Human Rights: March 2009 Archives
By David Barboza | THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 24, 2009
Nearly 100 people, most of them monks, were being held in a Tibetan area of northwestern China after a crowd attacked a police station there on Saturday, according to the state-controlled media.
The authorities, who said they had restored order in the region, said 6 people were arrested and 89 others had "surrendered" to the police. The attack involved monks from the Ragya Monastery in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Golog in Qinghai Province.
The riot was the latest and biggest skirmish this month between ethnic Tibetans and Chinese authorities and comes as Tibet and adjoining areas face growing tensions amid a series of historically delicate anniversaries.
China's Tibetan region consists largely of Tibet and several bordering provinces that have large Tibetan populations. The police said the unrest broke out Saturday after rumors spread in the region about a man being investigated by the police and then disappearing after he broke Chinese law by advocating Tibetan independence.
China has sent thousands of troops to Tibetan areas in the northwest part of the country to guard against a repeat of the anti-Chinese riots that occurred last March, when Tibetans rioted in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, killing some Han Chinese.
While China is celebrating the 50th anniversary of what it calls the liberation of Tibet from serfdom this March, many Tibetans are calling for independence and marking the date when China took control over the region and forced its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee into exile in India.
Much of the region is closed to journalists and independent observers, making it difficult to verify the government reports.
Several journalists who have entered the region have been detained or forced to leave.
In recent weeks, China has released a series of papers on how its rule has created a safer and more prosperous Tibet. Beijing has also repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of advocating independence for Tibet. He insists he is seeking only autonomy, not secession.
But in Tibetan areas, where there remains a great deal of support for the Dalai Lama, there are frequent reports of small uprisings. Last Monday, a bomb was set off in a government building in a Tibetan part of western China's Sichuan Province. About a week earlier, a police car and a fire truck were damaged by minor explosions in a Tibetan part of Qinghai.
Last week, the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India, released a seven-minute video, which is being shown on YouTube*), that purports to show Chinese police officers brutally beating Tibetans last March following the riots in Lhasa. There has been no independent confirmation that the footage is authentic.
*) TAC: blocked by the Government of Communist China
The New York Times Editorial
March 18, 2009
It was impossible not to notice that the United States removed China from its list of top 10 human rights violators just as the biggest anti-China protests in 20 years erupted in Tibet. Even when handed that undeserved dispensation, the Beijing government cannot control its authoritarian nature.
A week of protests in Tibet turned violent last Friday as Chinese security forces clashed with hundreds of Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans. Information was hard to verify -- nearly all foreigners are barred from entering and Tibetans have no freedom -- but news reports said a market in the capital was burned; at least 16, and perhaps many more, people were killed; and paramilitary police and troops were deployed. Over the weekend, rioting spread to neighboring provinces, and demonstrations even reached Beijing.
The protests began March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The Chinese took Tibet by force in 1951, and the region has been a source of tension ever since. Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama -- who, much to Beijing's fury, met President Bush at the White House last October -- has urged greater religious and cultural freedom for Tibet. But talks with Beijing have gone nowhere.
To earn the right to play host to this summer's Olympics, Beijing promised to improve its human rights record. As its behavior in Tibet -- and the recent arrest of the human rights advocate Hu Jia and others -- demonstrates, China does not take that commitment seriously.
In its annual human rights report on 190 countries, the State Department conceded that Beijing's overall performance remained poor. But in what looked like a political payoff to a government whose help America desperately needs on difficult problems, the department dropped China from its list of 10 worst violators.
Whatever gain China may have gotten from being elevated above the likes of North Korea, Myanmar, Iran and Sudan was lost by the crackdown on Tibet.
China had a chance to shine for its Olympic coming-out party and is blowing it. Its leaders will continue to have to battle protests and unrest -- and endure international reproach -- until they ensure more freedom for all their citizens, including greater religious tolerance and freedom for Tibet.
By The Epoch Times
March 15, 2009
The family of respected Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng arrived in New York at JFK airport on Saturday night at about 10 PM. Gao's wife Geng He, and their two children, aged 16 and 5, began their escape from China weeks ago and finally arrived in the U.S. on Wednesday March 11.
In a complicated and dangerous plan that involved escape on foot, by train and air travel, the three have defected from China to seek safety from the Chinese Communist Party.
