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United Nations Review of China: Beijing's Tibet Gag Lobby
Phayul[Sunday, February 01, 2009 11:16]
Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent

United Nations, Geneva, 30 January – As China come under the examination by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council, several sources say that the Chinese Mission to the United Nations in Geneva is trying a gag UN Members, especially Western countries from raising questions on Tibet. One source told this report that China was attempting this lobby by asserting that Tibet is "an internal affair."

"Such a conduct by China can really put a big question on the whole credibility of the UPR mechanism. We have been lobbying governments that it is crucial for them to put Tibet on high priority when China faces the UPR," reacted Ms. Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of International Campaign for Tibet Europe, in Amsterdam.

China's human rights policy and record will face the UPR on 9 February morning for three hours where all UN Members have the right to make general statements, ask questions or convey recommendations.During the three-hour discussion with the Chinese delegation which will be webcast live by the United Nations, observers like NGOs have no right to make oral interventions.

China's national report which becomes one of the three official source documents for the review remains totally silent on Tibet. But the report says that China "adheres to the principle that all ethnic groups are equal and implements a system of regional ethnic autonomy in areas with high concentrations of ethnic minorities. Organs of self-government are established in these autonomous areas to ensure the exercise of autonomous rights, including the right to enact legislation and the right of ethnic groups to independently administer their affairs in such areas as the economy, education, science, culture and health."

While commenting on the China report, Mr. Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, the Representative of H. H. the Dalai Lama in Geneva told this report: "This kind of approach should be recognized as a clear indication of China not fulfilling its obligations and cooperation with UN human rights mechanism and the Human Rights Council must hold China responsible for the gross violation of human rights in Tibet."

A high number of NGOs have submitted reports in connection with the UPR of China and these reports as required have been compiled into a 10-page official document by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). However, concern has emerged among a section of NGOs on the credibility of this particular document questioning the credibility and independence of some 19 submissions from China, including by Government-organised NGOs (GONGOs) like United Nations Association of China and China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS).

For example, one of the submissions came from China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture (CAPDTC) supporting China's policies and position in Tibet. In the first paragraph of their report, CAPDTC makes a political statement similar to the languages used by China, claiming: "The democratic reform of Tibet in 1959 put an end to the serfdom system and theocracy. A million serfs and slaves got the rights of a person. Tibet has since entered the new era of social development and human rights progress."

While diverting the blame of the mismanaged policies of the Chinese authorities, the report concludes that "due to the weak foundation of economic and social development, high altitude, extreme cold and lack of oxygen, the economic and social development in Tibet still lags behind many other areas in China. And there is still room for improvement in the human rights situation in Tibet."

One analysis of the OHCHR compilation said that it reflects almost 40% of the position expressed by submissions from China. "For example, while the Tibetan Women's Association's report criticized the Chinese government's practice of discouraging the use of the Tibetan language, OHCHR's summary report quoted instead the China Tibetology Research Centre's claim that the Tibetan language is now widely applied in the education system in TAR, and that the study and use of the Tibetan language are high on the agenda of various levels of governments."

U.S. based-The Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group which did the analysis said that "gross and systematic human rights violations against the Tibetan people have been omitted from the OHCHR summary" when submission representing 16 different NGOs had in their reports raised specific human rights violations committed against the Tibetan people by the People's Republic of China (PRC).

In September 2008, the Tibetan UPR Forum representing 9 NGOs submitted a joint report to the Human Rights Council's UPR Working Group, detailing the human rights crisis in Tibet and calling for UN human rights experts to given access for fact-finding missions to Tibet. The report in conclusion said: "Addressing the ground realities in Tibet in cooperation with the Dalai Lama is the Chinese government's only path to legitimacy in Tibet and the peaceful development of Tibetan areas. Members of the UN Human Rights Council must do all they can to acknowledge and address those ground realities, and to compel their Chinese counterparts to respect the human rights of all China's citizens and to engage sincerely with the Dalai Lama in order to bring respect, welfare and peace to Tibet."

Despite China's gap attempts to ensure that the human rights situation on the Tibetan Plateau is not raised at the UPR of China on 9 February, one government has already raised Tibet in an advance question to China. Sweden in its question states: "Credible reports have highlighted that religious minorities, such as Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, are facing increasing restrictions on their freedom of religion and their culture in the aftermath of last year's events in Tibet and Xinjiang. What steps are the Government of the PRC taking to remove any restrictions on the freedom of religion, culture, and expression in this regard?"

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) when highlighting this new mechanism created at the highest UN governmental human rights body states that it "is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years" and "is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed."

When the UPR began its work in 2008, the human rights situation in 48 countries was considered by the mechanism whose schedule will have covered all the UN Members by 2011. In December 2008 after observing the UPR of Israel, Ms. Gaby Goldman from the daily Maariv in Tel Aviv when interviewed by Human Rights Tribune said: "To me as an Israeli, their report was very interesting. It was really good on domestic issues, and a very nice summary of the stuff that is going on in Israel, a large part of which I didn't know myself. But then again, while there is a need to improve women's rights in Israel, or disabled rights, or freedom of religion of stuff like that, but the major, major, issue is the issue of the Palestinians. Even for me, as an Israeli, it was a mistake that those issues were not even mentioned."
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