Ngawang Norphel and Tenzin Khedup raise Tibetan national flags as the set themselves on fire in Keygudo region of Tibet on June 20, 2012.
DHARAMSHALA, December 2: A global rights group has blamed the Chinese government for the alarming increase in self-immolation protests inside Tibet and renewed calls for the formation of a contact group on Tibet.
Human Rights Watch said the unprecedented increase in the number of self-immolation cases in Tibet (28 in November), highlights the “failure of Chinese authorities to address Tibetan grievances.”
In a release last week, HRW blamed China’s “increasingly pervasive and punitive security measures” in response to the protests for having “exacerbated the situation” in Tibet.
HRW’s Asia Director Brad Adams called the self-immolations as acts of “complete desperation” to bring attention to the plight of Tibetans. “Instead of stepping up repression and driving people to believe there is no hope of change, Beijing needs to take steps to respond to Tibetans’ grievances,” Adams said.
The rights group noted that the Chinese government has authorised “increasingly aggressive moves” against both individual Tibetans and Tibetan communities where immolations have taken place.
“Since late October, officials have responded to immolations by punishing the families and communities of protestors, characterising immolations as criminal offenses, arresting those associated with immolators, and by deploying paramilitary forces and restricting communications and travel in areas where immolations have occurred,” the group said.
HRW pointed out that the use of “collective punishment” is contrary to international human rights law, and said such instances infringe on the rights to freedom of religion and belief.
“The central government should devote as much energy to addressing the deep-rooted problems facing Tibetans as it is on punishing the families of those who have taken the drastic step of protesting by self-immolating,” Adams said.
HRW renewed its calls for the formation of a contact group on Tibet and asked governments committed to promoting human rights to jointly urge China to address Tibetan grievances by issuing a “joint statement on longstanding human rights problems in Tibet.”
“Coordinated, international expressions of concern are essential to get Beijing to substantively address the issues being raised by Tibetans,” Adams stated.
In November, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Federal German Government Markus Löning urged China to reform its policies in Tibet and allow international observers to visit the region.
In a statement on November 21, the German rights commissioner noted that China’s new leadership will be “judged by its respect for human rights.”
“This includes progress in dealing with dissidents and human rights defenders as well as in dealing with minorities,” Löning said. “I support the call of UN-High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who also has pointed to the situation in Tibet in face of the ongoing self-immolations. With allowing international observers and a policy that reduces tensions and acknowledges the deep dissatisfaction in Tibet, China would leave a mark for more humanity.”