Their escape was aided by human traffickers and several groups, including Friends of Gao Zhisheng, the Global Association for the Rescue of Gao Zhisheng, and the U.N. Refugee Agency.
The escape began on January 9, when Geng He her two children began the trip from Beijing, fleeing for the border to Thailand. Geng He spoke of a harrowing journey in a Radio Free Asia interview earlier this week. "We left from Beijing. We took the train. With the help of friends, we escaped the police and slowly and step by step arrived at a second country. Many things happened during that time, but I can't recall them now. We were on the road day and night, and it was very tough. I don't even remember the places we traveled through."
When asked why she decided to escape from China, Geng He said, "The Chinese regime had been monitoring my family closely for a long time, and it had brought great inconvenience to our life and work. My daughter Gege was not able to attend school, and she became self-destructive and suicidal. I had no place to turn to, so I fled with my children."
Gao Zhisheng's whereabouts are presently unknown. Gao was abducted from his home in Shanxi by Chinese police on February 4, and has not been seen since. Gao had been detained previously after having written three open letters to China's top leaders, as well as the U.S. Congress urging Chinese leaders to cease their persecution of Christians and Falun Gong practitioners. He was a top contender for the Nobel Peace Prize last year and was formerly recognized as a top human rights lawyer in China.
It has been over 2 years since Gao's connections to the outside world were cut off by the regime. In May 2007, the American Board of Trial Advocates granted Gao the Courageous Advocacy Award.
In September 2007, Gao was kidnapped again. During the 13 days, he was stripped naked and laid on the floor. He was hit by electron batons all over his body including his genitals, and even had toothpicks stuck into his genitals. When Gao regained consciousness, he found himself soaked in urine.
Editorial - The New York Times
March 11, 2009
The Dalai Lama is a man of peace and forbearance. So it is a measure of Tibet's suffering and growing desperation that he accused China's government on Tuesday of turning Tibet into a "hell on earth." We only hope Beijing heeds his warnings before it is too late.
The Tibetan spiritual leader still advocates a "middle way" of nonviolence. But China stubbornly refuses to pursue serious compromise on Tibet.
The Dalai Lama spoke out on the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising. After the Chinese military crushed the rebellion, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee across the Himalayas to India. Since then, he said, Beijing has suppressed Tibet's religion, culture, language and identity to near extinction. He charged that Chinese authorities viewed the Tibetan people as "criminals deserving to be put to death."
China has invested heavily in recent years to improve the quality of life in Tibet. But that is canceled out by harsh restrictions on the Tibetans' rights. That repression has increased significantly after anti-China riots erupted in Tibet's capital last year.
We accept that Beijing must protect lives and property from unrest. But it responded to the 50th anniversary with force rather than reason by sending in thousands more troops, ordering monks to stay indoors and cutting off cellphone and Internet services. That level of repression is intolerable and unsustainable.
Beijing insists that the Dalai Lama's real plan is to break Tibet away from China, even though he has repeatedly endorsed autonomy. It is long past time for serious talks to test the Dalai Lama's intentions.
The revered, 73-year-old leader has so far managed to deflect demands for independence. But Tibetans are increasingly frustrated. And when the Dalai Lama dies, Beijing will lose its best interlocutor for resolving the dispute peacefully.
This week, China's president, Hu Jintao, called for building a "Great Wall" of stability in Tibet. But without serious negotiations, and a political solution, there will be only instability -- just what Beijing's leaders fear.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
By Edward Wong
Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting from Beijing, and Hari Kumar from New Delhi
March 10, 2009
The Dalai Lama delivered on Tuesday one of his harshest attacks on the Chinese government in recent times, saying that the Chinese Communist Party had transformed Tibet into a "hell on earth" and that the Chinese authorities regard Tibetans as "criminals deserving to be put to death."
"Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction," said the Dalai Lama, 73, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans.
Those words came during a blistering speech made Tuesday morning in Dharamsala, India, the Himalayan hill town that is the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Tibetans outside of China and their supporters held rallies around the world on Tuesday to mark the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The Chinese military crushed the rebellion, forcing the Dalai Lama to flee across the Himalayas to India.
