Ngawang Choephel Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent
GENEVA, MARCH 14: China again intended to shut the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights experts of the UN Human Rights Council from undertaking fact-finding missions to Tibet as the UN rights body adopts the UPR report on China this afternoon.
On 6 March 2019, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights told the Council that her office seeks full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The UPR-related communication to the Council of 15 February 2019 rejected Ireland’s recommendation that China « grant access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to all regions of the country including the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
In January, a Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson claimed that the United Nations officials are welcome to visit Xinjiang as long as they obey Chinese laws and follow procedures while knowing that the standards practice of UN official missions sticking to their own terms of references for visits agreed with the government concerned.
On 13 September 2013, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former-High Commissioner for Human Rights told the Council: « States may shut my Office out-but they will not shut us up; neither will they blind us. If access is refused, we will assume the worst, and yet do out utmost to nonetheless report as accurately as we can serous allegations.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has visited «Tibet Autonomous Region » in September 1998 when the post was held by Mrs. Mary Robinson, the former-president of the Republic of Ireland.
Today, there are more than 10-outstanding requests to China for visits by Special Procedures mandate-holders of the Council, including from the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) who made a request on 19 February 2013 that was followed-up by four letters between 2013 and 2016.
On 13 March 2019, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights alerted the Council: "This isolation of Tibet undermines efforts to hold China accountable to its obligations under international law. We therefore call on the Human Rights Council to urge China to allow prompt and unfettered access to Tibet by independent international human rights experts - including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant UN Special Rapporteurs."
China, exercising a right of reply to the many critical statements it faced on Wednesday "welcomed anyone free of prejudice to visit Xinjiang or Tibet, but categorically rejected attempts to undermine the social stability of these regions."
Documents also show that China's UPR report presentation on 6 November 2018 had assured: "The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Chair of the Working Group on the Right to Development, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities had been invited to visit China at mutually convenient times."
Raising her concerns, the-then High Commissioner Louise Arbour on 14 March 2008, called upon the Chinese authorities to refrain from an excessive use of force while maintaining order, and to ensure that those arrested are not ill-treated and are accorded with due process in line with international standards. Ms. Arbour had called for a visit following the 2008 Uprising on the Tibetan Plateau.
Her Spokesperson Robert Colville told journalists on 27 March 2008 that China’s Ambassador Li Baodong felt, the timing was not convenient now and there would be a possibility for Arbor to visit in the future at a mutually convenient time.
Over the years, many recommendations on the access to UN human rights experts were made to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as recently and vocally during the UPR process of the Human Rights Council in November 20018.
In response to Denmark’s UPR recommendation that full access be provided to UN Special Procedures to « Xinjiang and Tibet », China declared that it « firmly opposes the practice of using the visits as an excuse to pressure the Chinese government and interfere in China’s internal affairs. » China conveyed a similar message to the recommendations from Germany an Hungary, «Not accepted », in the communication to the Council in February 2019.
In history, between 1994 and 2005, only three UN human rights experts have been allowed to make official visits to the «Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) », including on two occasions by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD).
The late-Mr. Abdelfattah Amor from Tunisia was the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to visit Lhasa on 25 and 26 November 1994. While in Lhasa, he met with Kushok Yulo Dawa Tsering who had been released on 6 November 1994 after being imprisoned since November 1987.
The Special Rapporteur concluded that he considers that deep religiousness may be the source not only of great spirituality, but all of real difficulties. The latter should be dealt with through dialogue, tolerance and education. Any repression of religion can lead to great religiousness, or even, is some cases, a form of extremism, despite the apparently non-violent nature of Buddhism in general and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, the values of which night be severely tried by changes to the demographic data of Tibet.
Mr. Manfred Nowak from Austria, the Special Rapporteur on Torture visited Lhasa in November 2005 and was taken to Gutsa, Drapchi and Chushul prisoners where meetings were arranged with political prisoners, including Bangri Rinpoche and Jigme Gyatso. Following this visit, the outside world became aware about the existence of the new Chushul Prison where political prisoners whom the Special Rapporteur wanted to interview had been transferred.
The Special Rapporteur in his report of 10 March 2006 to the Commission on Human Rights among others stated that « the combination of deprivation of liberty as a sanction for the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, assembly and religion, with measures of re-education through coercion, humiliation and punishment aimed at admission of culpability and altering the personality of detainees up to the point of even breaking their will, strike at the very core of the human right to personal integrity, dignity and humanity. It constitutes a form of inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment leading to submissiveness ad a culture of fear, which is in compatible with the core values of any democratic society based upon a culture of human rights. »
In recent years, China has received visits by the Special Rapporteur extreme poverty and human rights (2016); special rapporteur on the right to food (2010); the independent expert on the effects of foreign debt (2015); and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice (2013).
However, none of these mandates were allowed to visit Tibetan areas.
The mission report of the Special Rapporteur on poverty to the 35th session of the Council stated that "the International media, human rights NGOs and other State Members of the United Nations tend to focus almost exclusively on the plight of Tibetans and Uighurs. While those situations are deeply problematic, the reality is that most ethnic minorities in China are exposed to serious human rights challenges, including significantly high poverty rates, ethnic discrimination and forced relocation. »
The Special Rapporteur on the right to food in his report recommended that China suspend the non-voluntary resettlement of nomadic herders from their traditional lands and the non-voluntary relocation or rehousing programmes of other rural residents, in order to allow for meaningful consultations to take place with the affected communities, permitting to examine all available options, including recent strategies of sustainable management of marginal pastures.