From Reuters – China has come under pressure at the United Nations’ human rights forum to ease its clampdown on Tibet by lifting curbs on movement and information and not using force in the restive Himalayan region.
The European Union, in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council, urged Beijing to refrain from force against a wave of Tibetan protests that began on March 10 – the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule – and led to riots.
The United States, Australia, Canada and Switzerland also called on China to lift restrictions on movement and information from Tibet, where a ban on foreign media has made it difficult to know whether rights abuses are taking place.
China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council whose economic clout makes it a strategic ally for both rich and poor countries, rarely faces direct criticism at the United Nations.
Beijing currently holds one of the 47 rotating seats on the two-year-old Human Rights Council. India, the country hosting Tibetan Buddhism’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is also a member, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The Geneva-based Council was set up to replace the UN Human Rights Commission, criticised for failing to overcome political alliances and take a strong stand on issues, including China’s 1989 repression of student protests in Tiananmen Square.
Addressing the Council on Tuesday, Amnesty International cited reports that protesters in Tibet were “apparently attacked solely for their ethnic identity, resulting in death, injury and damage to property.”
“In restoring order, the Chinese authorities have resorted to measures which violate international human rights law and standards,” it said, also calling on the Council to assess long-term issues such as limits on Tibetans’ religious practices and their perceived exclusion from China’s economic gains.
Last week 65 Asian rights groups appealed for a special session on Tibet, similar to those previously convened about the Palestinian territories, Sudan’s Darfur region, and Myanmar, where military rulers suppressed monk-led protests last year.
The groups also called for UN rights experts to be sent to Tibet to investigate conditions there.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said last week that Beijing – which will host the Olympic Games in August – needed to account fully and credibly for what is happening in Tibet.
“China is ready to open its door to 30,000 foreign journalists in August,” she told the Canadian broadcaster CBC.
“Why can’t it open its door to one or two foreign journalists in Tibet now, when the world is equally interested in what is happening in Tibet as it will be in what will be happening in the Olympics?” she asked.