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UN Human Rights Chief condemns China's policies in Tibet PDF Print E-mail
[3 November 2012] The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on the Chinese government to address the crisis in Tibet. Mrs Pillay said she recognised the "intense sense of frustration and despair" which has led to over 60 Tibetan self-immolations. She also condemned the Chinese government's heavy security measures and suppression of human rights in Tibet.

Navi PillayTibet support groups, including Tibet Society, having been pressing the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak out about the situation in Tibet. On 30 August a joint letter was sent to Mrs Pillay (pictured right) urging her to make Tibet an urgent priority, to speak out over the human rights abuses in Tibet and to engage with the Chinese government to bring an end to the current crisis.

The High Commissioner broke her silence on Tibet on 2 November, in a statement released just one week before China's National Congress which is expected to see a change in leadership.

In the statement, Mrs Pillay said she was disturbed by "continuing allegations of violence against Tibetans seeking to exercise their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression, association and religion," and pointed to "reports of detentions and disappearances, of excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and curbs on the cultural rights of Tibetans".

I have had several exchanges with the Chinese government on these issues. But more needs to be done to protect human rights and prevent violations, Mrs Pillay said. I call on the [Chinese] government to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and to release all individuals detained for merely exercising these universal rights.

With respect to the self-immolations, the High Commissioner said, I recognise Tibetans intense sense of frustration and despair which has led them to resort to such extreme means, but there are other ways to make those feelings clear. The [Chinese] government also needs to recognise this, and permit Tibetans to express their feelings without fear of retribution.

Condemning China's policies in Tibet, Mrs Pillay stated, Social stability in Tibet will never be achieved through heavy security measures and suppression of human rights. Deep underlying issues need to be addressed, and I call on the [Chinese] government to seriously consider the recommendations made to it by various international human rights bodies, as well as to avail itself of the expert advice being offered by the UNs independent experts on human rights.

Mrs Pillay also called on the Chinese authorities to allow independent human rights monitors to visit Tibet and to lift restrictions on media access to Tibetan regions. She also noted that there are 12 outstanding requests for official visits to China by UN Special Rapporteurs on various human rights issues.

Following the release of Mrs Pillay's condemnation of the Chinese government, Sikyong (Tibetan equivalent of Prime Minister) Dr Lobsang Sangay said the Tibetan government in exile is encouraged by Mrs Pillays statement and considered the statement a true recognition of the urgent and tragic situation in Tibet".

Hong Lei[UPDATE 6 November] The Chinese government has criticised the High Commissioner's statement, called on Mrs Pillay to stop interfering in China's domestic affairs and claimed Tibetans are content and all their rights are respected.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei (pictured right) said, "We [the Chinese government] are dissatisfied with and strongly opposed to the high commissioner's statement." Mr Hong added (quoting China.org.cn - an official state website), "China hopes the high commissioner will uphold an objective, fair and neutral stance, and stop issuing remarks interfering in China's domestic affairs."

Mr Hong also said (quoting China.org.cn), "People in Tibet are enjoying economic growth, social stability and a settled life. Their religious, political, economic and cultural rights are guaranteed" and that "people in Tibetan-populated regions are satisfied with the current situation".

According to the state website, Mr Hong also claimed the "Dalai Lama clique clamorously prettified" the self-immolations in Tibet which were "China's laws and religious doctrine".

Mr Hong was quoted as saying, "The clique has talked black into white, passed the buck to the Chinese government, and made accusations about China's national and religious policies. Such despicable behavior with the sacrifice of other people's lives goes against human morals and conscience, and should be severely condemned."

Further reading: Full UN statement I RFA I BBC I Reuters I Phayul
Warning: the Phayul report contains a graphic image of a self-immolation
China's response: Reuters (5/11) I China.org.cn* (6/11)
*China.org.cn is a portal run under the auspices of the Chinese government
Background to self-immolations


Tibet Society, the worlds first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. (Annual membership 24; Overseas 36; Life 500).

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