HUMAN RIGHTS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Behind Beijing's crackdown in Tibet
, March 29, 2008
Human rights activists want Beijing to be held accountable for the massive and continuing abuses taking place in China today. Peter Westmore reports.The Beijing regime is taking reprisals against Tibetans who have demonstrated in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and other Tibetan towns, against China's continuing occupation of their country.
The protests commemorated the 49th anniversary of a popular uprising against China's military occupation of Tibet which was ruthlessly suppressed, causing hundreds of thousands of Tibetans, led by their religious leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee the country. The Dalai Lama now lives in India.
The Tibetans have had to endure 50 years of the brutal suppression of their Buddhist religion, political control from distant Beijing, the imposition of Chinese language and the immigration of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese, which has made Tibetans a minority in their own homeland.
According to the Free Tibet campaign, over a million people have died over the past 50 years directly as a result of the Chinese occupation."Genocide"
In 1959 and 1960, the International Commission of Jurists concluded that there was a prima facie case of genocide against Beijing, over its treatment of the Tibetan people and their culture.
The Dalai Lama recently used the same word to describe the Chinese occupation of his homeland.
While Western governments, including the United States and Australia, have called for China to exercise "restraint" in Tibet, none has called for an independent examination of what China has done in the country over the past 50 years.
With Beijing preparing to host the Olympic Games, this is the least that should be done, particularly as the regime promised that human rights would be improved as a result of this event.
There is particular concern in New Zealand, which is due to sign a free trade agreement with China next month.
The suppression of the Tibetan people has been systematic and brutal.
Dr Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, visited China and Tibet between November 21 and December 2, 2005, and his report was published in March 2006.
His visit was seen at the time as evidence that China would comply with its obligations to end the imprisonment and torture of political opponents, after China signed the UN Convention against Torture.
However, Dr Nowak said that he was "struck by the strictness of prison discipline and a palpable level of fear and self-censorship when talking to detainees".
He also confirmed that a variety of torture methods are still widely and systematically used, including beatings, use of electric-shock batons, submersion in pits of sewage, exposure to conditions of extreme heat or cold, deprivation of sleep, food or water, prolonged solitary confinement, denial of medical treatment and hard labour.
His report highlighted the incentives for the police and security officials to obtain confessions through torture and noted the lack of independent, fair and accessible courts and prosecutors, as well as the ambiguity of the domestic law regarding political crimes, policies of re-education and strict control on freedom of religion, expression and association.
Among those who have been most severely persecuted are Falun Gong practitioners, members of the Tibetan (Buddhist) and Uighur (Muslim) minorities, other religious groups and human rights activists.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture managed an on-site inspection of Drapchi Prison and the recently opened Chushur (Chinese: Qushui) Prison near Lhasa, and noted his particular concern with sanctions placed on Tibetan monks, including prohibition on prayers and religious worship.
He expressed concern that some prisoners are only "allowed outside of their cells for 20 minutes per day" and noted complaints about "the food, the extreme temperatures experienced in the cells during the summer and winter months and a general feeling of weakness due to lack of exercise".
One of the key émigré groups, Students for a Free Tibet, called for the Olympic Torch, a symbol of peace and freedom, not to be carried through Tibet on its way to Beijing, as it will be seen as a form of recognition of Beijing's repression in Tibet.
Even before China was selected to host the Games in 2001, international opinion was sharply divided between those who thought the Games could help reform the world's largest totalitarian state and those who thought they would simply validate the regime.
Without question, the Communist Party is eager to stage a successful Olympics, and the Chinese public is ecstatic about holding the Games. The Beijing regime regards the event as a coming-out party to highlight its economic success and emergence as a world power.
But with power and respect comes responsibility to both its own people and the international community. Beijing cannot have it both ways.
Human rights activists are determined to ensure that the Beijing Olympics provide an occasion to hold the regime accountable for the massive and continuing abuses taking place in the country today.- Peter Westmore