By Tenzin Dharpo
Chinese police march in front of the Potala palace in occupied Tibet. Photo- The New York Times
DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 5: After years of ban on international governments and civil society representatives to visit occupied Tibet, a German official for human rights is set to visit the region on Wednesday for a dialogue with Chinese counterparts.
German Human Rights Commissioner Barbel Kofler will visit Tibet on late Wednesday and take part in the dialogue on Thursday and Friday, after her proposed visit to Xinjiang was turned down, the Associated Press
The German-Chinese Human Rights Dialogue will take place in Lhasa, Tibet on 6 and 7 December and will be chaired by Barbel Kofler.
The German official who was earlier slated to visit Xinjiang, another Chinese occupied territory, said in a statement, “The Human Rights Dialogue will now take place in Tibet. In view of the critical human rights situation in Tibet, this, too, is an appropriate place for our Dialogue.”
“There are numerous reports of excessive controls, punishment of relatives for the crimes of family members, prohibition of normal religious freedom and “patriotic education” which give me great cause for concern,” she further said.
Kofler said that she is “deeply concerned” about the deteriorating human rights situation in all of China including the occupied territories where she said “critical voices in civil society – human rights lawyers, journalists and bloggers” were being persecuted with impunity.
The visit by a foreign official is preceded by a rare visit by a United States Congressional delegation led by U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2015. A Freedom House Report said that it is more difficult to gain access to Tibet than the hermit nation of North Korea, under Beijing’s rule.
Tibet was illegally occupied by China in 1959 and has perpetrated the deaths of more than a million Tibetans and the destruction and pillaging of its ancient monasteries and cultural institutions. Since 2009, there have been a staggering 163 self immolations inside Tibet and in exile by Tibetans in protest against Chinese rule.