Imprisoned, beaten, threatened, killed: Free Tibet documents lives of children in Tibet on Human Rights Day

Monday, 10 December 2012

As children continue to take part in the escalating self-immolation protests against Chinese rule in Tibet (1), Free Tibet and Tibet Watch have published their comprehensive and damning submission to the United Nations committee charged with evaluating China’s record on respecting the rights of children. To mark Human Rights Day (10 December), the two groups have released their extensive report, Growing up under China’s occupation: the plight of Tibet’s children (2), to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, documenting China’s frequent, systematic and severe violations of its commitments under international law.

The report details multiple cases of children’s rights being abused, including 17-year-old Jigme Dolma (picture available), who staged an individual protest calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and the release of political prisoners. Arrested almost instantly, she was severely beaten, arbitrarily detained and later sentenced to three years imprisonment for ‘splitting China’. Utilising eyewitness accounts and direct testimony from affected Tibetans, the report also documents:

• Children beaten, shot, imprisoned and killed for standing up for their rights

• Children orphaned, threatened and assaulted because their families resist the occupation

• Children denied the right to learn their language and culture, and “educated” to be second-class citizens in their own country

• Children defying the authorities by demonstrating, sharing information, and even burning themselves to death

• How the Panchen Lama, kidnapped in 1995 by Chinese authorities at the age of six, became the world’s youngest political prisoner.

Free Tibet and Tibet Watch Director Stephanie Bridgen says:

“Tibet is a country under military occupation and repression by a one-party state; its people are denied political representation and are unable to maintain and express their culture. There can be no normal life in such a country, and no normal childhood. The children of Tibet face all the challenges of life under occupation, and in many cases are full participants in the struggle to resist it. That means they are also victims of the systematic and ever-present abuse of human rights in Tibet. On Human Rights Day, we hope we have been able to shine a light on victims whose suffering and struggle is rarely seen.”

Tibetan children are victims of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture for their political and religious beliefs, and face punishment because of the activities or beliefs of their family members. Children involved in non-violent protests have been subject to violence, including in some instances the use of lethal force by Chinese authorities. Tibetan children may be effectively orphaned when parents are killed, disappeared or unlawfully detained as a result of their political activities, and they also suffer when communities face retaliatory action following protests.

China uses education as a tool to implement its “One-China” policy. Restrictions on Tibetan language and the use of Mandarin as the language of instruction in schools disadvantages ethnic Tibetan children, affecting their chances of progressing into higher education and contributing to the economic marginalisation of Tibetans in Tibet.

UN processes are the only mechanisms for holding China to account on its human rights record. China is a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child reviews the compliance of Convention signatories with its requirements every five years. The UNCRC has the power to demand answers from China to specific questions and will consider and respond to information submitted by independent experts. China’s compliance with its obligations will initially be considered in a working group next February, before formal review at a meeting currently expected in May.


Notes for editors

(1) Seven Tibetans under 18 years of age have set themselves on fire in protests. Three are confirmed dead, including the youngest, Dorjee, aged 15 (picture available), in November 2012. The most recent, 17-year-old Sangdak Kyab, is believed to have survived his protest on 2 December 2013 but was taken by security forces and his current whereabouts are unknown. See full list of self-immolators

(2) See a two-page summary or the full report online, or contact Free Tibet for further information.

For further information and to arrange an interview with Free Tibet and Tibet Watch Director Stephanie Brigden, contact Alistair Currie:
T: +44 207 324 4619