In the year 2012, the human rights situation in Tibet hit a new low even as Tibet remained closed to independent media, UN monitors, international fact-finding delegations or visitors. The Chinese government effectively blocked communication channels and prevented information about human rights abuses from going out of Tibet. Despite heavy surveillance and restrictions, individual Tibetans continued to let the world know about the real situation in Tibet often at great personal risk. As the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food told the Human Rights Council session in March 2012: “We know that regularly the communication systems: Internet, the phones, SMS’s are blocked and Tibet is completely closed to independent observers, including the media.”
TCHRD’s 2012 Annual Report records wide-ranging human rights violations in Tibet including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, language rights, self-immolation protests and language rights. In light of major new regulations and policies implemented by the Chinese authorities to repress religious freedom in Tibet, TCHRD has prepared a separate report on religious repression, which is part of the 2012 Annual Report. The special report on religious repression is an in-depth analysis of the internationally protected right to freedom of religion and belief, and the ways in which the government of the PRC is continuously and systematically violating it in the context of Tibetan Buddhism.
On 14 January 2013, TCHRD submitted the special report on religious repression to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt urging him to conduct an in-country visit of Tibet and publish a report of the findings. The Special Rapporteur was also urged to encourage the Chinese government to adhere to the international conventions to which China is already party, and sign and ratify those to which it is not.
As usual, in 2012, the Chinese government continued to label all expressions of Tibetan aspirations and grievances as ‘splittists’ and locked them up on ‘national security’ grounds. Those who shared information about human rights abuses in Tibet with outsiders were charged of violating State Secrets Law and imprisoned following dubious trials.
Crackdown on self-immolation protests continued all through 2012 as local authorities, particularly in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), Ngaba (Ch: Aba) TAP, Kardze TAP, Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) TAP in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), mobilized government cadres and ‘work teams’ to hold political education campaigns and carry out punitive measures against not only protest self-immolators and their family members but also the villages they belong to. The total number of self-immolation protests in Tibet has now reached 96 with 82 occurring on 2012.
Despite criticisms against its human rights record, China continues to view ‘stability’ as a prerequisite for the enjoyment of human rights. The rationale of ‘national security’ is used ad nauseam to justify violent crackdowns on dissidence and other human rights abuses. China’s rejection of the universality of human rights became more pronounced in its second National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-15), which stated that and freedoms entitled to all will only be granted to Chinese citizens when it is convenient for the one-Party rule of Chinese government. This type of opting out of their own human rights action plan is a step in the wrong direction for human rights in Tibet and China.
In 2012, TCHRD confirmed the detention and imprisonment of 269 known Tibetans in Tibet. Out of them, 29 were sentenced without procedural guarantees and due legal process while the fate of 218 remains unknown. An overwhelming number were detained, disappeared and sentenced on obscure charges of ‘leaking state secrets’ and ‘endangering state security’. The total number of known political prisoners according to TCHRD database is 988.
With the increased security build-up along Tibet-Nepal border, the number of Tibetans fleeing Chinese rule in Tibet dropped drastically in 2012. As opposed to about 700 Tibetans who arrived in India in 2011, there were only 374 Tibetans who successfully evaded arrest at the hands of Chinese border guards and reached India in 2012. China continued to pressurise Nepal to crack down and forcibly repatriate Tibetans fleeing its rule. It is a known fact that the continuation of Chinese aid to Nepal is contingent on the Nepalese government’s ability to suppress Tibetan activism.
In its 2012 Annual Report, TCHRD makes the following recommendations to the Chinese government:
1. Investigate the real causes of Tibetan self-immolation protests and refrain from criminalising those who engage in such protests
2. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights into domestic legislation.
3. Sign and ratify into domestic law the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
4. Amend the 2012 amendments of Criminal Procedure Law to disallow enforced
5. Hold itself accountable to both its international and domestic law obligations. China should start enforcing its own laws.
6. Refrain from including opt-out clauses in any future National Human Rights Action Plans
7. Release all Tibetan political prisoners held in detention centres, prisons, and labour camps
8. Allow free movement of Tibetans from Kham and Amdo provinces wishing to travel to Tibet Autonomous Region particularly the Tibetan spiritual and cultural capital, Lhasa
9. Stop political education party propaganda campaigns and anti-Dalai Lama campaigns
10. Respect Tibetan people’s right to self-determination and their right to preserve and promote their culture, identity, religion and language.
To download the Tibetan version of 2012 Annual Report, please visit here