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China's human rights record in Tibet criticised at United Nations PDF Print E-mail
[29 October 2013] The Universal Periodic Review of China concluded in Geneva on 25 October. Specific concerns over Tibet were raised by 12 counties, including the UK, with many other states expressing concerns about ethnic minorities in China. Issues raised included the lack of religious freedom and cultural rights and the denial of access to Tibet of UN officials and foreign media. The Chinese government dismissed the criticisms, saying they were attempts to politicise human rights and that the best persons to know human rights in China are Chinese.

China's UPR  I  Country statements on Tibet  I  China's responseTake Action

China's Universal Periodic Review
UNHRC sessionOn 22 October 2013, China's human rights record was scrutinised at the 19th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Each UN member state udergoes the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) every four years and all states are allowed to participate and submit questions and recommendations. During China's UPR, 137 countries raised issues relating to China's human rights record. Many were critical though some, such as Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Russia, were supportive.

Concerns over Tibet
Twelve countries raised concerns over Tibet during the UPR process. Eleven countries specifically referred to Tibet during the 3-hour session on 22 October: Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. In addition, Sweden (along with Canada and United States) submitted questions referring to Tibet in advance of the UPR.

The UK delegation stated that it was concerned about the human rights situation in ethnic minority areas including Xinjiang and Tibet, in particular with respect to the protection of cultural rights and religious freedoms.

The United States called on China to protect the rights of ethnic minority groups including Tibetans... in accordance with China's Constitution and international human rights commitments

One of the strongest statements on Tibet came from Poland, which noted the Chinese government's
alleged systematic attempts to undermine the rights to freedom of religion, culture and expression of the Tibetan Buddhist community.

rights are guaranteed
Wu HailongChina responded to criticisms with a series of statements from
Mr Wu Hailong, Special Envoy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China (pictured right) and other members of the China delegation. The statements were comprised mainly of dismissive remarks, government propaganda and Communist Party rhetoric.

The Chinese delegation stated that Tibet had
experienced remarkable progress in the field of human rights with traditional cultural [rights] and freedom of religion and belief... effectively guaranteed. The "Dalai Lama clique" was blamed for the planning and instigation of the self-immolations in Tibet. In addition, it was claimed that the Dalai Lama's "obstinate demand for independence of Tibet" was the "fundamental reason for the lack of progress" in talks between Chinese and Tibetan representatives.

Criticism of the nomadic resettlement policy was rejected with claims that nomads resettled on a
voluntary basis and that the majority are happy with the project. In addition, the recent lack of access to Tibet was deemed to be due to limited capacity and the climate and geographic conditions. (Read China's full response on Tibet issues.)

On human rights in general, the delegation said, 
China is a country of rule of law, there is no way that people are punished for lawfully defending their own rights and interests. There is still less the possibility of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance.

During the concluding remarks, a Chinese spokesperson said that the criticisms were attempts to politicise Chinas human rights record, and then went to seemingly dismiss the whole UPR process by saying, 
The best persons to know human rights in China are Chinese.

Adoption of report and beyond
UN protesthe process concluded with the adoption of the Working Group report on 25 October, with 252 specific recommendations. The Chinese government does not have to formally respond to the report and its recommendations until the next session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014.

This review was the second faced by China since its inception. During the first UPR in 2009, only four countries specifically raised Tibet. The increased attention to Tibet is indicative of the broadening crisis in Tibet as well as extensive lobbying by Tibet groups and activists.

On the morning of China's UPR, Tibet activists from Students for a Free Tibet unfurled a banner on the side of the United Nation's Palais de Nations (pictured above right) which said "China fails human rights, UN stand up for Tibet". Four activists were detained but later released.

Further reading:
China's UPR: BBC I Reuters I AP (in Washington Post) I Guardian I ICT
SFT action: AFP I Reuters I Phayul
UK statement at UPR: Tibet Society report
Take ActionBackground info on UPR

Country statements on Tibet
UNHRC logoBelow are Tibet references from the official statements submitted to the UPR Working Group, and which were presented orally during Chinas UPR session on 22 October 2013. (Watch the full statements being presented at, use the index on the right side to find the relevant country.)

Canada: "Stop the prosecution and persecution of people for the practice of their religion or belief including Catholics, other Christians, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Falun Gong, and set a date for the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief."

Czech Republic: To protect ethnic and religious minorities, including Tibetans and Uyghurs, and stop all disproportionate policies against them, while addressing their discontent and peaceful protest in a non-violent dialogical way.

France: Given the concerns aroused by the human rights situation of Xinjiang and Tibet to follow up to the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief to go to this region.

Germany: To ensure full participation of members of ethnic minorities in political and economic decisions concerning them and to address grievances. Furthermore, unhindered access to all minority areas, including Tibet, should be a matter of course."

