Why Is Nepal Cracking Down on Tibetan Refugees?


DECEMBER 28, 2011
Why Is Nepal Cracking Down on Tibetan Refugees?

Friction between Chinese authorities and the five million Tibetans who live within the borders of China is on the rise, and nowhere is the strife more apparent than in the neighboring nation of Nepal. Last month in Kathmandu, I spoke with five young Tibetans who had just journeyed across the Himalayas to escape draconian policies imposed by the Beijing government in their homeland. More than six hundred Tibetans have fled to Nepal this year, even though it’s a dangerous undertaking. Asylum seekers have lost limbs to frostbite, perished in blizzards, and been arrested by Chinese border patrols. Some have been shot. The youngest of the refugees I met was a fourteen-year-old girl. She was aware of the hazards but lit out for the border anyway, hoping that if she made it into Nepal she’d find safe passage to India, where in 1959 the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan government-in-exile, and where more than a hundred thousand Tibetan refugees presently reside.

According to an informal arrangement hammered out twenty-two years ago between the government of Nepal and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.), Kathmandu pledged to allow Tibetans to travel through Nepal en route to India, and to facilitate their transit. Lately, however, this established protocol has been ignored with increasing frequency. Nepalese police have been apprehending Tibetans far inside Nepal, robbing them, and then returning them to Tibet at gunpoint, where they are typically imprisoned and not uncommonly tortured by the Chinese. According to “Tibet’s Stateless Nationals,” a hundred-and-thirty-three-page report issued by the Tibet Justice Center, a relatively small number of these Tibetans have been beaten, raped, and/or shot by the Nepalese police—abuses confirmed by several refugees with whom I spoke during my recent visit to Nepal.

These violations of the U.N.H.C.R. agreement and international law were bought and paid for by Beijing. According to a confidential U.S. embassy cable published by WikiLeaks in 2010, China “rewards [Nepalese forces] by providing financial incentives to officers who hand over Tibetans attempting to exit China.” Another cable stated, “Beijing has asked Kathmandu to step up patrols … and make it more difficult for Tibetans to enter Nepal.”

With an annual per capita income of $645—less than two dollars a day—Nepal is desperate for whatever alms China offers, never mind the strings attached. In 2009, Beijing promised to promote tourism to Nepal, invest in major Nepalese hydropower projects, and increase its financial assistance by approximately eighteen million dollars annually. In return, Kathmandu pledged to endorse Beijing’s “one-China policy” (which decrees that both Taiwan and Tibet are “inalienable parts of Chinese territory”) and to prohibit “anti-Chinese activities” within Nepal. Activities deemed unacceptable include gathering for prayers on the birthday of the Dalai Lama and displaying the Tibetan flag. On November 10th, after a Buddhist monk in Kathmandu doused his robes with kerosene and ignited himself to protest Chinese thuggery, a spokesman for Nepal’s Home Ministry declared that the government was considering revoking “all the rights granted to Tibetans residing in Nepal,” despite the fact that Nepal’s constitution guarantees such rights as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to all persons, and Nepal’s Supreme Court has ruled that restricting Tibetans’ civil rights is illegal.

An estimated twenty thousand Tibetan refugees now live in Nepal, mostly in settlements established after the 1959 invasion of Lhasa by the People’s Liberation Army prompted many Tibetans to flee. For the next thirty years, Nepal welcomed Tibetans, and every Tibetan in the country was issued a “refugee identity certificate,” known as an “R.C.” But Kathmandu stopped accepting additional Tibetan refugees in 1989, ceding to pressure from Beijing, and that pressure has been intensifying. Since 1998, the Nepalese government has refused to issue R.C.s to Tibetans, including children born in Nepal to refugee parents who’ve been residing in the country for decades.

