Tibetans suffer ‘serious human rights abuses’ according to U.S. State Department report

The State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 described in detail a situation in Tibet of “tight controls on religion and on other fundamental freedoms.”

“This report provides ample evidence of why the Administration should abandon its effort to secure permanent normal trade status with China and keep its annual review process,” said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

“Abandoning the effort to secure permanent NTR would show to Europe and the rest of the world that the U.S. is consistent in its stated commitment to censure China at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva,” Mr. Ackerly added.

Thirteen pages of considered reporting by the State Department is a marked improvement from years’ past. However, the report continues to contain a number of defeciencies and relies heavily on NGO reporting, reflecting poor first-hand intelligence gathering abilities. Nevertheless, this year, the report provided significantly more detail about human rights abuses to Tibetans throughout Tibetan areas, not just in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

According to the report, systematic abuses occurred this year against Tibetan Buddhism, including gross interference by government authorities in monasteries, and on many religious practices. The government also “downgraded use of Tibetan in education”, and purged so-called “separatist materials” and certain historic and religious texts in schools;

Among the most serious findings in the Tibet report:

  • the lack of information about the 11th Panchen Lama who in 1999 is presumed to have entered into a 4th year of detention.:– “The Government denied press reports in November that Gendun Choekyi Nyima died and was cremated secretly; however, the Government continues to refuse international observers the access necessary to confirm his well-being”;
  • the escalation of reincarnation politics on the part of Beijing:– “Agya Rinpoche, former abbot of Kumbum monastery in Qinghai province, senior Tibetan religious figure, and an official at the deputy minister level, left China in November 1998 due to differences with the Chinese authorities… including, a heightened role demanded of him by the Government in its campaign to legitimize Gyaltsen Norbu,” (the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama);
  • Chadrel Rinpoche, who was accused of betraying state secrets while helping the Dalai Lama choose the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, has been held in a secret compound since his 1997 sentence;
  • “In late December, the 14-year old Karmapa Lama left Tibet secretly, reportedly to seek religious teaching in India.”
  • according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 2,903 Tibetans fled to exile during the year;”
  • Chinese Government admission that “Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan ethnomusicologist sentenced in 1996 to 18 years in prison on charges of espionage … had developed symptoms of bronchitis, pulmonary infection, and hepatitis;”
  • Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun first imprisoned at age 13, “has been beaten badly on several occasion because of repeated participation in protests at Drapchi prison .. Phuntsog Nyidron, a Tibetan nun who reportedly tried to shield Ngawang Sangdrol from beatings” was herself beaten severely,
  • female political prisoners “since 1987, have died at a rate of one in 22 while in prison” as a result of torture, beatings or other harsh treatment;
  • “an orphanage that housed more than 60 Tibetan children in Lhasa was closed by local authorities … and the children, ranging in age from 1 to 14 years, reportedly either were returned to their home prefectures, turned out into the streets, or placed in a local orphanage where conditions were reportedly extremely poor.”
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