DHARAMSHALA, December 10: A new report on the rights of children in Tibet has revealed that Tibetan children are “victims of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and torture for their political and religious beliefs, and face punishment because of the activities or beliefs of their family members.”
The report, Growing up under China’s occupation: the plight of Tibet’s children, released by the UK based Tibet advocacy group Free Tibet and Tibet Watch was submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child today to mark December 10 Human Rights Day.
With China being a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, Free Tibet said UN processes are the “only mechanisms for holding China to account on its human rights record.”
The report comes at a time when Tibetan children are exceedingly involving themselves in the Tibetan struggle for freedom with their growing participation in the ongoing wave of self-immolation protests. Bhenchen Kyi, a 17-year-old school girl became the latest Tibetan to self-immolate when she set herself on fire in Tsekhog on December 9, 2012. Thousands of students have led mass protest rallies outside Chinese government offices in Rebkong and Chabcha in eastern Tibet, demanding freedom and language rights.
The 29-page report finds that children involved in non-violent protests have been subjected to violence, including in some instances the use of lethal force by Chinese authorities and further documents China’s “frequent, systematic and severe violations” of its commitments under international law.
The report notes that over two thirds of the 95 Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009 demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama are younger than 25 and have only ever known life under Chinese rule.
“A number of children, Tibetans under 18 years of age, have set themselves on fire in protest, some of whom have been confirmed dead,” the report says. “These acts of self-immolation are driven by the lack of recourse to freedom of expression, political or legal redress and must be seen as evidence that China's policies are not only failing Tibet's children and young people but China’s policies in Tibet are directly causing serious violations of the Convention.”
The report details multiple cases of children’s rights abuse and documents Tibetan children beaten, shot, imprisoned and killed for standing up for their rights; children orphaned, threatened and assaulted because their families resist China’s occupation; children denied the right to learn their language and culture, and “educated” to be second-class citizens in their own country; and children defying the authorities by demonstrating, sharing information, and even burning themselves to death.
Releasing the report, Free Tibet and Tibet Watch Director Stephanie Bridgen said “normal life and normal childhood” doesn’t exist in militarily occupied Tibet.
“The children of Tibet face all the challenges of life under occupation, and in many cases are full participants in the struggle to resist it,” Bridgen said. “That means they are also victims of the systematic and ever-present abuse of human rights in Tibet. On Human Rights Day, we hope we have been able to shine a light on victims whose suffering and struggle is rarely seen.”
The report has made a number of recommendations for the Government of the Peoples Republic of China under the subtopics of freedom of expression, assembly and association, arbitrary arrest, detention and torture, religious freedom, and education.
The report urges China to “immediately and unconditionally release Tibetan children imprisoned for exercising their basic civil and political rights, such as the rights to religion, assembly, and expression” and cease the “persecution, harassment, arbitrary arrest and wrongful imprisonment of children for peaceful political or religious activities, or those of their relatives or communities.”
The report also calls on China to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross “full and unrestricted access” to places of detention and “immediately abolish” the Patriotic Re-education campaign and prohibit the use of re-education through labour for child detainees.