DHARAMSHALA, September 19: The critical situation inside Tibet has received attention at the ongoing 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (September 10-28) in Geneva at the behest of numerous countries and the European Union.
Country representatives and NGOs brought to the Council’s notice the issue of Tibet, where 51 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, protesting China’s continued occupation and demanding freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.
Speaking on behalf of EU, Cyprus said EU remains “seriously concerned” about ongoing reports of human rights violations in China, particularly with regard to freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief, and the situation of minorities, including in Tibet and Xinjiang.
“The EU continues to discuss these concerns with the Chinese leadership at multiple levels and through various channels.”
The US accused China of silencing dissent through arrests, convictions, forced disappearances, and extralegal detentions and said government policies “undermine the linguistic, religious, cultural, and livelihood traditions of its minorities.”
In August, two senior US Congress men, James P McGovern and Frank R Wolf, in a letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton had “strongly urged” the US to “work with partner nations and establish a contact group on Tibet to carry out strong, visible public diplomacy on this human rights crisis.”
The two had suggested that the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting in September offered an “opportunity to take steps towards forming such a contact group.”
The Czech Republic expressed its “deep concern” over the deterioration of situation in Tibetan-inhabited areas where “increasing restrictions on religious freedom have led to a series of self-immolation cases.”
“A number of Tibetan intellectuals and cultural figures have been recently imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression, such as Mr Yonten Gyatso, who was reportedly sentenced over sending information to the Human Rights Council.”
Similar concerns over China’s failing human rights record were raised by Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany.
Speaking on behalf of the Society for Threatened Peoples during the debate, Tenzin Samphel Kayta said China “must uphold its international obligation by protecting human rights of all citizens including Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians of their religious freedom or belief, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, right to enjoy their own culture and use of their own language.”
Two written statements on Tibetan children’s right to education and denial of freedom of opinion, expression and information were submitted by two NGOs to this Council.
The three Tibetan hunger strikers in New Delhi have been pushing numerous countries as well international bodies like the UN and EU, over the past 17 days of their indefinite fast, to raise the issue of Tibet at the UN meetings and in their dealings with China.