Lhasa (AsiaNews) – The human rights situation in Tibet has worsened in 2010, especially in terms of religious freedom and freedom of expression. Beijing is using violence and repressive law to settle the Tibetan issue once and for, further tightening its stranglehold over the territory, this according to a new report on the human rights situation in Tibet released by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
Arbitrary arrests and torture
During 2010, there was no let up by the Chinese government. As of 30 December 2010, there were 831 known political prisoners in Tibet with 360 known to have been convicted by courts. Twelve Tibetans are serving life in prison. Another 188 Tibetans are known to have been arrested and detained. Of these, 71 have already been convicted by the courts.
The crackdown on intellectuals and cultural figures also continued. Since 2008, over 60 Tibetan writers, bloggers, intellectuals and cultural figures have been arrested. Three of them, Sonam Tsering, Lama Lhaka and Sodor of Kolu Monastery in Chamdo were given the death sentence.
However, these convictions are unjust because under new regulations China issued, evidence obtained through torture are illegal and cannot be used in death penalty cases or other criminal prosecutions.
In Tibet, torture is a regular feature in detention centres and prisons.
Right to education
In 2010, Tibetan students staged protests. March and April 2010 saw a huge number of detentions and expulsions of Tibetan students and teachers from schools and academic institutions in eastern Tibet.
On 19 October 2010, thousands of Tibetan students from six different schools in Rebkong and Malho took to the streets to protest against proposed changes in education that would sideline Tibetan in favour of Mandarin.
The protests even reached Beijing’s Minzu (Nationalities) University where around 600 Tibetan students demonstrated on 22 October 2010 for the protection of Tibetan language.
For the government, the proposal of using Mandarin in schools will bring Tibetan students on par with the other Chinese, provide them with economic opportunities and favour their integration into wider Chinese society.
Tibetans object to the change, saying that the preservation of Tibetan language is part of the wider issue of maintaining their cultural and ethnic identity.
For Chinese authorities, such arguments are secessionist in nature, and must be crushed with the upmost use of force. In fact, all protests have ended in violent clashes.
During the year, the Chinese Communist Party and government have again targeted the practice of traditional Tibetan Buddhism.
In September 2010, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) issued Order No 8 (Management measure for Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples). The 44-article regulation, which came into effect on 1 November 2010, is unmerciful towards religious practices. Its provisions include restrictions on relations between students and masters, and a strong legal basis for authorities to control monastic institutions.
The main goal of the regulation is to curb even more the influence the Dalai Lama exerts on ordinary Tibetans and religious authorities. The Tibetan religious leader, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been in exile in India since 1959.
In order to demonstrate its power, the United Front Work Department (UFWD) summoned the leaders of Tibetan monastic institutions to a meeting on 14-15 August to remind them that religion is under government control. They also warned them of dire consequences in case of violations, real or imagined.