Who are the Tibetans?
Since 1951 the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)* has been part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is historically the indigenous home to mainly ethnic Tibetans, most of whom practice Tibetan Buddhism. The administration of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile, claims jurisdiction over Greater Tibet which includes Qinghai province and parts of other neighbouring provinces, in addition to the TAR.
The population of the TAR historically consisted of mainly ethnic Tibetans as well as other ethnic groups including the Menba (Monpa), Lhoba, Mongols and Hui Chinese. However, the increasing numbers of Han Chinese migrants in the region is a politically sensitive issue for the Tibetan Government in Exile. They claim that the PRC is actively attempting to alter the demographic makeup to diminish chances of Tibetan political independence and to destroy the distinct Tibetan ethnic makeup, culture, and identity, thereby cementing it as an indivisible part of the PRC. The opening of the Qinghai-Lhasa railroad in July 2006 sharpened the tension surrounding the issue of Han migrants.
The Tibetan Government in Exile views the current PRC rule in Greater Tibet as colonial and illegitimate, motivated solely by its natural resources and strategic value. They believe it is a gross violation of both Tibet’s historical status as an independent country and the right of Tibetan people to self-determination. The Dalai Lama has called for Tibetan autonomy under democratic conditions and respect for human rights.
How are they victims of human rights violations?
The Tibetans are victims of many human rights violations including:
Restrictions on the freedom of religious belief, including the suppression of any activity venerating the Dalai Lama. This includes Government control of monasteries. Government-approved management committees approve the selection and training of reincarnate lamas and control religious publications. Under the so-called ‘re-education’ campaign launched by the authorities in May 1996, the activities and education of monks and nuns is monitored and they are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader and sign pledges of political allegiance to the PRC. According to TCHRD, the authorities increased their oppression of the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries during 2007.
Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including torture, in prisons: Prison conditions are poor and medical care is inadequate. In 2006 the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reported that Chushul Prison, which was built in 1960s and was thought to be closed, has been re-opened and that several political prisoners were held there in substandard conditions.
Unfair legal procedures: In contradiction to the official legislation concerning judicial procedures, Tibetans rarely receive legal assistance and most trials are held in secret or before a specially selected audience. There are no effective official channels through which a procedural complaint can be filed.
The continued arrest and detention of political prisoners: Almost all known Tibetan political prisoners were arrested solely for peacefully expressing their political views and opinions. According to TCHRD, 70% of known political prisoners in the TAR are now monks and nuns.
Lack of access to education and suppression of the Tibetan language: Illiteracy rates are high and many children are deprived of access to basic education. School is usually conducted in the Chinese language and teaching about Tibetan history, culture and religion is non-existent, replaced by its Chinese equivalents. Some Tibetan language schools do exist, although the content of the syllabus continues to be heavily focused on Chinese history and ideology. Denunciation of the Dalai Lama is required. As the Chinese language is required in most schools, Government offices and in day-to-day activities, many ethnic Tibetans now opt to learn Chinese so that they will be able to find work.
Discrimination in the workplace: As a result of the discriminatory education system and the requirement of the Chinese language in most jobs, there is a high unemployment rate among Tibetans.
Lack of representation: Chinese authorities in the southwestern Tibetan region of Lithang have recently been removing ethnic Tibetan officials and replacing them with Chinese officials.
Tibetan refugees continue to flee to neighbouring Nepal as a result of these problems, and excessive force has been used in recent years to prevent those attempting to flee.
How is Tibetan freedom of expression violated?
The Chinese authorities continue to suppress the Tibetan people’s basic rights to freedom of expression and freedom to information. They continue to ban a large number of imported publications and audiovisual materials that advocate Tibetan independence. Locally printed journals and writings dealing in an independent manner with political or human rights matters are also banned.
In 2006, the authorities banned all reports distributed within the country by foreign news agencies until they had been cleared by the government. This is achieved mainly through the State-run Xinhua news agency, which has the authority to censor news reports. Severe restrictions are in place on the press, investigative reporting, the internet, radio and other forms of broadcasting. The Government uses advanced technology, as well as crude intimidation, detention, imprisonment, and ambiguously and arbitrarily applied censorship regulations to control the media.
In 2006, the blogs of a Tibetan intellectual named ‘Woeser’ were shut down after she questioned Beijing’s rule of Tibet. In 2007, Chinese internet authorities shut down several Tibetan language and literature websites and blogs. On 16 October 2007, a day before the Dalai Lama was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, several Tibetan websites including www.tibetcm.com and www.tibettl.com were temporarily shut down due to their political content and blog discussions concerning the medal. On 16 November, the site www.tibetcm.com was shut down permanently and the authorities deleted all the data from the site including over 10,000 blog articles. The Google China site censors websites and web searches for certain subjects including ‘Tibet’, the ‘Dalai Lama’ and ‘democracy’.
Persecuted Tibetan Writers (March 2008)
Tibetan dissident arrested in November 1995 for writing pro-independence pamphlets which were posted in April 1995 as part of widespread protests against the Chinese authorities. Dawa was charged with carrying out ‘counter-revolutionary propaganda’ and is now serving a 15-year prison sentence. He is currently being held in the notorious Drapchi Prison (now known as Tibet Autonomous Region Prison) in Lhasa. He was severely tortured under interrogation, and has suffered numerous forms of abuse in prison, including beatings, psychological stress, and lack of access to fresh air. When he was first arrested, he was handcuffed and thrown into a dark room without food for ten days.
English PEN Honorary Member
Writer and teacher, arrested on March 9, 2005 in Lhasa, Tibet for allegedly endangering State security in his unpublished book, The Restless Himalayas, which was comprised of 57 chapters he had written on various topics: democracy, sovereignty of Tibet, Tibet under communism, colonialism, religion and belief, and so forth. Dolma was charged with ‘espionage’ and ‘illegal border crossing’ at a secret trial, and sentenced to ten and a half years in prison. In July 2007, he was reportedly moved from Chushul prison in Lhasa to Xining Labour Camp, Qinghai Province; he is seriously ill.
Ven Rinchen Sangpo
Tibetan writer currently hiding from the Chinese police. Sangpo was arrested, interrogated and tortured by the police in July 2006 who claimed that he had committed serious crimes through his writing. He was held without charge for a month, then released. He was briefly detained again on 4 April 2007 for his critical writings entitled The Story of Blood and The Story of Lhasa. During detention, he was subjected to sustained ill-treatment. Since his release he has been in hiding from the police, and is suffering serious medical issues and financial difficulties. He continues to write critical articles.
To read International PEN’s statement on the recent crackdown in Tibet, please click here.
To read Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s written statement to MPs on the issue of Tibet, please click here.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/campaigns/chinacampaign/tibetanrightsandwriters/