Hell in the Himalayas





“The Committee remains deeply concerned about the routine and widespread use of torture and ill-treatment” – UN Committee Against Torture, November 2008

For more than 6 decades, the mountainous province of Tibet populated by 3 million people has been under the brutal dictatorship of the People’s Republic of China and has faced serious human rights abuses without reparation. It is a failure on the part of the international community to enforce the repeated condemnation of the actions of the PRC and to allow the Chinese government to inhumanely occupy Tibet with impunity.

In 2008, the UN Committee against Torture met in Geneva and issued a clear condemnation of what was deemed the “widespread” use of torture in Tibet. The torture techniques (mainly aimed against Buddhist monks and nuns, who are seen as supporters of the 14th Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile) include, according to the report, detention without cause lasting more than 37 days, denial of access to food and water, denial of access to an attorney, the use of physical violence and secret police, and in extreme cases, death whilst in custody. Firsthand accounts of survivors of torture in Chinese prisons in Tibet report instances of severe beatings which leave permanent physical impairment, being chained to metal chairs welded to the floor for days at a time, and even threats against their families and loved ones. In some cases, the alleged “crimes” of these detainees are as simple as an attempt to fly the banned Tibetan flag over their homes.

In 1914, representatives of the Chinese, Tibetan, and British governments meet at the Simla Convention to sign a treaty that would grant China authority over Inner Tibet while “respecting the territorial integrity” of Outer Tibet and leaving Outer Tibet under the administration of the government of the Dalai Lama. However, while both Britain and Tibet signed the treaty, the representatives of the Chinese government walked out in protest over Britain’s acquisition of territory in the southern region of Tibet on the border of India, then a part of the British Empire. 35 years later, after the formation of the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party invaded Tibet and claimed the region as a part of the PRC, killing hundreds of thousands of Tibetans and forcing the Dalai Lama to flee to India, where he has remained to the present.

The world is familiar with the terrible self-immolations that are performed by Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in protest of Chinese rule and in support of the Dalai Lama. Since 2009, a total of 51 Tibetans have self-immolated in defiance of Beijing, often swallowing kerosene and wrapping themselves in barbed wire to prevent others from attempting to douse the flames. In 2011, the Chinese government reversed their policy of allowing monks who complied with government regulation to run their monasteries autonomously. Today, every Buddhist monastery in Tibet is under direct Chinese rule, with government officials stationed inside each temple to continuously monitor the activities of the monks and nuns.

The actions of the Chinese government has been strongly opposed by the UN and the Human Rights Watch, and yet the government in Beijing is allowed to continue imprisoning, torturing, displacing, and killing hundreds of Tibetans every year. The time for government action has long passed; there is a strong need for international organizations and the media to turn their attention to the situation in Tibet and to speak out against the worst abuses of the Chinese government. 

For more information on the human rights crisis in Tibet, visit www.freetibet.org.

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