Human Rights In Tibet
Human Rights in Tibet
In 1949, newly communist China sent 35,000 troops to invade Tibet (Tibet Support Group UK 1). The year after that a treaty was made. The treaty acknowledged sovereignty over Tibet, but recognized the Tibetan government’s autonomy with respect to internal affairs. The Chinese violated the treaty on many occasions, though. This lead to the National Uprising in 1959, and after that, the exile of the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, and many governmental leaders (Office of Tibet 1).
During and after the Chinese invasion of Tibet, there was mass destruction of Tibetan buildings. Over 6,000 monasteries, temples and other cultural and historic buildings were destroyed. The contents of the thousands of buildings destroyed was taken back to China and sold (Office of Tibet 3). The Tibetan people tried to rebuild their country, but the political leader who tried to start the “recuperation” policy was forced to resign from office shortly after (Office of Tibet 2).
During the National Uprising alone 87,000 Tibetans were killed. Another 430,000 died in the fifteen years of guerilla warfare that followed. Sources also say that up to 260,000 have died in prisons and in labour camps (Tibet Support Group UK 3). Also, 200 unarmed civilians were killed during non-violent protests between 1987 and 1989. Overall 1,200,000 Tibetans have died since 1959. That is roughly one fifth of the population of Tibet (Office of Tibet 1). That does not include all of the deaths of Tibetans during the Chinese invasion, and all of those who froze to death trying to flee Tibet.
The Tibetan people who survived the killing were denied what most consider primal freedoms. One of which is freedom of religion. Tibetan religious practice was forcibly suppressed until 1979 (Tibet Support Group UK 4). Also, in early 1989, Chinese authorities undertook a campaign to tighten control over religious practice. This campaign intensified the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement (Churchward 1). The campaign affected Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Buddhists. Another religious suppression on the part of the Chinese is that they have banned public celebrations of Tibet’s Great Prayer Festival because China believed that it would lead to nationalist demonstrations (Churchward 2). Now all Tibetan churches, mosques, and temples must be registered, and to do so, they must meet official standards (Churchward 1). Also, the only people permitted to perform religious duties, according to Document #19, are those who after examination are deemed “politically reliable, patriotic, and law-abiding” (Churchward 3).
On May 23, 1951, the 17-point agreement was enacted. It stated that the Chinese would not interfere with Tibet’s existing system of government and society. China never kept those promises, though, and in 1959 reneged on the treaty altogether (Tibet Support Group UK 1). China renamed two of Tibet’s three provinces as part of China. The remaining province was named Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), but there is no evidence to support China’s claim that TAR is autonomous. All of TAR’s local legislation is subject to approval of the central government in Beijing, and all local government is subject to the regional party, which in Tibet has never been run by a Tibetan (Tibet Support Group UK 3).
The Tibetan people also do not have the right to a fair trial. In Tibet non-violent opposition to the Chinese is met with charges of “counter revolution” and the offender is classed an enemy of the people. Chinese authorities regard anyone arrested for nationalist activities as undeserving of the protection of the law, because they have lost their right to be considered part of “the people” (Lawasia and Tibet Information Network 31). The Tibetans suspected of opposing the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) have been held as political prisoners for lengthy periods, decades for some. The US government presented China with a list of 108 political prisoners in 1993. Nine months later China finally responded. They listed 51 as “can not be found” and did not even say where the other prisoners were being held. The charges against them are often unknown, some were even sentenced or executed without a trial. Thousands of Tibetans are in custody for political reasons, but accurate figures are impossible to find due to China’s reluctance to provide any information and their insistence that political prisoners are only criminals. There is further confusion created by the system of administrative detention, which allows for long periods of imprisonment under “forced labour” without need for trial. Since August 1989, the names of 27 Tibetans sentenced to up to three years “re-education through labour”, have been publicly announced. However, reports from Tibet suggest that number to be more like 60, and that’s in the capitol, Lhasa, alone (Lawasia and Tibet Information Network 36). The Chinese do not allow observers to attend so-called public trials. Often, the prison sentence is decided before the case goes to trial. When the cases do go to court less than 2% of the cases are won by the defense (Tibet Support Group UK 4).
Article 125 of PRC constitution states, “the accused has the right of defense”, but there is no known case of a Tibetan receiving legal assistance prior to, or during, the hearing. Also, there is no known case of a Tibetan defendant accused of a political crime being acquitted (Lawasia and Tibet Information Network 35). The PRC Criminal Procedure Law also states all trials are to be public, except those dealing with state secrets, private individual matters or minors (Articles 8 and 11, PRC Criminal Procedural Law). In reality however, the majority of the trials in Tibet are held in secret or before a specially selected audience (Lawasia and Tibet Information Network 34).