The upshot is that a generation of Tibetans who’ve spent their entire lives in Nepal don’t exist as far as the Nepalese bureaucracy is concerned. Lacking R.C.s, these young refugees cannot obtain driver’s licenses, apply for jobs, or open bank accounts. It is difficult or impossible for them to attend Nepalese schools. Without an R.C., a Tibetan has no legal right to remain in Nepal and may be deported to China at any time—yet Kathmandu refuses to provide these refugees with travel documents that would allow them to immigrate to nations such as the U.S., Canada, and India, where they have been offered asylum.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was slated to travel to Kathmandu on December 19th for an official state visit, leading a hundred-and-one-member delegation from Beijing. Wen was expected to sign a commitment to provide Nepal with a five-billion-dollar line of credit—in return for promises from Nepal to clamp down even harder on Tibetan refugees. At the last minute, however, Beijing postponed the visit indefinitely; according to an official quoted by AFP, the delay had to do with security concerns, specifically the “possibility of protests from Tibetan exiles.” The Chinese ambassador to Kathmandu, Yang Houlan, had previously warned that “Nepal is turning into a playground for anti-China activities,” prompting speculation that Beijing is using the postponement of Wen’s visit as a cudgel to discourage Nepal from softening its policies toward Tibetan refugees.
At a refugee settlement outside the city of Pokhara, a Tibetan in his twenties proposed a simple step to dial down the tension: “If the government is worried about Tibetans threatening Nepal’s security, give us R.C.s.” Such a move would be win-win for all parties, he suggested, because it would allow the authorities to “know what we are doing, and we can get education and jobs.”

“How would it harm China for me to have an identity card?” a Tibetan teen-ager wondered at another refugee settlement. “I was born in Nepal. I’m seventeen years old. All I want is the opportunity for education and a job. How does denying me such things help anyone?”

He has a point. Nepal’s bullying of its Tibetan community is more likely to incite unrest inside China than to dampen it. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly and unequivocally stated that he and his followers “do not seek independence for Tibet.” But few Chinese trust such assurances from a man their leaders have long characterized as a conniving monster. Beijing is adamant that granting concessions to any Tibetans, even Tibetans in exile, poses a dire threat. The great fear is that Tibetan dissent will inflame other ethnic groups inside China, initiating a chain reaction that culminates in the People’s Republic suffering the same fate as the Soviet Union. Given Chinese perceptions of what’s at stake, and Beijing’s ability to purchase apparently limitless influence in Kathmandu, the future doesn’t look bright for Tibetan youth now coming of age in Nepal.

Photograph by Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images.

Chinese hackers spying on Tibetan groups in India for years, experts say


Chinese hackers are believed to have targeted Tibetan exile groups in India that Beijing views as a threat for at least four years, despite China denying any official involvement in hacking.

One advanced team has been zeroing in on organisations there to steal information related to border disputes and Tibetan exile groups, according to cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Hacks were detected in the run-up to the first state visit to China by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April, and the group is likely still conducting attacks, FireEye said.

“Over the past four years, this threat group has [targeted] over 100 victims, approximately 70 per cent of which were in India,” it said in a statement.

It “also targeted Tibetan activists and others in Southeast Asia, with a focus on governmental, diplomatic, scientific and educational organisations.”

An ethnic group dances in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in March. Photo: Xinhua

Beijing has viewed Tibetan groups in India with suspicion ever since the Dalai Lama fled China in 1959 to establish the Central Tibetan Administration, more commonly known as the Tibetan government-in-exile, in Dharamsala.

Unrest in China’s Tibetan autonomous region in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics led to a crackdown by Chinese authorities and protests by Tibetan groups in India, Europe and North America. A spate of self-immolations in the Himalayan province in 2012 spurred another security crackdown.

China has previously been accused of spying on Tibetan organisations overseas in an apparent attempt to stave off future unrest at home.

In April, FireEye reported that a separate Chinese hacking team, APT30, had been spying on governments and businesses in Southeast Asia and India uninterrupted for a decade, echoing claims made by researchers at US firm McAfee in 2011.

Chinese military personnel guard a street in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 2012 as China stepped up security in the province after a series of self-immolations by protesters. Photo: AP

China has always denied involvement in such operations.

“The Chinese government firmly opposes hacking attacks; this position is consistent and clear,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said after the April report.

China has long been accused of spying on Tibetan groups in India, including the Tibet government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama.