The furious tone of the Dalai Lama's speech may have been in reaction to a new clampdown by China on the Tibetan regions. The Dalai Lama might also have adopted an angry approach to placate younger Tibetans who have accused the Dalai Lama of being too conciliatory toward China. The Dalai Lama advocates genuine autonomy for Tibet and not secession, while more radical Tibetans are urging the Dalai Lama to support outright independence.
In the rugged Tibetan regions of China, where there is widespread resentment at Chinese rule, no reports emerged on Tuesday of any large-scale protests. The Chinese government, fearing civil unrest among six million Tibetans, has locked down the vast area, which measures up to a quarter of China, by sending in thousands of troops in the last few weeks and cutting off cell phone and Internet services in some locations. An unofficial state of martial law now exists, with soldiers and police officers operating checkpoints, marching through streets and checking people for identification cards.
Chinese President Hu Jintao called this week for the building of a "Great Wall" of stability in Tibet.
"We must reinforce the solid Great Wall for combating separatism and safeguarding national unity, so that Tibet, now basically stable, will enjoy lasting peace and stability," Mr. Hu said while meeting with Tibetan officials in Beijing on Monday, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.
Across Tibet, monks at large monasteries have been ordered to stay indoors. In the town of Tongren in Qinghai Province, monks at the sprawling Rongwo Monastery, where protests erupted last year, have been told they cannot leave the compound from March 6 to March 16, according to two monks reached by telephone. No classes or prayer gatherings were held on Tuesday. One monk said he and his peers were reading Buddhist scriptures in their bedrooms.
"This morning, I cried," he said.
The monk declined to give his name for fear of government retribution. A year ago this month, he was studying in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and taking part in protests to mark the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising. When security forces suppressed those protests, Tibetans began rioting in the streets, attacking ethnic Han Chinese civilians and burning shops and vehicles.
The uprising quickly spread to Tibetan areas in other provinces, becoming the largest rebellion against Chinese rule in decades. At least 19 people were killed in Lhasa, most of them Han Chinese civilians, according to the Chinese government. In the violent repression that followed, 220 Tibetans were killed, nearly 1,300 were injured and nearly 7,000 were detained or imprisoned, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile. More than 1,000 Tibetans are still missing.
"There has been a brutal crackdown on the Tibetan protests that have shaken the whole of Tibet since last March," the Dalai Lama said in his speech.
In a report released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said that a careful study of official Chinese accounts of last year's uprising and its aftermath showed that "there have been thousands of arbitrary arrests, and more than 100 trials pushed through the judicial system." The government's official figures on arrests and prosecutions suggest that several hundred suspected protestors remain in custody, Human Rights Watch said.
By Andrew Jacobs | The New York Times
09 March 2009
They are often tucked away in the rough-and-tumble sections of the city's south side, hidden beneath dingy hotels and guarded by men in dark coats. Known as "black houses," they are unofficial jails for the pesky hordes of petitioners who flock to the capital seeking justice.
This month, Wang Shixiang, a 48-year-old businessman from Heilongjong Province, came to Beijing to agitate for the prosecution of corrupt policemen. Instead, he was seized and confined to a dank room underneath the Juyuan Hotel with 40 other abducted petitioners.
During his two days in captivity, Mr. Wang said, he was beaten and deprived of food, and then bundled onto an overnight train. Guards who were paid with government money, he said, made sure he arrived at his front door.
As Beijing hosts 10 days of political pageantry known as the National People's Congress, tens of thousands of desperate citizens are trying to seek redress by lodging formal complaints at petition offices. A few, when hope is lost, go to extremes, as a couple from the Xinjiang region did last week: they set their car afire on the city's best-known shopping street, injuring themselves critically.
In his annual report to the legislature on Thursday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said China should use its petition system to head off social unrest in the face of a worsening economy. "We should improve the mechanism to resolve social conflicts, and guide the public to express their requests and interests through legal channels," he said.
According to the state media, 10 million petitions have been filed in the last five years on complaints as diverse as illegal land seizures and unpaid wages. The numbers would be far higher but for the black houses, also called black jails, the newest weapon local officials use to prevent these aggrieved citizens from embarrassing them in front of central government superiors. Officially, these jails do not exist.
