Tens of thousands of Tibetans protested China’s illegitimate invasion and occupation of their country on March 10, 1959, in the streets of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. Many Tibetans risked their lives to secure the Dalai Lama’s escape into exile, where he has been a persistent advocate for his people. Tibetans from the past and present, who are now dispersed throughout the globe, have been affected by March
10. From the older generation, who sought safety in Lhasa’s streets after fleeing across Tibet, to the generations who followed, who risked their lives to flee across the Mountains with their children to a new generation who was born and nurtured in exile. There has never been a time in Tibet’s history when a single event has had such a profound impact on the lives of the Tibetan people and inspired successive generations to continue the Tibetan legacy of bravery, resiliency, and optimism, as well as to continue the campaign for their independence.
Tibetans still have the same fervour and determination to protect their leader and country against Chinese tyranny sixty years later. The right to be Tibetan, including the freedom to speak their own language, practise their Buddhist faith, and live in their own nation, is still something the Tibetans continue to want. Unmistakably showing that they will not submit to Beijing’s rule or put up with the severe repression they have been subjected to over the past 60 years, Tibetans inside Tibet are proving that they will not be ruled by Beijing. Since 2009, at least 155 Tibetans have self-immolated inside of Tibet in an effort to gain freedom. In exile, Tibetans have committed 10 self-immolations. Since March 10, 1959, Tibetans have risen up – from the protests of the 1980s to the 2008 general uprising to the recent self-immolations – and have risked all in the hope that their sacrifices would alter the course of history for the next generation. The Tibetan liberation struggle is currently being led by a completely new generation of Tibetans in Tibet and exile, who are leading with passionate, astute, and innovative nonviolent methods to complete what begun more than fifty years ago.
The US think tank Freedom House has consistently put Tibet among the nations with the worst political and civil rights records in the world. There is no freedom under the Chinese Communist Party. Despite this, Tibetans have fewer civil and political rights than the majority. Every day, the Chinese government subjects Tibetans to oppressive control and the use of violence, from the widespread police surveillance of Lhasa’s crowded streets to the torture that takes place in Tibet’s secret detention facilities. Tibet is under attack in every sphere of existence. Dissent, protest, or even wishing the Dalai Lama a happy birthday or carrying a Tibetan flag on your
phone will make you a criminal. In order to avoid being imprisoned, Tibetans must censor themselves. With significant use of torture on political detainees from Tibet, China has repeatedly broken UN agreements. A large number of Tibetans are detained and their families are unaware of their location since they are facing vague or undefined allegations. They go through trials that do not adhere to international standards of justice and are denied access to adequate legal representation. Even young children can have their freedom and human rights violated. With Chinese authorities actively observing and controlling religious activity at monasteries and nunneries, Tibetan Buddhism is strictly regulated since it is considered a danger to the occupying Chinese state. Tibetan is a confined and marginalised language; Chinese is the language of business and education, putting the Tibetan language in danger.
After conducting its third-cycle review of China’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in mid-February of this year, the UN Committee on Economic,
Social, and Cultural Rights published its final findings. A large number of violations of China’s responsibilities under the Convention have been documented by the UN committee, including those in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China. The relocation of nomadic herdsmen, particularly Tibetan ones, “is carried out in the State party without sufficient consultation and, in most cases, without free, prior, and informed permission,” according to the experts. In addition, it was taken into account that compensation for expropriated property is sometimes insufficient to sustain an adequate quality of living and that traditional lands and livelihoods may be lost as a result of poverty alleviation programmes and ecological restoration resettlement initiatives. China has been advised by the UN Committee to immediately suspend all such forced relocation and rehousing schemes and engage in genuine engagement to look at other solutions with full, adequate, and timely compensation.
Concerned about the subpar working conditions, workplace harassment, and absence of labour inspection procedures to look into violations in Tibet, the UN Committee has advised China to provide the funding for labour inspection and independent audit firms to pursue legal action against enterprises in Tibet. Concerns raised by the UN Committee regarding the significant limitations placed on Tibetans’ participation in cultural life, particularly their ability to learn and teach Tibetan language, history, and culture, have been noted. In order to allow for the establishment of private Tibetan schools, the UN Committee has urged China to dismantle its forced residential school system. Additionally, it has urged China to take all necessary steps to guarantee that Tibetans can fully exercise their right to cultural life, identity, and the practise and use of Tibetan. Reservations over the systematic and widespread destruction of religious sites, particularly monasteries in Tibet, as well as the tightening of laws governing religious practises have been raised by the UN Committee. By safeguarding and repairing holy places, the Committee has advised China to “take appropriate measures to maintain cultural diversity and the cultural practises and heritage” of Tibetans. Reports were filed by the Geneva office of the Tibet Bureau. Undoubtedly, the UN agency needs to act quickly to make sure that the Chinese government actually follows its suggestions rather than just documenting them.