In 2009, researchers at the Information Warfare Monitor, a Canadian NGO, accused Chinese hacking groups of breaking into computers at Tibetan government-in-exile organisations in London, New York and Dharamsala.

“Malware attacks against ethnic minority groups in China including Tibetans and Uygurs, and religious groups such as Falun Gong, go back to at least 2002, and possibly earlier,” according to the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which monitors cybersecurity issues.

Flames shoot from a jeep after it crashed into the barrier of a bridge at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 2013, killing three people inside the vehicle and two tourists. China billed it a terrorist attack by ethnic Uygurs. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Uygurs are a Turkic-speaking ethnic group in the far western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Some complain of discrimination in favour of Han Chinese. Others have been accused of “terrorist” activity by Beijing, including one incident in 2013 when a jeep loaded with knives and sticks crashed in Tiananmen Square, killing five people.

While pinpointing the culprits for any given hack attack can be very difficult, FireEye experts told the Post that, at least in terms of the latest campaign, all signs pointed to China.

They said the attackers were “well-resourced, with long-term objectives”, and conducted operations around the clock, indicating high levels of discipline and funding. The malware used also pointed to China.

“Collecting intelligence on India remains a key strategic goal for China-based APT groups,” said Bryce Boland, FireEye chief technology officer for Asia-Pacific.

“These attacks on India and its neighbouring countries reflect growing interest in [India’s] foreign affairs.”


China’s Communist Party will pick the “next Dalai Lama, period!”


The party’s politburo met in Beijing chaired by President Xi Jinping to settle the “Tibetan question” once and for all. No unauthorised reincarnations will be allowed. China’s Communist government wants to interfere in purely religious matters, exploiting traditions that precede the People’s Republic by centuries. For Tibetan lawmaker, this “is ridiculous at best”.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The standing committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party met in the Chinese capital on 30 July week in a closed-door “conclave” to discuss the ‘Tibetan issue,’ namely the next reincarnation of Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama and fourteenth Avalokiteśvara (embodiment of the compassion of all Buddhas), as part of the measures needed to stabilise the province and counter “separatism”.

Although China’s Communist Party officially describes itself as atheistic and materialistic, “The authority of the central government has always been important in the reincarnation process. Historical precedents have clearly shown the central government’s vital role in the process,” said a politburo statement cited by state-owned Xinhua news agency.

In fact, “Since then, all confirmations of the Dalai Lama have required approval by the central Chinese government, which has deemed the process an important issue concerning sovereignty and national security.”

An anonymous source told AsiaNews that at the end of the meeting Xi Jinping said that the Communist Party would pick “the next Dalai Lama, period! If things do not go well, we are ready to take corrective action.”

This is no mean feat. Tibetan Buddhism is still deeply felt and practiced in Tibet and the rest of the country. Its current spiritual leader is very popular despite living in forced exile. Ever since he fled to India in 1959, the Chinese government has tried to undermine his authority, but without success.

In order to undermine his power, Chinese authorities have broken the tie between the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama (the second highest-ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism) by abducting a boy identified as the legitimate ninth Panchen Lama, and placing a pro-Beijing puppet at the helm of the Gelug (Yellow Hats) school.

According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, monks charged with recognising the incarnation of a living Buddha must identify a child who shows signs that would identify him as the reincarnation of the last spiritual guide. To do this, monks start their search from the direction of the deceased Dalai Lama’s last gaze and seek supernatural signs regarding infants and children in the indicated area.

Once a possible heir has been identified, he is subjected to a series of tests to see whether he can recognise objects that belonged to his predecessor. In a room with thousands of slippers, the current Dalai Lama recognised immediately those that belonged to his predecessor.

According to another, more recent but still valid tradition, the search involves a complex religious ritual that can take only place in Beijing’s lama temple, home to a golden urn given by a Manchu emperor to the Regent of Tibet. The names of some of the most important living Buddhas of the past three centuries were selected.

Based on this practice, which was abandoned after Mao’s takeover and the birth of the People’s Republic, China today claims the right to control the next reincarnation.

There is nothing unusual about this. Under the current regime, the authorities have also tried to control the selection and appointment of the country’s Catholic leadership in the country.

