New Internationalist

China’s oppression of Tibetans has dramatically increased

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The country fears that if they don’t completely crush any form of protest they will lose control. Emily Korstanje reports.

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In Dutch, the poster says 'China stop torturing Tibetans to death.' by Emily Korstanje

‘They would hang me up for several hours with my hands tied to a rope…once I was beaten continuously for two days with nothing to eat nor a drop of water to drink,’ said Labrang Jigme, a Tibetan monk arrested for peaceful protesting in Tibet. ‘The second time I was unconscious for six days unable to open my eyes or speak a word.’

Upon being released, Jigme was forced to sign a document stating that he was not tortured.

After the Chinese military took over Tibet in 1949, Tibetans have been treated as second-class citizens in their own country. They are kicked out of their homes and sent to townships so the government can ‘develop’ occupied spaces. Over 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed and those survived are not being used by monks, but ironically, are used as spiritual attractions for – mostly Chinese – tourists while they tighten Tibetans’ religious freedom. Areas that were once spiritual spots and pure nature are used as nuclear waste sites. Worst of all, Tibetans do not have freedom of speech, religion or movement. Many passports have been recalled and the borders are closed, trapping Tibetans in the country as their culture and land diminishes.

I was beaten continuously for two days with nothing to eat nor a drop of water to drink

‘They are destroying our people, beautiful culture, and land,’ said social worker and Tibetan refugee, Sonam Sangpo.

According to International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), massive peaceful protests in 2008 led to an intensive crackdown on the country with more than 600 Tibetans imprisoned and approximately 150 self-immolations – Tibetans light themselves on fire as an individual form of protests against oppression.

‘The Chinese government fears that if they don’t completely crush any form of protest they will lose control of Tibetans,’ said Executive Director of International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Europe, Tsering Jampa. ‘Instead of trying to assess why Tibetans self-immolate and change the situation, they come down harder and more fierce each time.’

Emily Korstanje
International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)'s European director, Tsering Jampa, gathering signatures for the campaign. Emily Korstanje

Recent evidence shows that there has been a significant increase of Tibetan political prisoners since the protests, and torture has become more widespread than ever. Because of these outstanding cases, in November 2015, the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) met with China officials and asked them to account for ‘deeply entrenched’ torture and ill treatment, according to a published report by ICT.

‘It (the report) also reflects alarm at China’s attempts to subvert criticism of its record on human rights and to distort the reality,’ said Executive Director of ICT Germany, Kai Mueller. For example, when ICT brought forward torture devices that were used on prisoners, Chinese officials argued they were made comfortable with cushions so they could no longer be considered torture devices.

‘We had a Tibetan monk who was able to escape prison, testify and show examples of the torture devices that were used on him,’ Jampa said. ‘Chinese officials refused to acknowledge this case and many other cases brought before them.’

The Dalai Lama is simply asking that Tibetans have the same rights and freedom as the Chinese have

Another case brought before CAT included a Tibetan man who was shot and killed while trying to intervene on behalf of an elderly monk who was beaten with an iron rod in the prison. The elderly man later died of what Chinese officials called ‘natural causes’ even though his body showed obvious signs of torture and brutal beatings.

China refused to acknowledge these cases because of the ‘unverifiable nature of information’. CAT strongly urged China to provide more insight on these brutal cases, which have created a lot of distress among Tibetans.

China has been able to continue and intensify their control because they have successfully closed Tibet off from the rest of the world. So during the UN’s confrontation with China, ICT, which focuses on monitoring and reporting on Tibetan human rights and advocating for Tibetans imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs, ran a campaign in the Netherlands against torture in Tibet. This was to raise awareness about the abuse that Tibetans are subjected to and to gather signatures to put pressure on European government officials who would then put pressure on the Chinese government.

Emily Korstanje
Emily Korstanje

International Campaign for Tibet has helped several prisoners such as Ngawang Sangdrol, Phuntsog Nyidron and Dhondup Wangchen get released; each who share horrific stories of their imprisonment.

China refuses to give up Tibet due to its strategic location, land space, natural resources, and the fact that there are now more Chinese in Tibet than Tibetans because of immigration. Therefore, the Dalai Lama – Tibetans’ spiritual leader currently living in exile in India – has pleaded with the Chinese government to make Tibet truly autonomous so people can have freedom of speech, religion, and movement.

‘The Dalai Lama is not asking that the Chinese leave, we know it is too late for that,’ Sangpo said. ‘He is simply asking that Tibetans have the same rights and freedom as the Chinese have. We all ask for that and for the preservation of our beautiful culture.’

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