By Tenzin Sangmo
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 18: “There were clear findings by UN human rights experts that the charges were baseless. Nonetheless, courts sentenced former political prisoner Tsegon Gyal in January to three years in prison and language activist Tashi Wangchuk in May to five years,” says the Tibet section of Human Rights Watch (HRW) 29th annual World Report published on Thursday.
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth argues in his keynote essay, “World’s Autocrats Face Rising Resistance,” that while autocrats and rights abusers often captured headlines in 2018, rights defenders pushed back and gained strength in unexpected ways.
The report said that restriction on religious freedom, speech, movement, and assembly remains severe in Tibet as China fails to redress popular concerns about mining and land grabs by local officials.
It also mentions how several hundred Tibetans travelling on Chinese passports to India for a January 2018 teaching by the Dalai Lama were forced to return early when officials in Tibetan areas threatened retaliation against those travelling abroad and their family members back home.
The force return continued in January 2019.
Intensifying political education in monasteries and schools, and for the public at large, China launched a nationwide anti-crime campaign encouraging people to denounce members of their communities on the slightest suspicion of sympathy for the exiled Dalai Lama or opposition to the government, said the report.
In the intensified campaign against His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the last few days, exile media learned that Tibetans who receive government poverty alleviation subsidies in Serthar county in Sichuan have been ordered to destroy their altars and remove images of His Holiness from their homes.
On the setbacks on the Human Rights front section, the report called China’s increased repression over the last year as the worst level in decades. Roth expressed concern over President Xi Jinping ending of term limits on his presidency and Chinese officials’ vast expansion in the country's surveillance of ordinary people.
"This year it became clear that he is detaining 1 million Uighur Muslims for so-called re-education, which basically means forcing them to renounce Islam and to renounce their ethnicity. If any other country was doing this "it would be an outrage, but China, because of its economic clout, has been getting away with it," Roth said.
“Tibetans continue to self-immolate to protest Chinese policies; four more such protests took place between November 2017 and time of writing,” concluded the section on Tibet.
In the country section for China, the report made note of multilateral pressure on the Chinese government repression - the worst since the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement of 1989.
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization, founded in 1979 that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.