. The United States believes the Chinese government must address these concerns to create conditions for a sustainable settlement, which is essential to the long-term stability of the region.”

Acknowledging Tibet’s importance on a regional level, the report states the U.S. government “believes that a negotiated outcome that results in meaningful autonomy for Tibetans, and ensures they are able to practice freely their religion, culture, and language, provides the best hope for long-term stability in the region.”

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International Campaign for Tibet welcomes statements in support of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk – United Nations experts call for immediate release

June 6, 2018

The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes recent statements by the United Nations experts, governments, parliamentarians worldwide and civil society organisations in support of the Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk. Today, six United Nations human rights experts issued a statement, condemning the five-year jail sentence handed to Tashi Wangchuk by a Chinese court for his work promoting cultural and linguistic rights of the Tibetan people.

In their statement, the experts – five United Nations Special Rapporteurs and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – “strongly urge the Chinese authorities to comply with their international human rights commitments, to grant Mr. Wangchuk immediate release and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.” The experts further state: “Governments should under no circumstances undermine or repress legitimate human rights advocacy and action, such as in this case, using national security, public order or anti-terrorism discourses.”

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State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017 says China Continues to deny Religious Freedom in Tibet

May 29, 2018

The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017 states that in the Tibetan areas, the Chinese “authorities continued to engage in widespread interference in religious practices, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries. There were reports of forced disappearance, physical abuse, prolonged detention without trial, and arrests of individuals due to their religious practices. Travel restrictions hindered traditional religious practices and pilgrimages.”

The report, released in Washington, DC on May 29, 2018, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom states that the “primary sources of grievances among Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns included the requirement that all monks under the age of 18, who are legally unable to join monasteries and Buddhist religious institutions, undergo “patriotic education”; strict controls over religious practice; and intrusive surveillance of many monasteries and nunneries, including the permanent installation of CCP and public security officials and overt camera surveillance systems at religious sites and monasteries.”

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Climate of total 24-hour surveillance as restrictions intensified for Tibetan Buddhist festival in Lhasa

May 25, 2018

The Chinese authorities are imposing unprecedented restrictions this year for the Saga Dawa (the holy fourth month for the Tibetan Buddhists) in Lhasa, with officials on 24-hour watch for Tibetans engaging in devotional activities, according to the Chinese state media.

China does not allow Tibetans who are Communist Party members to take part in religious activities, but this year the ruling is being enforced much more strictly than before in a political climate of total surveillance. An announcement on May 25, 2018 by the Chinese English-language Global Times stated that this year there is “enhanced supervision of order and public security during the festival by assigning officials 24 hours a day and prohibiting Party members from taking part in the Saga Dawa religious activities”. Also, an order in eastern Tibet asked parents not to participate in or take their children to monasteries or religious events during this period.

A professor at Tibet University, Xiong Kunxin, was cited by Global Times as saying that the security measures, which were already rigorous, “have improved, especially in important and crowded places during the festival such as the Potala Palace.” The Jokhang Temple in Lhasa is of profound significance as a place of pilgrimage during the entire month of Saga Dawa, on the 15th of which the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha is believed to have taken place.

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Tibetan language rights advocate Tashi Wangchuk sentenced to five years in prison

May 22, 2018

Tibetan language rights advocate Tashi Wangchuk was sentenced to five years in prison today, accused of ‘separatism’ after appearing in a New York Times video speaking of the importance of protecting Tibetans’ ‘mother tongue’.

The verdict, handed down by a court in Yushu, Qinghai, today (May 22) signals China’s harsh and extreme approach to Tibetan culture and the criminalization of moderate, peaceful efforts within Chinese law to protect the use of Tibetan language.

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “This could not be a clearer and more absurd indication of the extremist position of the current Chinese leadership, in which Tashi Wangchuk was condemned ultimately for seeking to speak his own language, and expressing his concern about a future when Tibetan children might not be able to do so. In this case, minority rights outlined in China’s Constitution were on trial, and the outcome reflects the emptiness of China’s claims to protect Tibetan language and culture.”

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Tibetan prisoner released after more than a decade in prison following 2008 protests

May 18, 2018

A Tibetan who participated in the March 2008 protests in Lhasa has returned home two months after the end of a decade-long prison sentence.

Dashar, from Sershul in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi), the Tibetan area of Kham, was imprisoned in Lhasa charged with involvement in protests on March 10, 2008, beginning a wave of demonstrations that swept across Tibet prior to the Beijing Olympics that summer.

He was due for release on March 15 but was not released until this week. Dashar’s daughter, who lives in exile, confirmed his release and his welcome home by Tibetans with ceremonial scarves. Details about his state of health are also not known; most released prisoners need thorough checkups and often many months of medical care.

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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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ICT President Speaks at UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet discussion on Access to Tibet

May 10, 2018

Yesterday afternoon (9 May 2018), the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet[1] hosted a roundtable discussion on the issue of access to Tibet, led by Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), who presented a new ICT report to the group.

The group, which is co-chaired by Chris Law, MP for Dundee West and Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, saw one of its largest turnouts in over five years.

The issue of access to Tibet has long been a sore point of discussion for the Chinese authorities. Despite claims to the contrary by government officials in Beijing, Tibet remains largely closed to foreign visitors[2]. The detention and subsequent expulsion of two New York Times journalists who were visiting Eastern Tibet in February 2018 is but one of China’s more recent attempts to limit who enters the territory and control what kind of information reaches the outside world.

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New ICT report reveals China’s strategies of weaponizing access to Tibet

Access Denied: China’s enforced isolation of Tibet, and the case for reciprocity

May 8, 2018

A new report by the International Campaign for Tibet calls for a more robust international approach on Tibet, based on the principle of reciprocity and an emerging awareness that China’s increasing authoritarian influence under Xi Jinping has extended beyond the borders of the PRC. This influence threatens to subvert and reshape our democracies in ways that pose a serious threat to our shared future.

China promotes Tibet as being open to the world, and tells foreign governments and journalists that they should see the world’s highest and largest plateau for themselves. But multiple requests by governments to visit Tibet have been refused in recent years, in contravention of usual diplomatic practice between countries and international organizations, and journalists reporting on Tibet have been threatened, detained, and expelled from the PRC. While Tibetans are “locked in” to Tibet and international observers are locked out, there has been an upsurge in the number of Chinese official delegations that have been sent abroad to “tell the world the story of Tibet in China.”

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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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Panchen Lama

United States government commemorates birthday of the Panchen Lama

April 27, 2018

In a statement linked to the 11th Panchen Lama’s 29th birthday, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert delivered a statement calling on Chinese authorities to release him. The Panchen Lama has not been seen in public since he was taken away by Chinese authorities in 1995 at age six, making him the world’s youngest political prisoner. Earlier this week United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to call on the Chinese government to release the Panchen Lama and provide the truth on his wellbeing and whereabouts, as well as ensuring the respect of religious freedom for the Tibetan people.

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