By Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent
United Nations, Geneva, 24 October - In a written response dated 8 September 2008 to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), China denied that hundreds of Tibetans were detained following the Tibetan Uprising and failed to provide “a list of all persons detained” as requested by the Committee in August 2008. “And the notion of ‘dispersing the peaceful demonstrations by monks’ is sheer fabrication” China said in its communication.
This UN expert-body which monitors the full implementation of the UN Convention Against Torture by State-Parties requested a written response from China by stating: “Public statements confirmed that hundreds of persons were detained in connection with the unrest that followed the March 2008 demonstration in the Tibet Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties in Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces.”
Taking a position that the 2008 Uprising in Tibet was “not parades and demonstrations”, China told the Committee that “there is no such a thing as “hundreds of people” have been arrested because of these demonstrations.” China response, now available, on the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, then states: “As of July 2008, the justice departments detained 953 persons, among them, 362 persons surrendered themselves to the police; 42 have been convicted and sentenced, and another 116 criminal suspects are under trial according to law.” However, China’s response does not provide any detailed information about the situation of Tibetan detainees outside the “Tibet Autonomous Region”.
CAT had also raised a specific question on the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet, requesting the Chinese authorities to provide information on this case. In line with its previous statements, the Chinese authorities again avoided a direct answer by simply stating that the Panchen Lama and his family “indicated clearly that in order to keep their normal life from being disturbed, they do not wish to meet with any organization or outsiders. This desire of theirs should be respected.”
At the 41st session which begins on 3 November, the Committee will review China’s Fourth Periodic Report through almost six hours discussions with the Chinese delegation on 7 and 10 November at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. When the Committee last reviewed China’s Third Report in May 2000, it expressed concern “about the continuing allegations of serious incidents of torture, especially involving Tibetans and other national minorities ... the absence of a uniform and effective investigation mechanism to examine allegations of torture...”
Apart from studying the China Report, the Committee additionally asked China to “provide information on the reported excessive use of force by the police forces in dispersing the peaceful demonstrations by monks on the 49th anniversary of the exile of the Dalai Lama in March 2008.” While providing a lengthy explanation to this question, China said that “the ‘exile of the Dalai Lama’ is an expression which is out of tune with historical facts.” Denying that excessive force was used by its police, China undermined the Tibetan Uprising by stating: “The incident which happened in Tibet and the neighbouring areas in March this year was not “peaceful demonstration” at all, rather, it was an organized law-breaking serious incident of violence. In the course of handling the case, the law enforcement personnel strictly abided by law and performed their duty of protecting the safety of life and properties of the people, thus “excessive use of force by police” does not exist.
Through these total denials on the ground realities on the Tibetan Plateau, China totally discarded the Committee’s other question such as on the number of Tibetans who lost their lives since March. “It is reported that there were a number of deaths in connection with unrest in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring prefectures and counties. Please provide information on any investigation into those deaths and whether there will be a transparent public inquiry into them,” the Committee asked.
Providing no substantive evidence, a politically discriminatory posture of China responded to this question saying: “According to investigation conducted by the department concerned, during the incident on 14 March in Lhasa and other places, the criminal violence committed by law-breakers caused the death of 18 innocent persons who were chopped, smashed or burned to death (among them, 3 were Tibetans), and one law enforcing personnel died a martyr’s death.”
Amnesty International in its submission to the Committee highlighted one Tibetan case of Paltsal Kyab, who died on 26 May 2008, five weeks after he was detained by police. According to eyewitnesses, severe injuries to his body suggest that he died as a result of being tortured in police custody. Similarly, the submissions by the Tibetan Government in Exile and International Campaign for Tibet said that between 140 to 218 Tibetans were killed, died under torture or committed suicide. All these submissions, generally known as Shadow Report from stakeholders are now available on the Committee’s web-link.
New York-based Human Rights in China in its submission stated that China’s classification of State secrets such as “Top Secret”, “Highly Secret” and “Secret” cannot be challenged or appealed. Referring to the Tibetan Uprising, the organization said: “Information about the treatment of persons detained or sentenced in connection with the March 2008 Tibetan demonstrations and information about any investigations into deaths in connection with the March 2008 Tibetan demonstrations are all classified or related to classified information.”
As the Committee Against Torture is scheduled to receive NGO statements on the China Report on 6 November, a strong Tibetan participation is expected, including by the appearance of former-political prisoners like Takna Jigme Sangpo before the body.
It is also expected that the Committee may raise many pertinent questions to the Chinese delegation, including on some of the issues raised in August to which China remained silent. For instance, China avoided the question concerning the Chinese lawyers who received warnings after offering to defend Tibetan detainees with some reportedly refused of license registration.
According to Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy and other monitoring organizations around 100 Tibetans, majority of them political prisoners have died as a result of torture since China ratified the Convention Against Torture on 4 October, 1988. This figure will certainly rise as more reports emerge of custodial deaths due to systematic torture and other cruel methods inflicted on Tibetan detainees since March.
China’s Initial Report was reviewed by the Torture Committee on 27 April 1990 but the unsatisfied Committee asked for an additional report by 31 December 1990 since it found that many of the questions posed to China remained unanswered. In its report to the UN General Assembly in 1990, the Committee said: “It was also noted that the Chinese Government had not hesitated to recognise in its report that torture had yet to be eliminated completely. In that connection, members referred to the numerous allegations of torture in China, particularly in Tibet … and asked what was the Government’s position in that respect. More specifically, questions were put concerning the particular status of Tibet in the People’s Republic of China, the measures adopted to protect the rights of the Tibetan population and, more generally, steps taken to combat torture practice with a view to their final elimination.”
The Committee Against Torture (CAT) is a body of 10 independent experts who hail from Chile, China, Cyprus, Ecuador, Morocco, Norway, Russia, Senegal, Spain and United States of America.
Before the Committee concludes its session on 21 November 2008, it will adopt a concluding observation on China’s Fourth Periodic Report.