Iceland: Iceland strongly encourages China to facilitate the access of Special Rapporteurs on various human rights issues in Tibetan areas and to repel any unreasonable restriction on the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

Japan: Human rights and the fundamental freedoms must be ensured for minority groups such as Tibetans and Uyghurs. Japan recommends that further efforts be made to securing all human rights, including cultural rights, for minorities.

New Zealand: New Zealand has been a consistent supporter of dialogue to achieve meaningful outcomes that address the interests of all communities in Tibet, and therefore recommends China resume the two-way dialogue in Tibet.

Poland: Poland notes the joint communications of eight special procedures with regard to alleged systematic attempts to undermine the rights to freedom of religion, culture and expression of the Tibetan Buddhist community. Poland recommends that China takes the necessary measures to ensure that the rights to freedom of religion, culture and expression are fully observed and protected in every administrative entity of China.

Switzerland: Switzerland takes note of the candidacy of China for the [Human Rights] Council. In this context Switzerland recommends that they facilitate visits of OHCHR and Special Procedures including to Tibetan and Uyghur areas.

United Kingdom: We also remain concerned about the human rights situation in ethnic minority areas including Xinjiang and Tibet, in particular with respect to the protection of cultural rights and religious freedoms. (Read the UK's full statement here.)

United States: Protect the rights of ethnic minority groups including Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians, in accordance with China's Constitution and international human rights commitments.

Written questions
(submitted prior to the UPR)
"What actions are being considered by China in Xinjiang and the Tibet Autonomous Region to enable all people to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and religion and belief?"

Sweden: "While the protection of all ethnic groups is safeguarded by the Chinese Constitution, the rights of certain ethnic groups are subject to systematic violations, including restrictions on their freedom of religion and culture. Uighurs and Tibetans are particularly targeted groups, as are ethnic minority human rights defenders such as Dohondrup Wangcheng (sic), Jigme Gyatso and Hiarat Niyaz. What steps are the Government of the PRC taking to ensure freedom of religion, movement and culture for all ethnic groups?"

United States: "Will China commit to ending restrictions on the religious practices of Tibetans, including ensuring that Tibetan Buddhist clergy are allowed to select monastic teachers under Buddhist procedures and standards, and that Tibetan Buddhists are allowed to openly express their respect for or devotion to Tibetan Buddhist teachers, including the Dalai Lama? Will China commit to guarantee all Chinese citizens, including Tibetans, Uighurs, and other ethnic minorities, their universal rights to freedom of religion, expression, assembly, association, and movement? Will China commit now to resuming direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama, or his representatives, without preconditions?"

China's response to statements and questions on Tibet
China flagComments and answers to statements and questions on Tibet by the China delegation at China's UPR on 22 October 2013. (Transcribed from, starts at 1:43:10)

China delegate (name unclear):  "I would like to answer questions on Tibet raised by USA and UK delegates. The region of Tibet has experienced remarkable progress in the field of human rights. Four years in a row GDP grew at a rate above 12%, with average annual growth rate in per capita income exceeding 10%, which is above the national average.

After more than 60 years since its peaceful liberation, illiteracy rate in Tibet has gone down from 95% to 1.2%, average per capita life expectancy up from 35.5 to 67 years, population of permanent residents up from 1.3 million to 3 million, with Tibetan and other ethnic minorities accounting for 91.83%. Their traditional cultural and freedom of religion and belief are effectively guaranteed.

There have been instances of self-immolation in individual Tibetan populated regions. We are deeply distressed with the tragic loss of life and we did all we could to protect the physical safety of our citizens. China's traditional organs have made investigations of some cases and have made public their findings. There is clear evidence to show that the instances took place in the context of planning, instigational, organisational implementation by the Dalai Lama clique behind the scenes.

A former member of the so-called parliament of the Dalai clique even uploaded on the internet a self-immolation guide with instructions on how to pick the days, places, ways and slogans for self-immolation. This shows the truth that the incidents were instigated by the clique.

The Central Government of China has always kept the door open to Dalai Lama for engagement and talks. The fundamental reason for the lack of progress is his obstinate demand for independence of Tibet. It is imperative that Dalai Lama demonstrates good will, generally give up his stance of splitting the country and putting an end to his activities for this purpose, so that conditions will be created for engagement and talks.

The affordable housing project in Tibetan populated areas is implemented on a voluntary basis. The idea is to move people from old houses where people and animals even live under the same roof to safe and comfortable new houses. 90% of the new houses are built, renovated or expanded on the site. The project has improved the living conditions for local people without changing their production lifestyle. The majority of them are happy with the project.

Friends from outside China are welcome to visit Tibet. In recent years the region has played host to many delegations including ambassadors from USA, Australia and EU Special Representative for Human Rights. Unfortunately due to limited capacity and the climate and geographic conditions it has been impossible to accommodate all the requests for a visit."

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