Although choosing high-ranking clergy is purely a religious affair, Beijing has relentlessly pursued a policy of keeping religions under control, including their assets and membership, this despite the fact that the Dalai Lama and the various popes elected after Mao’s revolution have clearly indicated that all they want is religious autonomy from the state.

The “Dalai Lama is gravely concerned that the Chinese government will choose someone whom it can control as his successor,” a Japanese paper wrote last year. In view of this, he is “considering a different way of choosing his reincarnation than the traditional method of looking for a young child based on prophecies.” This could mean “electing a successor through voting similar to the selection process of popes of the Roman Catholic Church or he would leave a written instruction before he passes away.”

“The claim of Chinese government’s regarding the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is ridiculous at best,” said Karma Yeshi, a member of Tibetan Parliament in exile, cited in Phayul, a Tibetan news website.

“If we look at the history from the first to the current Dalai Lama, there has been no such incidences to authenticate such claim. If they are referring to the patron-priest relationship, Tibet had such relationships with other nations like Mongolia” or Korea.


China is guilty of mass genocide against 1.2 million people of Tibet


The current dilemma and future path of Chinese regime is not that of a son is continuing the legacy of his father. But following a “dead man’s dead legacy”.

Dharamshala — The Chinese government is guilty of mass genocide against the Tibetan people and we must urge the international community, governments and individuals to openly stand by Tibet and its people. We are not saying all Chinese are bad, or guilty of killing 1.2 million Tibetans, just their current government. We must know that China is still a regime both authoritarian and totalitarian that violates not only the rights of Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhists and Muslim Uighur, but also its own Chinese citizens— increasing the sense of terror among the people and repressing any dissent. Some very heartbreaking attention-grabbing facts:

  • 1.2 million Tibetans have been slaughtered since the Chinese occupation.
  • Over six thousand monasteries and temples and historical structures looted and destroyed beyond repair.
  • Tibet’s ecosystem has been severely damaged: vast regions of forest have been removed whilst numerous wildlife species decimated just for food by the Chinese.
  • Tibet’s substantial mineral resources have been pillaged and continues to this date.
  • One quarter of China’s nuclear missiles are stationed in Tibet.·
  • China is using Tibet as a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
  • Some four hundred thousand Chinese troops are based in Tibet.
  • Over 8 million Chinese colonists have moved into Tibet in a step to dominate the Tibetans.
  • A secret Chinese document in 1992 revealed plans to swamp the Tibetan population with even more Chinese.
  • Forced abortions, many in late pregnancy, and sterilization of Tibetan women is not uncommon.
  • Hundreds of Tibetan political prisoners are being held including the Panchen Lama.
  • Over 150,000 Tibetans are in exile worldwide, including India and Nepal.
  • In 1959, the international Commission of Jurists found that genocide had been committed in Tibet.
  • Nomads are forced to end their traditional way of life.
  • Chairman Mao wanted to blow-up the Potala – as they did with the Chakpori – to break the Tibetan spiritual spirit.
  • Forced to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama, their own spiritual and temporal leader, his chosen Panchen Lama
  • Choekyi Nyima; Tibetans must pledge their allegiance to the Chinese government. Failure to do so can result in imprisonment or other forms of severe punishment. Celebrating birthday celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, commemorating anniversaries or festivals, and possessing an image of His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Tibetan flag is still illegal in Tibet today.
  • More than 80% of Tibetans in Tibet still live below the poverty line. Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s case  is one example of the human rights abuses being carried out the regime on the roof of the world.

We must fight for our fundamental rights that Tibet will rise again one day as the spiritual center of the world, but our struggle must be more practical and vigilant to the end.

The regime in Beijing permits no individual freedom and also seeks to subordinate all aspects of the individual’s life to the authority of the government. Chinese dictator Mao Zedong coined the term totalitario between the late 1940s and the early 50s to describe the new fascist state of China, which he further described as: “CCP” and its’s “control system.” He drew almost everything from Soviet and other totalitarian states. After World War II, China’s “totalitarian” regime had become synonymous with absolute and oppressive single-party government.

