17 March 2003
English onlyCOMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Item 17 (b) of the provisional agenda
PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS:
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Written statement* submitted by Society for Threatened Peoples,
a non-governmental organization in general consultative status
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
[6 February 2003]
Human Rights Defenders in the People’s Republic of China
The Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (A/RES/53/144) declares in article 1 that "[e]veryone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels." Article 2 states: "Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms." It is disheartening, then, to read the report of Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights defen-ders (E/CN.4/2002/106), in which she notes that human rights defenders around the world continue to suffer intimidation, arbitrary arrest, torture and extra judicial and arbitrary killing.
In her 2002 Report to this Commission, the Special Representative noted that she had transmitted information on a number of cases, including Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners, to the Government of China (paras.50-61). Lobsang Tenzin and Tenpa Wangdruk, for example, were arrested in 1991 for trying to hand a letter to then United States Ambassador James Lilley. In 1989, Jamphel Jangchup and Ngawang Pulchung were sentenced to 19 and 17 years imprisonment, respectively, for disseminating Tibetan translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government of the People’s Republic of China had not responded to the communications (para. 62).
Indeed, the Government of the People’s Republic of China remains antagonistic to human rights defenders. On January 24, 2003, China forcibly expelled Fang Jue from China. Fang was a persistent advocate of greater democracy in China. He had been imprisoned from 1998 to 2002 in response to his writings and interviews on the subject of democracy and reform. He was secretly arrested again just before the November 2002 16th Communist Party Congress. Another human rights defender, Di Tiangui was arrested in June 2002 for attempting to organize a union to protect workers' rights. The Government of the People’s Republic of China has persistently repressed all efforts to organize workers to protect their rights, or to organize in support of civil and political rights.
Tibet presents a special case because of its political situation. The cultural assimilation of Tibetans has resulted in the denial of the full spectrum of human rights. Any expression of dissent is immediately punished by arrest and, in virtually every case, torture. "Dissent" in Tibet extends to any effort of Tibetans to preserve their culture and their identity as a people with a history, language, culture, religion and political and economic systems distinct from that of the Chinese people. Therefore any act of political dissent by a Tibetan, in the face of the virtual certainty of arrest and torture, is an act of a human rights defender. Tibetan dissidents protest as a form of sacrifice and resistance on behalf of an entire people denied their fundamental rights, including their right to self-determination.
Sixty-four year old "Shol" Dawa, one of Tibet’s most well-known and respected political activists, has died while serving his third prison term at Drapchi, the "Tibet Autonomous Region Prison Number One" located on their outskirts of Lhasa. The circumstances of his death on 19 November 2000 are not known although he is said to have been suffering from a kidney ailment. He was in poor health and had been subjected to maltreatment and beatings on several occasions in the last few years. "Shol" Dawa, a Lhasa tailor, was serving a nine-year prison sentence for trying to compile a list of names of political prisoners to send out of Tibet – an offence classified as "espionage" by the Chinese authorities. It was his third and longest prison term, and he was due for release in August 2004. Dawa was one of the first Tibetans to be arrested when the "liberalisation" period began in the early 1980s. He was first imprisoned in 1981 and sentenced to two years for creating 260 cyclostyled copies of a pamphlet about Tibetan history called "Twenty years of tragic experience", written at his request by the renowned dissident scholar Geshe Lobsang Wangchug, who died in prison in 1987. The 1982 official court sentencing document stated that he had "also printed a picture of Tibet’s national flag on top of the circular". In 1985 Dawa was detained again and later sentenced to four years for writing "with his own hand some ten copies of a circular denouncing the ‘deteriorating living conditions’ " of Tibetans in Tibet, according to a copy of the court document obtained by the Tibetan government in exile.
