ICT Highlights China’s Repressive Policies and “Security Architecture” in Tibet at UN Human Rights Council Session

ICT’s Mélanie Blondelle delivering a statement at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR).

At the ongoing session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) once again highlighted issues pertaining to China’s repressive policies in Tibet.

At a side event organized by the Society for Threatened Peoples, Kai Müller, Executive Director of ICT Germany who heads ICT’s UN advocacy Team, said that the Chinese “security architecture” in Tibet creates neither peace nor stability. In his speech, delivered on June 20, Müller detailed policies, laws and regulations as well as local and regional measures that amount to a climate of repression and fear in Tibet, and which are in contravention of international human rights law. The event was moderated by Ngodup Dorjee, Representative of the Dalai Lama in Geneva. Tienchi Martin-Liao, President of the independent Chinese PEN, was among the panelists.

Earlier, on June 17, ICT had delivered an oral statement (see text below) on behalf of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights at the Human Rights Council session. The statement, which responded to the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, was delivered by Mélanie Blondelle, Policy and Advocacy Officer at ICT’s office in Brussels.

The statement focused on the risks Tibetans face in expressing their views in an increasingly repressive environment (including a new emphasis on “counter-terror” and “stability maintenance” measures) in which almost any expression of Tibetan identity or culture can be characterized by the authorities as “splittist” and therefore “criminal”, as well as on the suppression of a wave of solo peaceful demonstrations in the area of Ngaba (Tibetan region in Sichuan province).

The statement also echoed the concerns raised by the United States earlier in the debate regarding the recently adopted Chinese law on counter-terrorism, which in conflating “terrorism” with an undefined religious “extremism”, gives scope for the penalization of almost any peaceful expression of Tibetan identity, acts of non-violent dissent, or criticism of ethnic or religious policies, and risks further curtailing freedom of expression in Tibet.

“We call upon the Human Rights Council, of which the People’s Republic of China is a member, to ensure the release of all those detained for the mere reason of having exercised their right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to urge China to allow independent observers access to Tibet to verify the extent of the violations to freedom of expression on the ground”, Blondelle said.

During the General Debate on June 22, several States and international organisations also raised the deteriorating human rights situation in China (and Tibet) under item 4 (Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention):

-European Union (other States including Belgium, Montenegro, Albania, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, UK, Slovenia and Liechtenstein aligned themselves with this statement): “In China, the on-going detention and harassment of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and labour rights defenders and their families remains a major concern. Individuals detained for seeking to protect the rights of others and for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, including Guo Feixiong, Liu Xiaobo, Ilham Tohti, Xu Zhiyong and Wang Yu, should be released. The EU also reiterates concerns about the treatment of five Hong Kong booksellers following the testimony from one about his detention and forced confession. The recent adoption of a national security package, including the counter-terrorism law, further raises serious questions about China’s respect for its international human rights obligations and international standards, as well as for its own constitutional safeguards and stated commitment to upholding the rule of law. In view of that, the EU calls for full and faithful implementation by China of accepted UPR recommendations, including in relation to ensuring a safe and enabling environment for civil society, including foreign NGOs. The EU also urges China to respect cultural diversity and freedom of religion or belief of the members of different ethnic groups, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang, and foster dialogue with the said ethnic groups.”

-USA: “We are also deeply concerned that China’s new law on the management of Foreign NGOs activities will further narrow space for civil society and about excessive government control on religious practices, especially those affecting Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Christians.”

-Canada: “Canada remains concerned that China’s Foreign NGO Law does not recognize the intrinsic value of civil society in driving innovation, promoting stability, and advancing human rights. We call upon China to bring its legal framework into compliance with international human rights norms and standard to ensure an enabling environment for civil society, including women’s rights organizations and women human rights defenders.”

-Ireland: “These measures often go hand in hand with broader efforts to restrict the fundamental rights to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and association. We remain concerned about recent developments in China, Bahrain and Turkey and we call upon these governments to fulfill their human rights obligations, repeal repressive legislation and ensure that the rule of law prevails.”

-Germany: “Germany remains deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations throughout China, in particular in Xinjiang and Tibet. Especially, successive crackdowns on labour rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders are worrying. (…) the civil society needs more space to operate freely. Germany urges China to immediately release those imprisoned for exercising their rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion and to critically review all laws in contradiction to the country’s international human rights obligations, including the recently adopted security laws.”

-Czech Republic: “In China, the recently adopted law on Foreign NGOs threaten to further erode the civil society space. We call on China to release Human Rights Defenders such as lawyers Wang Yu and Zeng Feiyang.”

-Switzerland: “In China, Switzerland welcomes the efforts made by the government for economic development and for the education of people in region where minorities live. Switzerland is however concerned by restrictions on the exercise of the rights to freedom of religion, expression and freedom of movement for minorities in particular in the Tibetan and Uyghur regions. We call on China to guarantee the fundamental rights of all individuals including members of ethnic and religious minorities.”

-France: “In China, we are concerned by the increasing arrests of civil society militant and lawyers as well as a series of forced disappearances abroad and in Hong Kong. France calls for the freeing of all prisoners of conscience including Liu Xiaobo and Ilham Tohti and dialogue with the local population in order to resolve the deep underlying cause of tension in Tibet and in Xinjiang.”


Text of statement by Mélanie Blondelle,
GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Human Rights Council
Thirty-second session
June 16, 2016

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Statement delivered by Mélanie Blondelle on behalf of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR)

Mr. President,

We wish to thank the Special Rapporteur Mr. David Kaye for his report.

Over the last few months, tightening repression in Tibet, including a new emphasis on “counter-terror” and “stability maintenance” measures, has created a more dangerous political environment for Tibetans in expressing their views.

As a result, a new generation of Tibetans are paying a high price for exercising their right to freedom of expression, in a political climate in which almost any expression of Tibetan identity or culture, no matter how mild, can be characterized by the authorities as “splittist” and therefore “criminal”.

One of them is the popular blogger Druklo, known more widely by his pen name Shokjang, who was sentenced on 17 February 2016 to three years in prison[1]. Details of charges are not known, but in the days leading up to his arrest, he had written a blog post about an intense build-up of Chinese security forces in the Rebkong area (Chinese: Tongren), Qinghai.

In the county town of Ngaba, Sichuan province, one of the most oppressive areas of Tibet, a wave of peaceful solo protests has also been severely suppressed[2]. The Tibetans who have held lone and non-violent demonstrations, calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibet, have been detained, and face severe torture in custody as well as a prison sentence of between two and four years.

The recently adopted Chinese law on counter-terrorism, which in conflating “terrorism” with an undefined religious “extremism” gives scope for the penalization of almost any peaceful expression of Tibetan identity, acts of non-violent dissent, or criticism of ethnic or religious policies, risks further curtailing freedom of expression in Tibet.

We call upon the Human Rights Council, of which the People’s Republic of China is a member, to ensure the release of all those detained for the mere reason of having exercised their right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to urge China to allow independent observers access to Tibet to verify the extent of the violations to freedom of expression on the ground.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Footnotes:
[1] Popular, courageous Tibetan blogger sentenced to three years in prison, ICT, 19 February 2016. http://www.savetibet.org/popular-courageous-tibetan-blogger-sentenced-to-three-years-in-prison/

[2] Wave of solo peaceful protests in Ngaba: repression and further restrictions imposed, ICT, 28 September 2015. http://www.savetibet.org/wave-of-solo-peaceful-protests-in-ngaba-repression-and-further-restrictions-imposed/