Unfortunately, as the governments of many countries today, when they focus on power, commerce, and self gain, without any further sense of concern towards the fundamental principles of democratic governance, Human Rights and freedom of expression— whether intentionally or negligently, they ignore millions of people who sacrifice their individual liberty for these principles, who inspired millions and millions of these free nations and societies.

At same time, as Tibetans, we must appreciate the love, friendship and supports we have received from the international community, including governments and individuals and remember their the long expressions of solidarity toward Tibet and its freedom cause. But we must continue to widen our freedom struggle that justice must one day prevail for the thousands of Tibetan people who have sacrificed their lives, to realise the dream of Tibet.

Many defense analysts argue that there is fears that China is using its rising military and economic might to threatening neighbors with might, as it repeatedly exerts its influence, including the South China Sea. China is often distinguished from dictatorship, despotism, or tyranny by its supplementing of all political institutions with new ones and its sweeping away of all legal, social, and political traditions.

The media in China is highly and strictly censored by a system in which the state holds total control over society and seeks to control all opinions of public. Therefore, there won’t be official reports about unpleasant happenings and unsanitised views of events.

Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians are now the minority groups in their own countries, a very sad fact indeed. But we must be practical and recognize that merely expressing within ourselves is not enough and we will never succeed. If we fail, much of our purpose in living in exile is lost. Of course our struggle against Chinese repression and occupation must go hand in hand with Mahatma Gandhi’s method of nonviolent resistance. We should always be ready for one goal that is in all reality practical and thus achievable — to show how peaceful solutions can work.

While meeting with Chinese scholars, students, and various representatives of organisations in the past decades, His Holiness the Dalai Lama repeatedly expressed that there is a growing understanding of the Tibetan issue and a growing interest in Tibetan Buddhism among the mainland Chinese.

China has a population of more than 1.3 billion people. There are around three million Buddhists in China and that the number is still increasing, that the understanding of the Tibetan issue as well as sympathy towards Tibetans among Chinese in mainland China is growing.

The 1.3 billion people, including Chinese, Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians must fight together against the totalitarian regime to liberate themselves from the backward-stricken system and society, in an effort to create real reform, openness, social policy and to join the free loving world. So that almost a quarter of world population one day will be able to enjoy social life of human rights, including the economy, education, art, science, private life, and morals of citizens.

However the general public in China knows their life is uncertainty and their future is unknown. Many leading scholars and activists, including writers, journalists, lawyers, educators, artists and rights advocates have expressed their disapproval over all the promises of government, regarding openness and political reform in China, saying “all are nothing but empty words.” They also have expressed their passion for what they are doing. Without that passion, they think it will be like a fish on dry sand. We also know news and opinions spread in the Chinese internet swiftly in late 2008 and earlier 2010, despite their life-threatening risks involved, specially many censored post in different forums new posts appeared. So we also must remember those freedom-loving Chinese people who sacrifice for the sake of freedom of expression and democracy.

The world must remember the history that China is still a nation whose collective destiny is tied to the fate of former dictators, including Stalin and Mao— who perpetrated crimes against humanity and mass murder in the last 100 years. The current dilemma and future path of Chinese regime is not that of a son is continuing the legacy of his father. But following a dead man’s dead legacy— Stalin and his Soviet Communism; who’s collapse was hailed by the free world as a great victory for freedom. The Soviet’s failure to become a world power proves a point that China must take notice to: without justice, freedom, morality, dignity and equality, the dream of all those hardliners in Beijing, who dare to seek the world’s superpower status, will surely never come true.

In our struggle for freedom we must remember this history and realize that China’s authoritarian and totalitarian practices have an expiration date, just like the Soviet Union, it’s a ticking time bomb waiting for collapse. As history tells us, a state cannot thrive while denying the rights of its citizens. So while we cannot allow China to get away with the mass genocide of 1.2 million Tibetans, and we must continue to push the free world to stand for the values they flaunt, only time will speak the truth.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 July 2015 15:59 )


US Ambassador Harper: Remarks at “Lockdown in Tibet” Side Event


As an indigenous person – a citizen not only of the United States but my tribal nation – the Cherokee Nation – I have a particular affinity for the issues faced by Tibetans.  In the history of our people, we faced times in the country I now represent, when our right to forge our own destiny and practice our own religion and speak our mines were too often denied or restricted.  So the stories which emerge out of Tibet have always rung with a certain familiarity.  It is a familiarity borne from the many stories I heard from my own relatives about our own history.

