Tashi Wangchuk, religious freedom raised at United Nations

Tashi Wangchuk, who has been in detention for 14 months
Tashi Wangchuk, who has been in detention for 14 months

16th March 2017

China's record criticised at UN Human Rights Council debate

China’s human rights record, including human rights abuses in Tibet, came under criticism from a number of countries this week at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The critical statements came on Tuesday during a debate at the Council’s 34th session in which countries raised issues that require the Council’s attention.

The human rights concerns raised included the continued detention of the Tibetan language rights advocate Tashi Wangchuk and broader concerns around freedom of religion and the continued arrest of human rights activists.

Malta, delivering the statement from the European Union delegation, reiterated the EU’s call for a number of political prisoners to be released. Among the prisoners named was Tashi Wangchuk, who has been in detention since January 2016 having appeared in a New York Times article and video in late 2015 about his advocacy for bilingual education for Tibetan children.

The EU also called upon China to respect "cultural diversity and freedom of religion, not least in Tibet and Xinjiang".

A representative from Germany, in a separate statement to the EU, said that the German government remained "deeply concerned" about the human rights situation in China including Tibet and Xinjiang. Referring to the "widespread" human rights abuses in China, Germany urged China to respect fundamental rights and rule of law and immediately release all detained human rights defenders. Germany said that it was closely following a growing number of human rights cases, including that of Tashi Wangchuk.

The American and Canadian delegations expressed concerns over pressure on human rights defenders and lawyers in China, with the USA criticising Beijing’s attempts to deny rights to Tibetans and Uyghurs.

The politics of human rights

China used its statement to defend itself and called on other countries to avoid the politicisation of human rights issues. It criticised what it called the "unwarranted" accusations from the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Despite the criticisms of its poor human rights record, China was re-elected to the Human Rights Council in October 2016, with no other countries from Asia running against it for their place. China will remain on the Council until 2019.

Take action

Tashi Wangchuk remains in detention and could face trial any time. If found guilty, he would face up to 15 years in jail. We need to be ready for whatever comes next. Tell your embassy in China to monitor his case and to send observers to any trial that he might face.