China to UN expert group: Panchen Lama receiving “excellent education”

Group Raises cases of disappearances of Tibetan monk Jigme Guri and monks from Kirti monastery

GENEVA, February 9, 2012 – According to a report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) submitted to the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the government of the People’s Republic of China continues to maintain, nearly 17 years after his enforced disappearance, that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet, is not “under house arrest.” Official Chinese claims notwithstanding, the Panchen Lama has not been seen since he was taken from his home in May 1995, nor have numerous appeals by the international community for specific information about his welfare and whereabouts been satisfied.

“He and his family are currently leading normal lives in Tibet, and he is receiving an excellent education. They have on numerous occasions said that they do not wish to have their normal lives disrupted in any way, and we should fully respect their wishes” the Chinese authorities claimed in the communication with the Expert Group dated September 4, 2009.

The Working Group had issued an earlier statement on April 8, 2011, expressing concern about the Panchen Lama, “a case going back 16 years…He disappeared in 1995 when he was six years old. While the Chinese authorities have admitted taking him, they have continually refused to divulge any information about him or his whereabouts, making his case an enforced disappearance. A number of human rights mechanisms including the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have all called for his whereabouts to be revealed, to no avail.”

The new WGEID report also reveals that it had raised concern about the disappearances of 54 Tibetans who were detained in the aftermath of protests in the Kardze region of eastern Tibet June and July of 2011. At the time, Chinese authorities arrested “mainly nuns and monks calling for ’freedom of religion in Tibet.’”

Another major case the WGEID transmitted to China on May 23, 2011 concerned the disappearances of “approximately 300 monks” from Kirti Monastery in Ngaba on the night of April 21, 2011, who “were allegedly arrested and taken to unknown destinations in ten military trucks by agents from the People’s Armed Police, Public Security Bureau and People’s Liberation Army.” Thereafter, in a public statement the WGEID again raised “its serious concern and urged the Chinese authorities to disclose the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been subject to enforced disappearances in China, including a group of Tibetan monks whose fate or whereabouts still remain unknown.”

“We call on the authorities to provide full information on the fate and the whereabouts of the persons who have disappeared,” said the Working Group, noting that it is reported that some of the monks have been released. “We encourage the authorities to undertake full investigations into the on-going practice of enforced disappearances and ensure that those responsible are prosecuted and receive sentences appropriate to the gravity of the crime.”

On November 1, 2011, WGEID together with five UN human rights experts issued a joint statement warning of “severe human rights restrictions on Tibetan Buddhist monasteries” while citing the situation in Ngaba. The statement said: “A group of United Nations independent experts voiced grave concern over reports of heavy security measures, in and around the area of the Tibetan Buddhist Kirti monastery – which houses some 2,500 monks- and other monasteries in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) County, an area of Sichuan province with many ethnic Tibetans in south-west China.”

“Any enforced disappearance is unacceptable and such practices are in violation of international law,” said Mr. Jeremy Sarkin, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, expressing further concern that a proposed revision to the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law would legalize enforced disappearances in the country. “This heinous practice is not permitted under any circumstances. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify an enforced disappearance.”

China was also alerted by the WGEID on August 30, 2011 jointly with three other special procedures mechanisms, about the concerns about the welfare of “Buddhist monk Mr. Jigme Guri (also known as Akhu Jigme and Lama Jigme), who was allegedly arrested by police and security forces on August 20, 2011, in the hotel ‘Z-hong Yan’ in Hezou, Kanlho prefecture.”

On October 6, 2011, after receiving information about the self-immolations by Kirti Monastery monks, Lobsang Kelsang and Lobsang Kunchok, the WGEID transmitted the case of their disappearances to the Chinese government. The intervention stated that the Working Group and other experts were “concerned the alleged continued harassment and repression of the monastic community in and around the Ngaba Kirti Monastery and the self-immolation of two young monks, Mr. Lobsang Kelsang Harutsang and Mr. Lobsang Kunchok, on 26 September 2011.” The Working Group stated its concern that “Chinese security forces and the police extinguished the fire and the two monks were taken away to an unknown location. It has also been alleged that one monk has died following the self-immolation.”

This latest WGEID report to the Human Rights Council, whose 19th session will begin on February 27, 2012, also referred to cases of enforced disappearance in China, Eastern Turkestan and Inner Mongolia. The report is scheduled for a debate on March 5, 2012, with NGOs expected to react on these alarming developments of disappearances.

The full WGEID report is available for download at www2.ohchr.org »

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