Shol Dawa is said to have been warned on his release from this second prison term that he would be executed if he was arrested again. Six years after his second prison sentence, he was arrested for the third time in 1995. Shol Dawa and another Tibetan, Topgyal, were detained in Lhasa and accused of compiling a list of Tibetan political prisoners that they intended to send to India. The court judgement stated that they prepared the list by asking two former prisoners, Dondrub Dorje, a former driver, and Ratoe Dawa, a former monk, to compile the list from memory. The official sentencing document stated: "The Lhasa City Peoples’ Procuratorate accuse that since 1993 and 1994 the defendants Xue Dawa [Chinese transliteration of Shol Dawa] and Duobujie [Topgyal] gathered together such items as a list of names of current and released political prisoners from our region, and hand-written reactionary letters, stamping them with an ox-head stamp of their own manufacture, to report abroad to the Dalai clique. The hearing proved that between 1993 and 1994 the defendant Xue Dawa caused Dunzhu Duojie [Dondrub Dorje] and Reduo Dawa [Ratoe Dawa] to collate a list of names of current and released political prisoners from our region which they then handed over to the defendant Xue Dawa." (Criminal Verdict of the Intermediate Peoples’ Court, Lhasa, TAR,1996). The official sentencing document states that Shol Dawa was also accused of making contact with the "Dalai clique’s ‘Tibetan Women’s Federation’", which appears to be a reference to the NGO, Tibetan Women’s Association in India. Shol Dawa and Topgyal were accused of "actively accepting a mission specially appointed by foreign enemies, actively gathering various kinds of intelligence about this country within our borders and engaging in criminal activities that endangered state security".
In recent years, the denial of human rights in Tibet extended most notably to the repression of the organized practice of the Tibetan Buddhist religion. Particular targets are those monks and nuns who continue to devote their lives to preserving and teaching Tibetan Buddhism. In 2002, after the destruction of thousands of homes of Tibetan monks and nuns studying at Serthar in eastern Tibet, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok was allowed to return to Serthar after many months under de facto arrest but only under close watch. So far he does not appear to have been allowed to resume teachings to the public and his students as he used to do before. In October 2002, five Tibetans were arrested from southeastern Tibet (now in present-day Sichuan province), one of them a government official, merely for organizing a ceremony to pray for the long life of the Dalai Lama.
Most tragically, the January 26, 2003 execution of Lobsang Dhondup appears to have been intended to intimidate Tibetans into avoiding contact with Tibetan Buddhist teachers in their efforts to preserve the rich religious and cultural heritage of Tibet. Dhondup was executed following a secret trial based solely on an alleged confession, obtained almost certainly after severe torture. Authorities produced no other evidence linking Dhondup to the crime. Though accused of participating in a bombing incident, his crime appears to have been association with Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (aka Tulku Tenzin Delek), a charismatic Tibetan Buddhist monk, well-known in southeastern Tibet for his teachings and social work. Rinpoche also received a death sentence, which was suspended. In a tape recording smuggled out of prison, Rinpoche insisted on his innocence and accused Chinese authorities of having tortured him. Ten other Tibetans were arrested in connection with the incident and several have been sentenced to prison terms.
The cases of Lobsang Dhondup and Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche also highlight another concern articulated by Special Representative Jilani: that after September 11, some governments have begun to use allegations of “terrorism” as an excuse to persecute human rights defenders. In countries all over the world, new laws or policies have been put into place, allegedly to combat “terrorism,” but which by design or result threaten human rights and human rights defenders. In the United Kingdom, foreign nationals may now be detained indefinitely. In the United States, discriminatory enforcement of immigration laws may be taking place.
The unsubstantiated accusations linking Dhondup and Rinpoche to a bombing incident appear intended to begin linking Tibetans, who demand an end to human rights abuses and guarantees of their right to self-determination, to “terrorism.” Of course, governments who themselves terrorize their citizens cannot be self-appointed arbiters of who is a “terrorist.”
In conclusion, those who devote – and risk – their lives to promote and protect the human rights of others deserve every States’ protection. In the face of serious evidence of abuses perpetrated nonetheless by States such as the Government of China, they require this Commission’s focus and immediate action. We therefore request that the Commission adopt a strong resolution calling on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to protect the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people and to extend an unconditional invitation to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders to visit Tibet.
* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).