By Tsewang Lhadon
China’s record of human rights abuse in Tibet is no great secret. The September 30th blatant shooting and killing of fleeing Tibetan refugees at the Nangpa la Pass enroute the Himalayan mountains cannot be more obvious to the international community of China’s tyrannical regime. This time the world has had the opportunity to witness horrifying killings of the whole incident from independent sources. Watching the video of the killings could send a chill through anyone’s spine. In the words of one of the eyewitnesses, “they were shooting them like dogs”: Sergiu Matei, a cameraman from Romania who was on his first trip climbing to Cho Oyu, west of Mount Everest and near the border with Nepal - International Campaign for Tibet, October 13, 2006.
As per international legal procedures, especially in the context of human rights, compelling evidence forms the basis for any legal action. What more could be more persuasive than this video footage? Where does one draw the line between diplomacy and such abuse of human rights by government authorities? Where is justice? However much China has defended its actions in the days after, the video clearly shows no provocation from the refugees to warrant such a ghastly shootings
It is heartening for the Tibetan people when governments like Canada and a few others take it up upon themselves to reprimand China on such acts. However, much more is needed in deed to bring China to accountability. Regrettably, the Tibetan issue has benefited only so long as individual governments wanted to. And unfortunately this time the stakes are just too high for the one country, the United States of America that in the passed had the nerve to reprimand China on its human rights record at the United Nations. The US today needs China’s support on North Korea. China on its part has no more than come out with a cautious condemnation and an ambiguous support for the sanctions on North Korea. While Kim Jong-Il's regime is undesirable, China is also intensely aware of the negative consequences of the collapse of Kim's government in the region. For that reason, as it has as always kept its cards close to its chest, its intent indistinct creating an uneasy ambiance for the US government.
China vehemently opposes multilateral discussions on the issue of human rights stating it prefers one on one discussion on the issue. One would like to wonder what has been achieved so far from the record rounds of toothless bilateral discussions between China and the individual governments? In the past any country that dared to raise its voice on China’s rights record at international forums has been struck hard. In 1997, “China warned that Denmark's sponsorship of the measure (UN resolution critical of China’s human rights record) would "become a rock that smashes on the Danish government's head”. Steven Mufson, The Washington Post BEIJING, April 11, 1997. And when Denmark did support the resolution, it got the brunt of China’s antagonism as it retaliated by cutting off major trade links. China unmistakably aware of its huge market potential for international economic trade uses this leverage to warn or punish those that displease her.
When it comes to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, (now UN Human Rights Council) China is most conspicuous by her perpetual defense of human rights record despite ample proof from governments and non-governmental organizations. When things do not go its way China has always resorted to tactical maneuvers at the UN using its veto power, blocking any further discussions let alone a Resolution from being passed. Its one famous rhetoric - human rights violations in China or for that matter Tibet is as “internal matter”. At any international human rights meeting China has the largest delegation of government organized non-governmental organizations. GONGO’s - whose soul purpose there is only to defend their government’s policies.
Despite all obvious indications that things are not well within its boundaries, especially in Tibet, as China would like to portray, China thus far has skillfully managed to gag the world through various tactical maneuvers. Consequently, it has been able to have its way. But how far can it continue do so?
As China readies itself for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an award grudgingly given on the hope that it will improve its people’s lives, integrate international human rights norms. The time has come to evaluate China. The 2008 Olympics is the greatest opportunity to do so. This one time the world must have the will and courage to come together to justly to assess China’s human rights record. Notwithstanding the raw bleak data that continues to spill out, one would hope that there is good surprise in store on China’s human rights record. However, if the outcomes of the evaluations show no sign of improvement up-to the minimum standards and norms required by international law – China is worthy of punishment - even if means withdrawing the Olympics at the last minute. This opportunity if missed there will be no checking China again for it will have showcased itself to the world in such a way, that any government in the future will be intimidated to question China at all.
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of life”
Article 3; Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the meantime, diplomatic negotiations from the Tibetan representatives must continue. China will as always play the blame-game not to come to the negotiation table. Concurrently other alternatives to find a solution to the Tibet issue too continued minus the violence. The momentum gained from the Nangpa la killings has reinforced and re-united Tibetan peoples all over once again to seek justice. Pressure on governments must be maintained as China takes time to decide how to respond to the issue and correct a blunder it has already committed by claiming self-defense as the rationale for the killings at Nangpa la.
Lives cut short by needless brutal killings maybe a matter of routine for China, but not for the rest of the world, certainly not for the Tibetan people.
Tsewang Lhadon: Former Executive Director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Dharamsala, India. Tselha985@yahoo.com