News and Views on Tibet

‘China undermining international human rights norms,’ says rights group

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DHARAMSHALA, January 22: The “one-party authoritarian state” of China continues to impose “sharp curbs on freedom of expression, association, and religion; openly rejects judicial independence and press freedom; and arbitrarily restricts and suppresses human rights defenders and organisations,” says a new global report by a leading rights group.

The 676-page ‘World Report 2012’ by the New York based Human Rights Watch was released today, reviewing human rights practices around the globe, summarising major rights issues in more than 90 countries.

The report noted that the situation in ethnic Tibetan areas “remained tense” in 2011 following the massive crackdown on popular protests that swept the plateau in 2008.

“Chinese security forces maintain a heavy presence and the authorities continue to tightly restrict access and travel to Tibetan areas, particularly for journalists and foreign visitors,” the report said.

“Tibetans suspected of being critical of political, religious, cultural, or economic state policies are targeted on charges of ‘separatism’”.

The report went on to say that China, while maintaining highly repressive policies in Tibet, regularly condones abuses of power in the name of “social stability” and rejects international scrutiny of its human rights record as “attempts to destabilise and impose ‘Western values’ on the country”.

Taking note of the stagnant Sino-Tibet dialogue process, the report said the Chinese government is yet to give any indications of accommodating the aspirations of Tibetan people for greater autonomy.

“It (Chinese government) has rejected holding negotiations with the new elected leader of the Tibetan community in exile, Lobsang Sangay, and warned that it would designate the next Dalai Lama itself,” the rights group said.

The report noted that the Arab Spring struck fear in the Chinese leadership, which went on to take the “unprecedented step” of rounding up over 30 of the most outspoken critics and “disappearing” them for weeks.

“In February 2011, the government launched the largest crackdown on human rights lawyers, activists, and critics in a decade,” the annual report said while giving official and scholarly estimates of 250-500 protests occurring every day in China. The participants number from ten to tens of thousands.

Strongly criticising Chinese government’s “overt hostility towards genuine judicial independence”, the rights group said that weak courts and tight limits on the rights of the defense led to “forced confessions under torture” and “miscarriages of justice.”

“China continued in 2011 to lead the world in executions. The exact number remains a state secret but is estimated to range from 5,000 to 8,000 a year,” the report said.

Lambasting China on its continued violation of the domestic and international legal guarantees of freedom of press and expression, the report said China imprisoned at least 34 Chinese journalists on ambiguous charges of “inciting subversion” and “revealing state secrets.”

Underlining the increase in its hostility towards liberalisation and legal reform since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the report said that the Chinese government continues to undermine international human rights norms and institutions.

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