China taken to task at the UN for its human rights record in Tibet

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

China was forced to defend its human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council today when it underwent its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

China, like every United Nations member state, is subject to a review of its human rights record every five years at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Several countries used the UPR to raise the decline in China’s human rights record. Nine states gave particular focus to Tibet, issuing 12 recommendations between them. This is an increase on 2013, when 11 recommendations were issued mentioning Tibet, and 2009, when there were four.

The recommendations on Tibet included urging China to allow international observers into Tibet, respecting Tibetans’ rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression and calling for the release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for “inciting separatism”.

New Zealand, reiterating a recommendation that it made at China’s last review in 2013, urged China to restart the two-way dialogue on Tibet, the rounds of negotiations over the future of Tibet that were carried out between the Office of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government until their suspension in 2010.

The Chinese delegation responded to the recommendations and claims that its human rights record had deteriorated, asserting that the countries behind these claims were disregarding China’s “remarkable achievements”.

During the debate, around 1,000 people, including Tibetans, Uighurs and supporters, carried out a protest against China’s ongoing abuses. Protesters carried banners condemning the internment of an estimated one million Uighurs in Chinese prison camps and the lack of freedoms in Tibet, which has seen more than 150 self-immolation protests since 2009. The group marched from Lake Geneva to the Broken Chair sculpture outside the Palace of Nations, headquarters of the Human Rights Council.

The mass detention of, and other abuses against, the Uighur people were raised by a number of countries at the UPR today, along with abuses against Chinese people, such as the harassment and detention of human rights lawyers.

Free Tibet and its research partner, Tibet Watch, have been heavily active during the UPR process. The organisations submitted a detailed list of human rights abuses in Tibet to the Human Rights Council in March. Since then, Free Tibet and Tibet Watch have met with the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and numerous foreign embassies, requesting that these countries raise Tibet at the UPR. Among those countries that Free Tibet and Tibet Watch met were Denmark, France and New Zealand, who issued four recommendations between them.

Nearly 2,000 Free Tibet supporters also contacted their governments, urging them to raise Tibet at the UPR.

Free Tibet and Tibet Watch Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“Today we have seen a number of countries take the vital step of speaking up for Tibet at the United Nations. International pressure works. That is why China has gone to such extreme lengths to cover up its human rights abuses in Tibet and why it consistently tries to intimidate countries that make even the mildest criticisms of these abuses.

“The scrutiny and strong questioning we saw today was welcome, especially after months of hard work by Tibetans, along with Free Tibet, Tibet Watch and others. However, what we saw at the UN today must be the start of something bigger. Those countries who spoke out today must follow up on their recommendations and ensure that China is following up on them, making sure that Beijing is held fully accountable for what it has done to the Tibetan people."


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