But some years back, America embarked on a different path with Native peoples – a path of truer autonomy, greater and far more authentic self-governance.  This ability for each tribal nation to forge its own path while remaining firmly part of the United States, has set the foundation for far greater social, cultural, political and economic success for tribal communities.  In addition, it has bred a steadfast patriotism in many Native people.  At the same time, it has made America far stronger.  And from this foundation, working in partnership, tribal communities better face the continuing challenges before them.
I don’t know what the precise right path for Tibet and China is.  But I do believe that finding that path will start with sitting down to dialogue in good faith.

The principle mandate of the position is to promote dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama and his representatives.  The United States firmly believes that dialogue is the most promising path forward – and indeed in many ways, the only path which will likely lead towards a resolution.  Further, we are of the firm belief that such a path will be to the benefit of both the Tibetan people and to China.

The United States will not turn our attention away from Tibet.  We will continue to push China towards a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives.  We will continue to push for far greater protection of fundamental freedoms in Tibet – the right to free expression, the right to freedom of association and assembly and the right to religious liberty in all its manifestations.

Finally, a word on discussion we are having here today.  This discussion is intended to be constructive and, accordingly, is not about China-bashing.  That would not be productive.  As advocates of freedom of expression, we should be open to information from all points of view.  In that regard, I have invited representatives of the Chinese government to hear today’s presentation and to offer their viewpoint. I understand they are present and, of course, we will provide them an opportunity to comment during the question and answer period.

Remarks by Ambassador Keith M. Harper

At “Lockdown in Tibet”
A Side Event organized by the Helsinki Foundation

June 15, 2015
Palais Des Nations, Geneva


China imposes “harsh policies of repression on Buddhists” across Tibet


U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: China imposes “harsh policies of repression on Buddhists” across Tibet

religious freedomIn its just issued 2015 Annual Report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) states that China imposes “harsh policies of repression on Buddhists” across the Tibetan plateau and recommended that the U.S. State Department re-designate China as a “country of particular concern” (CPC), where “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” are perpetrated or tolerated, and to take additional actions to promote religious freedom in China.

The report, released on April 30, 2015 in Washington, D.C., documents religious freedom violations in 33 countries, makes country-specific recommendations, and assesses the U.S. government’s implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). In a statement, USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, said:

“With serious religious freedom violations occurring all around the world, these horrors speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter. All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders not only for humanitarian reasons but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there. In the long run, there is only one permanent guarantor of the safety, security and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable. It is the full recognition of religious freedom.”

On Tibet, the report states, “Since 2008, the Chinese government has imposed harsh policies of repression on Buddhists across the Tibetan plateau, including harassment, imprisonment, and torture. … Moreover, the Chinese government continued its ongoing vilification of the Dalai Lama, including accusing him of seeking Tibetan independence, which he has repeatedly denied. While there were indications the Chinese government may allow him to visit Tibet, its insistence on selecting the next Dalai Lama continued to strain the relationship.”

The report also includes the names of Tibetan political prisoners Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Kunchok Tsephel, Lobsang Tsering, and the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, on the prisoners’ list of the Defending Freedoms Project, which “aims to support human rights and religious freedom throughout the world with a particular focus on prisoners of conscience.” Members of Congress are encouraged to “adopt” a prisoner of conscience on the list and advocate for their release.

Following are relevant excerpts from the China chapter of the report. The full USCIRF 2015 Annual Report can be read on the USCIRF website.

