Kirti Rinpoche with UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt at the UN offices in Geneva on March 4, 2013.
DHARAMSHALA, March 5: Kyabje Kirti Rinpoche, the exiled abbot of the Kirti Monasteries in Tibet and India, met with UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief on Monday in Geneva.
Rinpoche, who is currently on a six-nation tour of Europe, briefed Heiner Bielefeldt on the crisis inside Tibet, focusing on the Ngaba region, where a large number of the 107 Tibet self-immolations have taken place.
The former Tibetan cabinet minister said the causes of the current situation in Tibet are the result of 60 years of China’s polices aimed at destroying Tibetan religion, culture, environment, and language.
“The very survival of Tibet as a nation, its religion and culture is at threat due to Chinese policies,” Rinpoche said.
“Tibetans in Ngaba have suffered for three generations under the Communist Chinese starting with Mao’s Long March in Ngaba area in 1936-37,” Rinpoche told Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt. He added that his parents suffered during Mao’s Long March, he himself suffered in the run up to China’s invasion and occupation 1959 and the present generation of Tibetans born under Chinese rule continue to suffer.
Rinpoche remarked that around 28 Tibetans were shot dead on a single day on March 16, 2008 by Chinese security forces during a peaceful protest by Tibetans in Ngaba region as part of the wider peaceful uprisings that engulfed the entire Tibetan plateau. The youngest among the dead was a middle school student, 16-year-old girl Lhundup Tso.
Since then, Kirti Monastery has been virtually turned into a prison, he added. In late April 2011, 300 monks were forcibly removed from the monastery and many more have since been disappeared or sentenced to lengthy jail terms.
Kirti Rinpoche stressed that his immediate concern was for the safety and security of the families, relatives, and friends of the Tibetan self-immolators and urged the Special Rapporteur to ensure their safety.
China has taken harsh steps to criminalise self-immolations by slapping murder charges against those found guilty of abetting or inciting the protests.
A Kirit Monastery monk, Lobsang Kunchok was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in January this year while several others have been given lengthy jail terms of up to 15 years.
Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt remarked that the self-immolations go to show the seriousness of the situation in Tibet, while noting that he has raised the issue in his written communications with China.
He disclosed that his report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council 22nd Session, carries mention on the self-immolation crisis in Tibet.
Following the briefing, Kirti Rinpoche also met with an official of the Office of the President of the UN Human Rights Council.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in November last had urged Chinese authorities to “promptly address the longstanding grievances that have led to an alarming escalation in desperate forms of protest, including self-immolations, in Tibetan areas.”
“I have had several exchanges with the Chinese Government on these issues. But more needs to be done to protect human rights and prevent violations,” Pillay said. “I call on the Government to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and to release all individuals detained for merely exercising these universal rights.”