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by Gustavo Capdevila

UN Won't Intercede in Tibet Crisis

(IPS) -- Western diplomats and civil society representatives unexpectedly brought up the question of Tibet in the United Nations Human Rights Council debates in this Swiss city.

The Council should hold a special session to discuss recent events in Tibet, Tenzin Samphel Kayta said Tuesday, speaking in the name of the Society for Threatened Peoples, an international non-governmental organisation.

Kayta, who told IPS that he was an expert on human rights in the office of the Dalai Lama, TibetŐs exiled spiritual leader, said the Council should adopt decisions aimed at curbing the "systematic abuses" inflicted on the Tibetan population.

The Council, the UNŐs highest human rights forum, had turned a blind eye to the recent incidents in Tibet since it began its first period of sessions this year on Mar. 4.

The governments and non-governmental organisations that introduced the issue of Tibet in the debate took advantage of the fact that the Council was dealing Tuesday with following up on resolutions reached by the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.

The most heated verbal exchange in the Council session was between U.S. Ambassador Warren Tichenor and Qian Bo of the Chinese delegation.

Tichenor expressed the deep concern of the U.S. government and people over the "recent weeks of violence, arrests and loss of lives" which followed peaceful protests in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The demonstrations began on Mar. 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

In his reply, Qian suggested that the United States reflect on its own massive human rights violations in Iraq and other countries.

The Chinese diplomat said it should be asked which other country in the world had violated human rights to such an extent and so flagrantly as the United States.

Speaking with IPS, Patrizia Scanella, Amnesty International representative before the UN bodies in Geneva, lamented that the Human Rights Council had not offered governments and civil society a space -- like a special session -- for discussing Tibet.

ScanellaŐs presentation, like those of other speakers discussing the issue, was interrupted by the president of the Council, Doru Romulus Costea, as a result of motions introduced by China and backed by other countries.

The activist told IPS that the Council should assess the state of human rights in Tibet and in the neighboring regions where incidents also took place.

The Council should press Chinese authorities to address the demands of Tibetans, such as the elimination of restrictions on practicing their religion and of persecution for people exercising their rights to freedom of speech, association and assembly, said Scanella.

For his part, Kayta put the number of Tibetans killed in demonstrations over the past few weeks at 140, but said that only 40 bodies had been identified so far.

The adviser to the Dalai Lama said a Tibetan monk named Thomkey died of hunger due to the blockade of food and medicine supplies thrown up around the monasteries on the outskirts of Lhasa.

The Tibetan representative called on the Human Rights Council to send independent experts on a fact-finding mission to Tibet.

Human Rights Watch representative Julie de Rivero also called for respect for the rights of speech, assembly and association of minorities, in accordance with "Chinese and international law."

The Swiss government urged China to refrain from the disproportionate use of force.

In Tibet, as in China and the rest of the world, civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, which are inseparable, should be exercised by the entire population, said Swiss delegate Muriel Berset.

But the Chinese representative complained of alleged "abuses" by Tibetan demonstrators, and said the incidents had been "instigated and organised" by the Dalai Lama and his followers.

The Tibet issue is an internal Chinese question and is not included on the UN CouncilŐs agenda, said Qian.

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Albion Monitor   March 25, 2008   (

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