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Concerns over human rights ignored at Tibet development forum in Beijing

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This photo taken on May 23, 2023 shows the opening ceremony of the "2023 Forum on the Development of Xizang (Tibet), China" in Beijing(photo/Xinhua)

By Tsering Dhundup

DHARAMSHALA May 25: The “2023 Forum on the Development of Xizang (Tibet), China,” held in Beijing on Tuesday has attracted criticism for presenting a distorted narrative while overlooking legitimate concerns over human rights in Tibet. The forum, organized jointly by the State Council, Information Office and the regional government of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, brought together government officials, experts, representatives of enterprises, and media organizations from both domestic and international spheres.

The forum, officially focusing on Tibet’s new phase of high-quality development and the protection of human rights, hosted five sub-forums discussing topics such as people’s democracy, high-quality development, and Tibet’s culture and ecological civilization. During the opening ceremony, Wang Junzheng, secretary of the Communist Party of China Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee, declared Tibet as a modern socialist region characterized by stability, prosperity, ethnic unity, religious harmony, and border defence consolidation. He emphasized the progress made in Tibet, aligning it with the development of the entire Chinese nation.

While some participants praised Tibet’s achievements in eradicating poverty and improving infrastructure and living standards, critics condemned the forum for downplaying or ignoring legitimate concerns regarding human rights in the region.

The Group of Seven (G7) nations, in a recent communique released after their gathering in Hiroshima, expressed their concerns over human rights in Tibet and other parts of China. This statement provoked Beijing’s anger, as the Chinese government views Tibet-related matters as internal affairs.

President Xi Jinping’s previous calls for a prosperous and harmonious Tibet, along with his emphasis on high-quality development, were also referenced during the forum. However, evidence suggests a contradiction between these stated goals and the realities faced by Tibetans.

Since President Xi visited Tibet in 2021, the Chinese government has faced accusations of suppressing freedom of speech, limiting movement, and restricting religious practices. Reports have surfaced, indicating that Tibetan people have encountered significant challenges, including forced labour, arbitrary detention in alleged forced concentration camps, involuntary DNA collection campaigns and the compulsory enrollment of children from Tibetan families into boarding schools, raising concerns over cultural assimilation.

These actions have garnered growing concerns from human rights organizations and the international community, who argue that these policies contradict the principles of religious respect and integration emphasized during President Xi’s visit.

Critics argue that the restrictions imposed on Tibetans undermine their fundamental rights and freedoms, contradicting President Xi’s vision of prosperity and harmony. These concerns raise questions about the Chinese government’s commitment to addressing the concerns of the Tibetan people and promoting genuine development in the region.

The controversial forum on Tibet’s development has ignited further debate and skepticism regarding China’s approach to addressing human rights concerns in the region. Critics argue that the forum’s narrative disregards the realities faced by Tibetans and fails to address the substantial issues raised by the international community.

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