In China's authoritarian state, senior officials tally petitions to get a rough sense of social order around the country. A successfully filed petition -- however illusory the prospect of justice -- is considered a black mark on the bureaucratic record of the local officials accused of wrongdoing.
So the game, sometimes deadly, is to prevent a filing. The cat-and-mouse contest has created a sizable underground economy that enriches the interceptors, the police and those who run the city's ad hoc detention centers.
Human rights activists and petitioners say plainclothes security officers and hired thugs grab the aggrieved off the streets and hide them in a growing constellation of unmarked detention centers. There, the activists say, the aggrieved will be insulted, roughed up and then escorted back to their home provinces. Some are held for weeks and months without charge, activists say, and in a few cases, the beatings are fatal.
The police in Beijing have done little to prevent such abuses. They are regularly accused of turning a blind eye or even helping local thugs round up petitioners. That raises suspicions that the central government is not especially upset about efforts to undermine the integrity of the petition system.
By Edward Wong | THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 05, 2009
Enraged nomads stormed through this windswept town on the Tibetan plateau a year ago this month, raiding a police compound, setting fire to squad cars and forcing police officers to flee. To the north, Tibetans on horseback galloped into a schoolyard, ripped down a Chinese flag and hoisted a Tibetan one, shouting "Free Tibet!"
Now, the authorities have imposed an unofficial state of martial law on the vast highlands where ethnic Tibetans live, with thousands of troops occupying areas they fear could erupt in renewed rioting on a momentous anniversary next week. And Beijing is determined to keep foreigners from seeing the mass deployment.
In monasteries and nomad tents, villages and grasslands, the fury of Tibetans against Chinese rule has raged continuously since last year's riots and the violent repression that followed. They are aware, too, that March 10 marks the 50th anniversary of a failed revolt against Chinese rule that led to the Dalai Lama's flight into exile in India.
Signs of simmering resistance abound: Just last week, many of China's six million Tibetans chose not to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, in order to mourn Tibetans who suffered during last year's clashes. Monks have held rallies in parts of Qinghai and Sichuan Provinces. Last Friday, a monk from Kirti Monastery in Sichuan lighted himself on fire in a market, prompting security officers to shoot at him, according to Tibetan advocacy groups. Local officials deny the shooting.
Chinese leaders have prepared for the worst, ordering the largest troop deployment since the Sichuan earthquake last spring. This reporter got a rare look at the clampdown because he was recently driven through the Tibetan areas of arid Gansu Province while being detained by the police for 20 hours.
Tibetan regions, a lightly populated swath of western China that measures up to one-quarter of the country's total territory, have become militarized zones. Sandbag outposts have been set up in the middle of towns, army convoys rumble along highways, and paramilitary officers search civilian cars. A curfew has been imposed on Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
"The Tibetan ethnic situation is very serious," said a paramilitary officer after he stopped three foreigners on a snowy mountain road. "Tibetans are causing trouble. This is an extremely sensitive time."
The young officer and his half-dozen colleagues at the checkpoint were members of the People's Armed Police, the main Chinese paramilitary force. The officers said their unit was based in Beijing and had guarded the Bird's Nest stadium during the Summer Olympics in August, but had been sent here last month. Their mission included keeping foreigners out of the area.
Foreigners do not need special permission to travel in this region, and the police never offered an explanation for detaining this reporter.
The broad security measures undercut assertions by the Chinese government that serious ethnic tensions do not exist and that Tibetan nationalism is not widespread. They also show that Tibet remains one of the most sensitive political and security issues for China, though one that remains invisible in the developed cities along the country's east coast.
Last March, the largest Tibetan uprising against Communist rule in decades erupted after Chinese security forces suppressed a protest by monks in Lhasa. At least 19 people were killed in ethnic rioting in Lhasa, most of them Han civilians, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. In the ensuing crackdown, 220 Tibetans were killed, nearly 1,300 were injured and nearly 7,000 were detained or imprisoned, according to the Tibetan government in exile, which is based in Dharamsala, India.
The Chinese government accused the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, of fomenting the violence. The Dalai Lama advocates Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule, but disavows violence and says he does not favor secession.
Some of the worst rioting outside Lhasa took place here in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where the worlds of the Tibetans, Chinese and Hui Muslims converge. It is a dry area of herders roaming the plains and white-walled monasteries nestled against brown hillsides. At least 94 people -- almost all police officers -- were injured here last March, according to official news reports.