Tibetan Buddhists

Since 2008, the Chinese government has imposed harsh policies of repression on Buddhists across the Tibetan plateau, including harassment, imprisonment, and torture. In March 2014, Goshul Lobsang died shortly following his release from prison after suffering extreme malnourishment and brutal torture, such as regular injections and stabbings; he was imprisoned for his role in organizing a protest in 2008. Also in 2014, religious leader Khenpo Kartse was sentenced to two-and-ahalf years in prison for allegedly protecting a fugitive monk. The government’s campaign of repression also has involved the destruction of religious structures and restrictions that have forced younger monks out of monasteries. Self-immolations have continued, and in recent years more than 130 Tibetan Buddhists, including monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire in acts of protest. Moreover, the Chinese government continued its ongoing vilification of the Dalai Lama, including accusing him of seeking Tibetan independence, which he has repeatedly denied. While there were indications the Chinese government may allow him to visit Tibet, its insistence on selecting the next Dalai Lama continued to strain the relationship.

Defending Freedoms Project Prisoners List

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Amnesty International USA, in 2012 launched the Defending Freedoms Project with the aim of supporting human rights and religious freedom throughout the world with a particular focus on prisoners of conscience.

Specifically, Members of Congress “adopt” prisoners of conscience, standing in solidarity with these brave men and women, while committing to advocate for their release.

The individuals below have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs or actions or their religious freedom advocacy. They are part of a longer list of prisoners of conscience, detained for other reasons, who are included in the Defending Freedoms Project.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (m) is a Tibetan Buddhist leader from Garze, Sichuan. Delek has advocated for the protection and preservation of Tibetan culture, religion, and way of life. Over the years, he has built monasteries, provided education for children in remote rural areas, established Buddhist institutions, and promoted social activism in Tibet. In the 1980s, his Holiness the Dalai Lama recognized him as a reincarnated Lama, a title given to those are permitted to teach the Dharma, for his commitment as a Buddhist monk. On April 7, 2002, the government claimed that Delek was involved in bomb blast that occurred on April 3rd in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan. The evidence linking him to this crime was based on a confession made by a relative of Delek’s during a torture session. However, the relative later retracted his statement, claiming that Delek was not involved in the attack. Despite this claim, Delek was charged with of “inciting Splittism,” and for his alleged actions in the event he was sentenced to death in December 2, 2002. However, due to international pressure, on January 26, 2005, Delek’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. In efforts to free Delek, 40,000 Tibetans, in November 2009, signed a petition asking for a re-trial. Additionally, during that same month, 70 Tibetans were arrested for their participation in a hunger strike that was conducted county seat of Lithang. The case has stirred international controversy for its procedural violations and lack of transparency.

According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Delek is in poor health with a worsening heart condition and having suffered nervous breakdowns. He carries a walking stick as a result of his feet becoming injured in prison.

Kunchok Tsephel

Kunchok Tsephel (m) is an official in a Chinese government environmental department and the founder of the first Tibetan literary website, Chodme or Butter Lamp. This website, with assistance from poet Kyabchen Dedrol, was founded in 2005 for the purpose of promoting Tibetan literature and culture in China. The Chinese government actively monitored the website since its beginnings, and on several occasions, authorities have shut down public access to the website. In March 2008, the Chinese authorities began to crackdown in the Tibet Autonomous Region following the anti-government protests in Lhasa and other areas; since the onslaught, over 40 Tibetans have been taken into custody for their works on issues contrary to the party’s position. On February 26, 2009, Chinese authorities targeted and detained Kunchok. While being held in their custody, officers searched his home and seized his computer, cell phone, and other personal belongings. For nine months, the government failed to inform Kunchok’s family about his arrest and condition. Then on November 12, 2009, his family was summoned to attend the trial at the Intermediate People’s Court of Kanlho, only hear that he had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on the charges of disclosing state secrets. Kunchok trial was conducted behind closed doors and he was denied access to a lawyer.

Many believe that published content on his website, especially information regarding the 2008 protests that occurred across the Tibetan plateau, led to his arrest and conviction.

