The Office of Tibet-Geneva and the Society for Threatened Peoples collaborated to host a side event on the continued Chinese oppression of the Tibetan people in conjunction with the 53rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The conference, titled “Tibetans Report on the Current State of Repression: 75 Years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” sought to raise awareness of the human rights abuses occurring in Tibet while it is governed by China. Prominent speakers addressed the crowd, including members from the Tibet Bureau and former political prisoners.
Hanno Schedler from the Society for Threatened Peoples presided over the gathering. Gloria Montgomery, Coordinator of the Tibet Advocacy Coalition, Phuntsok Nyidron, a former political prisoner in Tibet, and Kalden Tsomo, UN Advocacy Officer of the Tibet Bureau, joined the podium to discuss their perspectives on the present state of Tibet.
The ongoing political persecution, cultural assimilation, social injustice, economic marginalization, and environmental damage that the Tibetan people experience while living under Chinese rule were underlined by Kalden Tsomo. She noted that these atrocities continue in Tibet despite the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted 75 years ago. Tsomo asked the international community and UN members to work together to confront China’s violations of human rights in Tibet.
One of Tibet’s longest-serving ex-political prisoners, Phuntsok Nyidron, provided a first-person description of the cruel abuse and torture she endured while imprisoned from 1989 to 2004. She voiced alarm about the deteriorating circumstances in Tibet, which are characterized by a rise in the persecution and suppression of Tibetan identity, culture, and language. Nyidron cited the support she got from the world community as a reason why she was able to speak out against Chinese persecution and called for consistent international support for Tibet and the liberation of political prisoners. She also urged international cooperation in achieving Tibetans’ demands for freedom and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet.
The Tibet Advocacy Coalition’s Gloria Montgomery spoke on the subject of forcible residential boarding schools in Tibet. She cited a study by the Tibet Action Institute in which it was discovered that between the ages of 6 and 18, at least 900,000 Tibetan children had been forcefully taken from their families and villages and forced to live in residential schools. Additionally, an estimated 100,000 four and five-year-olds were enrolled in boarding preschools at least five days a week while being away from their parents. Montgomery emphasized the anguish these children had experienced on an emotional, psychological, and cultural level and demanded that the forced attendance at residential schools end immediately and that private Tibetan schools be established. She pleaded with UN members to follow the advice of treaty organizations and take effective action.
The side event provided a forum for bringing attention to Tibet’s pressing problems and building support for the cause. The speakers made a call for international support and action to address the human rights abuses experienced by the Tibetan people by bringing attention to China’s continued persecution in Tibet. An updated call to action and a common commitment to protect the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights marked the event’s conclusion.