The most prominent monastery in eastern Tibet, Labrang, lies in the town of Xiahe, in western Gannan. There, more than 1,000 monks and lay people protested for two days and attacked government buildings last March.
There are no signs of protests now, residents say, because the town is completely locked down. Recent photographs taken in Xiahe show riot police officers marching in the streets.
"The security forces are everywhere, on every corner, day and night," said a Tibetan woman reached by telephone. "Don't come here."
She paused when asked her opinion about the current situation. "We Tibetans who do business, we're under a lot of pressure," she said. "We have to keep quiet. I can't say I disagree with the policies of the Chinese. It's their country, and we're only a minority."
Like others interviewed for this article, she declined to give her name for fear of government reprisal.
This reporter and two foreign companions entered southern Gannan by driving past several unstaffed checkpoints on a recent night before being stopped on a mountain road by the paramilitary officers. The foreigners and their driver were brought to the towns of Maqu and Hezuo for interrogation and then forced to drive to the provincial capital, Lanzhou, to board a plane for Beijing.
A police officer in Maqu said rioters burned 18 patrol cars last year. The police headquarters now has a new fleet of white sport utility vehicles. Official reports say more than 70 percent of shops here were looted or damaged, but those, too, appear to have been restored.
During the day, policemen or soldiers stand on street corners wearing helmets and green coats and carrying riot shields. The main road leading through town is watched by officers armed with assault rifles standing at checkpoints. The sound of troops' drilling can be heard in the early morning hours -- louder than any chanting from monks.
"We're afraid that Tibetans who've returned from Dharamsala might cause trouble," a police officer said.
Farther north, in Hezuo, the seat of Gannan Prefecture, the signs of tension were just as clear. In the town's main traffic circle, the authorities had set up a circular sandbag emplacement overseen by a half-dozen officers, resembling a scene in a war zone. It was just south of Hezuo where nomads on horses and thousands of others rampaged through a schoolyard last year.
But local officials deny there is any hostility.
"There's no ethnic conflict here," Cairang Dao'erqu, a Tibetan official at the foreign affairs bureau who goes by his Chinese name, said over lunch during this reporter's detention. "Look in the streets -- everything is peaceful here. The Chinese, Tibetan and Hui people all get along."
Tibetans say they have no idea what might take place on March 10, the momentous anniversary of the failed uprising in 1959. Last week, the Dalai Lama urged Tibetans not to be provoked by the Chinese, saying any radical moves would give the Chinese government an excuse to take harsher steps.
"It is difficult to achieve a meaningful outcome," he said, "by sacrificing lives."
Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting.
By REUTERS | via UNCENSORED Yahoo! News
February 27, 2009
A group representing families of demonstrators killed or maimed in the armed crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests 20 years ago has urged China to name the dead, denouncing official silence over the anniversary.
The call came from the "Tiananmen Mothers" in a petition issued on Friday that carried 127 names of people who claimed their children or family members were victims of the June 4 quelling of the pro-democracy protests that challenged Communist Party power in 1989.
The group urged the government to investigate the military crackdown, name all the dead, compensate their families and punish "those responsible for the killings."
"It was nothing short of an unconscionable atrocity," the group said in the petition issued through Human Rights in China, a New York-based advocacy group.
"China has become like an airtight iron chamber and all the demands of the people about June 4, all the anguish, lament and moaning of the victims' relatives and the wounded have been sealed off," stated the petition addressed to China's national parliament, which opens its annual session next week.
The relatives' campaign for an official reckoning with the killings has long been led by Ding Zilin, a retired Beijing professor whose 17-year-old son was killed as tanks and armed troops swept through Beijing's streets.
She and other campaigners could not be contacted to comment on the petition or verify they signed it. But the group has made similar calls before.
The latest petition, however, comes during an especially sensitive year, when the Communist Party must navigate through potentially volatile anniversaries, including the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight into exile from Tibet, while also coping with a slowed economy and rising joblessness.
After initial division and uncertainty over how to respond to the student-led demonstrations in the spring of 1989, the Communist Party sent troops to crush the protests, killing hundreds, some say thousands.