Global human rights lens on China sharpens as UN Periodic Review continues

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Chinese government decree on satellite dish use
A People’s Republic of China government decree document that has been distributed to Tibetans living in the Tso-Ngon Province asks that “From the day this document is issued, every organization or individual must stop the illegal selling, installing, and use of satellite signal receivers for TV and radio.” This government injunction is an attempt by Chinese officials to stop Tibetan access to media information that is located outside China’s borders. Image: Ling Lhamo

(WNN) Dharamsala, INDIA, SOUTHERN ASIA: As the microscope lens on China’s human rights record sharpens, the government of the People’s Republic of China has released what human rights advocates say is a new paper containing ‘stunning claims’ showing all gains instead of losses in Chinese society today. The white paper report reached a public newspaper in China to coincide with the personal appearance of officials from China at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for the seventeenth session of the UN Universal Periodic Review.

“Democratic reform and regional ethnic autonomy lifted Tibet out of the old state of feudal serfdom under theocracy and put in place the systems of people’s congress and regional ethnic autonomy, under which people of all ethnic groups in Tibet have become the true masters of the country, society and their own fate,” outlined the China government release.

Although the Chinese government does not recognize the term “Tibetan indigenous people,” Tibetan ethnic minorities which are part of 56 separate ethnic minority groups currently living inside China, don’t agree by a long stretch that the government of China has done a good job. On the contrary, tensions in China’s southwestern region have spurred over 100 self-immolation suicide protests, including the November 2011 self-immolation of Buddhist nun Ms. Palden Choetso as protesters have demanded their need for freedom of religion and cultural identity. Ms. Palden is not the only Buddhist nun to die by suicide in the past years from self-immolation.

Today a majority of young Tibetans do not speak the language that is part of their family heritage because it is frowned upon by the government, and especially the military forces that are assigned to ‘keep the peace’ in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

A recent China government release gives a glowing account of decades of progress in the Tibetan region, including a 60 year rise in per-capita net income for agricultural workers with disposable income for urban dwellers, as well as growth in regional manufacturing. But global advocates for human rights have now sent a strong message back that contrasts starkly with China’s government assessments.

“Indeed the release of the white paper on the day of China’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council was a strategic move,” outlined the TCHRD – Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a non-governmental human rights organization that began in 1996 to report human rights violations against Tibetans currently living inside the Chinese region, as well as those who have escaped the region and now live in exile.

“The white paper suggests that economic development is the sole indicator of China’s respect for human rights in Tibet. But what has human rights got to do with the possession of a motorcycle or a refrigerator?” added TCHRD.

Other human rights watchdog groups like the Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association (STFA), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and PEN International, as well as numerous others, also released their own reports for the UN Human Rights Council during the current United Nations Review. Numerous reports reveal China’s increasing military impunity with faltering records of detailed human rights violations.

China based human rights activists Ms. Cao Shunli and Ms. Chen Jianfang are members of the Shanghai Rights Defenders who have publicly protested inside China numerous times to bring issues of China’s human rights violations to the attention of the public. As the women were both set to come to the UN in hopes of being able to be part of a UN training on international human rights advocacy Ms. Chen was placed under detention and Ms. Cao completely disappeared while both women were  waiting to board the same airplane in China on September 14, 2013. Ms. Cao’s family has recently been informed that Cao Shunli is currently incarcerated at the Beijing First Prison. Ms. Chen Jianfang has been barred from traveling outside of China for life.

“These reports suggest there have been acts of reprisals against people who seek to cooperate with the UN,” outlined Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. “Defenders play a key role in holding States to account for the implementation of their human rights obligations, including at the international level. Their legitimate work should be fully respected,” continued Sekaggya.

Chiming in on China’s deteriorating human rights record the United States Congress also recently released information highlighting human rights violations in China.

“Citizens clamored for more information about the safety of their environment and food, but authorities deemed soil pollution data a ‘state secret’. Corruption was a top concern for many in China, but authorities detained anticorruption advocates and censored foreign news stories about the finances of China’s leaders and their families. Despite dozens more self-immolations in Tibetan areas of China and some of the worst unrest in Xinjiang since 2009, Chinese officials continued to rely on heavier security and tighter control instead of dialogue and reconciliation,” said the U.S. government report put together by the U.S. Executive Congressional Commission on China (2013).

In spite of what watchdog groups call ‘decades of efforts’ by the Chinese government to mask human rights violations in the region, not everyone in leadership positions inside China believes that restricted freedom of expression should be an ongoing part of China’s official government policy.

“I often say that we should not only let people have the freedom of speech, we more importantly must create conditions to let them criticize the work of the government. It is only when there is the supervision and critical oversight from the people that the government will be in a position to do an even better job, and employees of government departments will be the true public servants of the people. All these must be conducted within the range allowed by the constitution and the laws. So that the country will have a normal order, and that is all the more necessary for such a large country as China with 1.3 billion people,” said China’s now former Premier Wen Jiabao in 2010 during what is now a Chinese government censured interview conducted by CNN news anchor Fareed Zakaria.

The 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review will be held in Geneva from October 21 to November 1.

Countries under review during this UN session are Saudi Arabia, Senegal, China, Nigeria, Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan, Malaysia, the Central African Republic, Monaco, Belize, Chad, Israel, the Congo and Malta. China’s review occurred on October 22, but final formal statements on the assessment of China from the UN have yet to be released.

“Is China intending to respond positively to the thirteen outstanding visit requests of Special rapporteurs in the near future or considering issuing a standing invitation?,” asked the country of the Netherlands during the China Review process,” asked Norway’s representatives to the UN during the Review process.

Numerous acts of enforced disappearances by the government of China, including the arbitrary arrest of Chinese activist Ms. Cao Shunli has now also been officially placed on the review plate at during the recent UN Review session.

“In June 2011, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances called on Chinese authorities ‘to provide full information on the fate and whereabouts of persons who have disappeared,’ including ‘Tibetan monks whose fate or whereabouts still remain unknown’…,” outlined the United States while attending discussions at the UN Universal Periodic Review.


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