Lobsang Tsering

Lobsang Tsering (m) is a monk from Kirti monastery in Tibet who was detained by the Chinese police in August 2012. In December, the police announced that they had accused Lobsang of inciting the self-immolation of eight Tibetans, even though five of the self-immolations never occurred. While under arrest, the Supreme Court of China, on December 5, 2012, stated that “criminals behind the scenes who plan, incite, aide, abet… and help those perpetrating self-immolations will be investigated for criminal liability in the crime of intentional murder.” On January 31, 2013, Lobsang was charged with the “intentional homicide” of eight Tibetans in Ngaba, and as a result, he was sentenced to death with a two year reprieve. Lobsang was denied the right to a fair trial, according to Xinhua, a state run news agency, acknowledged that Lobsang was not represented by a lawyer during the court proceedings. Additionally, despite a claim made by a judge who told the Global Times that: “authorities obtained sufficient evidence showing it [the alleged crimes] had been instructed by ‘forces from abroad.”

According to Xinhua, the only documented form of evidence presented by the court was two confessions made by Lobsang and his nephew, Lobsang Tsering, who was also arrested and tried under the same charges as his uncle. In their statements, they admitted to encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate under the instructions of the Dali Lama. Many question the accuracy of these confessions because Chinese authorities are known to use torture to extract information out of detainees, and it is feared this may have happened in this case.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama (m) has been held by Chinese authorities in a secret location since 1995 when he was six years old, allegedly to keep him safe from “Tibetan Nationalists.” China refuses all requests, both domestic and international to see Nyima.

The Panchen Lama is a high ranking spiritual leader in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy and is passed down by reincarnation. The Dalai Lama selected Gendun Choekyi Nyima in 1995 to be the next Panchen Lama, while Chinese authorities decreed Gyaltsen Norbu to be the next. As the Panchen Lama traditionally is held responsible for the selection of the Dalai Lama, The Chinese authorities believe it is important to control the Panchen Lama’s fate.

According to Chinese government claims, he is attending school and leading a normal life somewhere in China. Chinese officials have stated that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a “perfectly ordinary boy” who is in “protective custody,” growing up in an “excellent state of health.” However, no outside party has been allowed to visit Nyima because state officials claim to keep his whereabouts undisclosed in order to protect him.


US Government believes “resumption of dialogue” on Tibet is “critical”


April 17, 2015

In its most recent annual Tibet Negotiations Report to Congress, the State Department notes that “The Dalai Lama’s representatives and Chinese officials from the United Front Work Department have not met directly since the ninth round of dialogue in January 2010.” The report adds that the Chinese government’s failure to address problems in Tibet “will continue to be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States.”

The report is mandated by The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA), as contained in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-228). The TPA provides that the report cover steps taken by the President and the Secretary to encourage the Chinese government to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives leading to a negotiated agreement on Tibet. The report also must address the status of any discussions between the two sides.

The latest report, covering 2013-2014, states:

“The U.S. government believes the Dalai Lama or his representatives can be constructive partners for China as it deals with continuing tensions in Tibetan areas. The Dalai Lama’s views are widely reflected within Tibetan society and he represents the views of the vast majority of Tibetans. His consistent advocacy of non-violence is an important factor in reaching a lasting solution. Chinese government engagement with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to resolve problems facing Tibetans is in the interests of the Chinese government and the Tibetan people. Failure to address these problems will lead to greater tensions inside China and will be an impediment to China’s social and economic development, and will continue to be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States.”

“We are glad to see the US Government continue to support the Tibetans’ stance to solve the Tibetan issue through a negotiated solution. At the same time, the hardline position on Tibet reiterated earlier this week by the Chinese government in its “White Paper,” shows the need for the US Government and the international community to speak up jointly to let China know that this dangerous escalation will not be tolerated. Tibetans in Tibet are resisting in many nonviolent ways to the oppressive policies implemented by Beijing, but without international support, these efforts will not be able to improve the living conditions of Tibetans,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

The first Tibet Negotiations Report was submitted to the Congress by President George Bush on May 8, 2003. However, in July of the same year, the President delegated to the Secretary of State the submission of “certain recurring reports,” including on Tibet Negotiations Status, to the Congress “only to improve the internal management of the executive branch.” Since then the Secretary of State has been submitting the reports.

The full text of the report is available here »