An example of an unfair sentence is the case of Yulu Dawa Tsering. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for spreading “counter-revolutionary” propaganda. All he had done was tell a Western tourist, “May Tibet be released from the mouth of the wolf”. Another case was that of Wang Langjie, who was sentenced to an unspecified term of imprisonment for shouting for Tibetan independence in public (Lawasia and Tibet Information Network 37). A final example is that of two monks convicted of counter-revolutionary crimes, and sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment. They had unfurled a Tibetan national flag in a street. Neither of them was legally represented nor were they given a chance to defend themselves (Lawasia and Tibet Information Network 35). There is practically no way for detainees or the people representing them to make any complaints, and if a friend or relative tries to, they are likely to be brought suspicion as an independence sympathiser.
There have been reports of various torture techniques used against political prisoners. Such as electric shocks, aerial suspension, sexual assault and attacks by ferocious dogs. Over the years the techniques have become more sophisticated. They have begun to inflict internal injuries to cover up visible signs of torture. This results in mental anguish, permanent disablement and death (TCHRD 2). One account of mistreatment is that of Tenzin Choedon, who was sexually abused with electric batons while in prison. The 28 year-old nun describes her horrific experience, “First I was hit with a stick all over my body. After five strikes, my body became senseless. As I was coming back to my senses, I saw my fellow nuns being abused with electric batons in their anuses. They inserted a stick into my vagina four times with full force and the stick was rammed into my mouth. When the baton was used on my body, I felt as if a nerve in my heart was being pulled out and my stomach was in pain. The severe pain lasted for three days and I had problems when urinating” (TCHRD 2). Another victim of the torture is Sonam Wangdu, a 41 year-old man from Lhasa. He is now permanently bound to a wheel chair, paralyzed from the waist down from the severe torture. While serving his life term imprisonment, he was routinely tortured and chained for up to six months. There were five different occasions in which he had to be treated in a hospital. His health became so poor that he was released on medical parole in 1993. He will never recover from his injuries (TCHRD 3). In 1995 a monk named Palden Gyatso described the Chinese practice of making people stand outside for several days at a time, sometimes on blocks of ice (Lawasia and Tibet Information Network 47). There have also been reports of Tibetan juveniles dying in prison as a result of torture and mistreatment.
On October 4, 1988 the People’s Republic of China attended the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which they had signed onto in 1986. After the Convention there were 60 deaths from torture while in detainment reported. There were also dozens killed while demonstrating in pro-independence movements (TCHRD 1). In 1993 and again in 1996, the UN’s Committee Against Torture, a group of legal experts, asked China to create a genuinely independent judiciary and to create laws to ban all types of torture. China refused to change its laws and did nothing to change its judicial system. The UN’s experts interviewed Tibetans who had been political prisoners to get an idea of what the treatment is like. They were told about the torture inside the prisons and they realize that they have only learned a fraction of there is to find out (TCHRD 1).
To remedy all of these problems the Dalai Lama proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan. He released this in 1987, and the Chinese were quick to reject it and the revisions that followed it (Office of Tibet 3).
Five-Point Peace Plan
Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of Ahisma, a demilitarized zone of peace and non-violence.
1. Abandonment of China’s population transfer policy, which threatened the very existence of the Tibetans as a people.
2. Respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms;
3. Restoration of and protection of Tibet’s natural environment and abandonment of China’s use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste;
4. Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese people.
To recap, China invaded Tibet, and began its reign of terror. They killed political prisoners and non-violent protesters, 1,200,000 all together. They destroyed monasteries and temples. They took away the Tibetan’s freedom of religion, and they turn down any agreement giving the Tibetan people back any freedoms. They also break Tibetan laws, their own laws, and United Nations laws with their human rights.
To help, contact:
Tibet Support Group UK
9 Islington Green
London N1 2XH
Telephone +44 (0) 171 359 7573
Fax +44 (0) 171 354 1026
Churchward, Jack. “Freedom of Religion in China” n.page. online. internet. 11/29/99-available www.afn.org/afn20372/pol/foraw.html
Lawasia and Tibet Information Network. Defying the Dragon: China and Human Rights in Tibet. March, 1991.
The Office of Tibet. “The Government Of Tibet In Exile” n.page. onlline. internet. 11/25/99-available www.tibet.com/status/history.html
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). n.page. online. internet. 11/23/99-available www.tchrd.org/press/pr990105.htm
Tibet Support Group UK. “Major Allegations On The Chinese Occupation” n.page. online. internet. 11/23/99-available www.tibet.org/Why/occupation.html