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Racial Discrimination in Chinese-Occupied Tibet

[Department of Information and International Relations. Tibetan Government-in- Exile. Dharamsala - 176215. INDIA. July, 2001.]


This Report evaluates China's compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ("CERD") with respect to the Tibetan people. In its Concluding Observations on China's last report, this Committee expressed both satisfaction and concern regarding a wide range of issues. This Report will address those issues relevant to Tibet in light of China's Eighth and Ninth Periodic Report and evidence regarding the actual situation in Chinese-occupied Tibet. The breadth of the Committee's concerns and approach to the causes and consequences of racial discrimination are appropriate and consistent with the experience of the Tibetan people. This Report demonstrates that discrimination by the Chinese government and people against the Tibetan people is both a cause and a consequence of: the occupation of Tibet by a foreign power; the continuing population transfer of Chinese settlers into Tibet; efforts to exploit Tibet's natural resources for the benefit of China; and the perceived need to assimilate Tibetans culturally in order to control them politically. China's conduct in Tibet not only violates key provisions of the CERD, it has also failed to respond to or make substantial progress in the areas of concern expressed by this Committee in its 1996 Concluding Observations.

This Report begins with an overview of the history and political status of Tibet because racial discrimination against the Tibetan people cannot be understood outside the context of Tibet's history or of the human rights abuses against the Tibetan people generally. Tibet was a sovereign state prior to the Chinese invasion of 1949. In addition, the Tibetan people have the right to self-determination, and the failure to recognize that right remains a root cause of the human rights violations against the Tibetan people.

Next, we evaluate China's performance in the area of racial discrimination with regard to its legal obligations and this Committee's recommendations in 1996. It is widely recognized that since the establishment of the People's Republic of China ("PRC"), China has adopted an official policy of ethnic and racial equality. This policy is reflected in the PRC's constitution and a number of anti-discrimination laws passed by the legislature. These legal protections and the Chinese government's apparent commitment to the elimination of racial discrimination within its borders is encouraging. By setting public standards and examples condemning racial discrimination to guide its citizens' conduct, the Chinese government could have taken the first necessary steps in its battle against discrimination.

The legal landscape and factual reality in Tibet diverge, however, and our studies and reports confirm that despite the apparent legal protections afforded "minority nationalities", the Tibetan people continue to suffer from widespread racial discrimination. Although China's Eighth and Ninth Periodic Report indicates that it has taken further legislative action since 1996 in an attempt to combat the problem of racial discrimination against "minorities", particularly in Tibet, the official steps taken by the government have proved insufficient to eradicate racial discrimination against Tibetans. Indeed, because the Chinese Government refuses to honor the Tibetan people's right to self-determination, and because it is extending rather than curtailing policies regarding economic development and population transfer into Tibet that are a root cause of discrimination against Tibetans, Tibetans continue to suffer from frequent acts of racial discrimination by both the Chinese government and private Chinese citizens.

This Report demonstrates that racial discrimination affects Tibetans in education, employment, health care, and public representation. The Report concludes that Tibetans' access to each of these four areas is generally restricted, particularly when compared with the experiences of the Chinese people, especially settlers in Tibet. Restricted access results primarily from the erection of financial, cultural and social barriers that have a direct, adverse impact (intended or not) on Tibetans' ability to enjoy the rights guaranteed to them by international and domestic law. Further, once Tibetans are able to break into these four areas of life, the services and treatment they receive is frequently of an inferior quality than that enjoyed by the Chinese. The quality of services and treatment is lower with respect to Tibetans because of direct racial discrimination against them. In addition, the Report points out that with respect to reproductive rights and State-sponsored violence, policies and practices remain in place about which this Committee expressed concern and are having an increasingly adverse impact upon Tibetans.

On 10 March this year, in an address to the Tibetan people to commemorate the 42nd National Uprising Day of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: "The Chinese government continues to whitewash the sad situation in Tibet through propaganda. If conditions inside Tibet are as the Chinese authorities portray it to be why do they not have the courage to allow visitors into Tibet without any restrictions? Instead of attempting to hide things as "state secrets" why do they not have the courage to show the truth to the outside world? And why are there so many security forces and prisons in Tibet? I have always said that if the majority of Tibetans in Tibet were truly satisfied with the state of affairs in Tibet I would have no reason, no justification and no desire to raise my voice against the situation in Tibet. Sadly, whenever Tibetans speak up, instead of listening to them they are arrested, imprisoned and labeled as counter-revolutionaries. They have no opportunity and no freedom to speak out the truth."

This Report concludes that racial discrimination against Tibetans, in all of its facets, violates China's obligations under international and domestic law and adversely impacts the everyday lives of Tibetans. This Report also offers a number of recommendations for eradicating racial discrimination against Tibetans by the Chinese government and private citizens. In particular, it urges the Committee to recommend that China rescind its economic development and population transfer policies and programs pending a further review with the full participation of the Tibetan people. It also recommends that China concentrate significant effort and resources in education. In particular, China should not only improve Tibetans' educational facilities, it should also make it a priority to return control over language and curriculum, including Tibetan culture and history, to the Tibetan people. Finally, China must undertake to change underlying Chinese views with regard to Tibetans and to promote their genuine autonomy within contemporary Chinese society.


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