The sad situation of human rights of Tibetan women in ‘China’s Tibet’ calls for world
In early July this year ‘Tibet-Watch’, a Dharamshala based human rights group,
reported the case of a Tibetan woman Norzin Wangmo, in her thirties, who was being
pushed from one hospital to another in the Xining city of China’s Qinghai province.
She was in a terminal stage due to severe injuries caused by the Chinese Public
Security Bureau (PSB) during her arrest since 2020. Belonging to the Chigril
township of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai, she was accused of
sharing information with exile Tibetans about a Tibetan nomad named Tenzin Sherab
who had committed self-immolation in 2013. She was given a sentence of three years
for this act of ‘treason’.
According to details received by Tibet-Watch, Wangmo was released by Chinese jail
authorities in May this year much before the expiry of her sentence because her health
condition was too bad to recover from any medical treatment. In China it is a common
practice to torture prisoners, especially the ones who are found guilty of political
crimes, and release them before they die inside the prison.
In another news report Tibet.net, an exile Tibetan media group, published news of
arrest of two Tibetan sisters named Youdon and Zumkar from Tsarang village of
Amdo County in the Qinghai province. Elder Zumkar (27) was detained on June 23
for possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama, the supreme spiritual leader and the exiled
ruler of Tibet who had escaped to India in 1959 to save himself from the People’s
Liberation Army that had dethroned him in 1951. Later following torturous
interrogation of Zumkar her younger sister Youdon (20) too was arrested for assisting
her in acquiring the photo to celebrate Dalai Lama’s birthday on 6th July. According
to latest reports Youdon was shifted to a jail in Lhasa while there is no news about the
whereabouts of Zumkar.
In China’s occupied Tibet, women form a sizeable number among the political
prisoners who are arrested for various crimes which include participation in a
demonstration against the Chinese rule, possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama or even
resisting the Chinese communist authorities who come to take away Tibetan children
for admission in residential schools. These special schools are established across Tibet
for the purpose of ‘de-Tibetanizing’ their minds and brainwashing them with
communist ideology under new policy of President Xi Jinping which aims at
producing a new generation of ‘patriotic’ Tibetans.
In April this year six UN human rights experts in Geneva had issued a joint
communication, urging China to account for the arrest, detention and disappearance of
three Tibetans who included a woman teacher Rinchen Kyi. She was arrested in Aug
2021 on charge of ‘inciting separatism’ after she held a hunger strike to protest against
the forced closure of the Sengdruk Taktse Middle School, a privately managed
Tibetan cultural setup, in Darlag County of Golog Prefecture, Qinghai Province,
where she taught.
International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), a US-based NGO working for raising
international awareness about the colonial situation of Tibet, released the text of a
government order, issued by the Lhasa Municipal Public Security Bureau on 4th July
viz. two days before the 87th birthday of Dalai Lama. This order announces cash
incentives of up to 300,000 Yuan (more than Rs. 33 lakh or over US$ 44,000) for
reporting ‘illegal and criminal’ activities of any fellow Tibetan, including one’s own
family members. The reward money is equivalent to 2 to 5 year’s income of a
common Tibetan citizen. “The Chinese authorities in Tibet are using tactics to turn
Tibetans against each other by creating further fear and distrust among families,
friends and neighbors”, said the rights group.
In an international webinar titled “Tibetan Women and Human Rights Under China’s
Colonial Rule” on 30 July this year, three experts were critical of China and its
Communist Party for using forced abortion and coercive sterilization of Tibetan
women as a normal practice of enforcing family planning and population control on
the people of Tibet. These experts, speaking from Italy, Taiwan and India expressed
deep concerns over politicization of the institution of marriage by Chinese authorities
in Tibet who are systematically pushing and sponsoring marriages between male Han
settlers and local Tibetan woman. These experts termed such Chinese practices in
Tibet as ‘cultural genocide. This webinar was organized jointly by the Centre for
Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement and Tibetan Youth Congress.
In this webinar Tenzin Passang, a young Tibetan woman activist of ‘Students for a
Free Tibet’, said that besides long imprisonment in Chinese jails, Tibetan women have
to face severe physical violence, torture and other aggressions like rape by jail
officials. Referring to China’s aggressive family planning campaign in Tibet Pasang
said “There have been cases in which they would blackmail and coerce a woman to go
for abortion or sterilization by putting her husband in jail on some flimsy grounds. It
is not uncommon to hear complaints of women who had visited a Chinese medical
centre for an unrelated medical problem but they were given medicines to induce
abortion. In many cases this has led to the death of the woman,” she said.
Another woman expert at this webinar was Professor Mei-Lin Pan, Chairperson at the
department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung
University at Hsinchu in Taiwan. She has been studying the situation of Tibetan
refugee women in India, Nepal and Taiwan for past 15 years. She said that
irrespective of one’s social, educational or professional status, the Tibetan women are
subjected to same type of suppression and discrimination at the hands of their Chinese
colonial masters. She presented two examples of Tibetan women, one a poor
housewife and another a highly qualified medical surgeon who decided to run away
from China controlled Tibet and risked their lives by escaping to India. In both cases
the Chinese administrators wanted the women to abort their babies whereas both of
them decided to take the risk as fled to exile.
While these cases speak volumes about the inhuman treatment of Tibetan women by
the Chinese rulers of today’s Tibet, the women of Tibet too have proven their guts and
determination to fight back this tyranny and are playing their role with courage both at
the family front as well as in the national struggle.