The United Nations human rights chief today urged China to address the allegations of rights violations in Tibet, which have led to an alarming escalation of “desperate” forms of protest in the region, including self-immolations.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi 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.”
Ms. Pillay, who has had several exchanges with the Chinese Government on these issues, according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said authorities need to do more to protect human rights and prevent violations.
“I call on the Government to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and to release all individuals detained for merely exercising these universal rights,” she said.
Among the cases reported is that of a 17-year-old girl who was severely beaten and sentenced to three years in prison for distributing flyers calling for Tibet’s freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama. Others have been sentenced to up to seven years in prison for writing essays, making films or distributing photos of events in Tibet outside of China. Serious concerns have also been raised about fair trial standards, and the torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
The human rights chief appealed to Tibetans to refrain from resorting to extreme forms of protest and urged community and religious leaders to use their influence to help prevent any further loss of life.
“I recognize Tibetans’ intense sense of frustration and despair which has led them to resort to such extreme means,” she noted, “but there are other ways to make those feelings clear. The Government also needs to recognize this, and permit Tibetans to express their feelings without fear of retribution.”
Ms. Pillay also urged the Government to allow independent and impartial monitors to visit and assess conditions on the ground and to lift restrictions on media access to the region. There are currently 12 outstanding requests for official visits to China by UN Special Rapporteurs on various human rights issues, including freedom of religion and belief.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
“Deep underlying issues need to be addressed, and I call on the 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 UN’s independent experts on human rights,” she said, adding that OHCHR stands ready to assist on these issues and promote best practices with regard to the protection of minorities.
In a separate development, OHCHR today welcomed last week’s announcement of the passage of China’s first mental health law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
“We have only just received the Chinese text of the law and we have not yet managed to analyze it in detail but we understand that it addresses some key areas of concern. For example, it provides that individuals with psychiatric conditions who are deemed unlikely to cause harm to themselves or others should not be held in psychiatric institutions against their will,” OHCHR’s spokesperson, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva.
“The law should provide an important framework for civil society in China to monitor and advocate on mental health care issues, and for persons suffering such disabilities to better claim their rights and entitlements,” he added.