UN Experts' Intervention on suicides in Tibet
Distr.: General: 16 February 2010
In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief gives an account of communications transmitted by her between 1 December 2008 and 30 November 2009. The report also contains summaries of the replies received from Governments by 8 February 2010 and observations of the Special Rapporteur where considered appropriate.
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8. Communication sent on 2 September 2009 jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
(a) Allegations transmitted to the Government
61. The Special Rapporteurs brought to the attention of the Government information they had received regarding the sentencing of Mr. Palden Gyatso, Mr. Tsultrim, Mr. Sangpo, Mr. Jamyang Khedrub, Mr. Gendun, and Mr. Shrab Sangpo, six monks from Ragya Monastery in Qinghai Province, Tibet Autonomous Region, together with Mr. Hu-lo and Mr. Yang-kyab from Gya-sa village.
62. On 10 March 2009, Mr. Tashi Sangpo, a monk from Ragya Monastery in Magin County, Qinghai Province, was arrested after the authorities allegedly found political leaflets and the banned Tibetan flag in his room. He was reportedly subjected to beatings, inhumane treatment and long interrogations during his detention. On 21 March 2009, Mr. Tashi Sangpo allegedly escaped from the detention centre after he asked to use the bathroom, and committed suicide by jumping into the Yellow River.
63. On the same day, several thousand monks and local Tibetans in and around Ragya Monastery gathered to demand an answer for Mr. Tashi Sangpo’s death. In response, the government authorities allegedly arrested monks from the Ragya Monastery, as well as local Tibetans.
64. On 13 August 2009, the Machen County People’s Court in Golog, Qinghai Province, tried and sentenced the following persons to varying prison terms for “inciting protests and demonstrations against the Chinese government” for taking part in demonstrations on 21 March 2009:
• Mr. Palden Gyatso, monk and disciplinarian at Ragya Monastery, sentenced to seven years of imprisonment
• Mr. Tsultrim, monk and former disciplinarian at Ragya Monastery, sentenced to four years of imprisonment
• Mr. Sangpo, monk and former treasurer at Ragya Monastery, sentenced to three years of imprisonment
• Mr. Jamyang Khedrub, monk and secretary of the Board of Directors at Ragya Monastery, sentenced to two years of imprisonment
• Mr. Gendun, monk, sentenced to one year of imprisonment
• Mr. Sherab Sangpo, monk, sentenced to two years of imprisonment
• Mr. Hu-lo from Gya-sa village, sentenced to one year of imprisonment
• Mr. Yang-kyab from Gya-sa village, sentenced to six months of imprisonment
65. Furthermore, according to reports received, psychological trauma has been inflicted on the monastic community through the imposition of “patriotic education”, requiring them to denounce the Dalai Lama, which has reportedly intensified in the aftermath of regionwide protests in the Tibet Autonomous Region beginning in March 2008. Reports claim that since March 2008, 15 persons, including monks and nuns, have committed suicide in addition to Mr. Tashi Sangpo, and that three monks have attempted to commit suicide.
These persons include:
• Mr. Namdrok Khakyab, visiting scholar at Samye Monastery from Dorjee Drak Monastery, committed suicide on 19 March 2008
• Mr. Thokmey, also known as Tsanga Thokmey, monk at Ramoche Temple in Lhasa, committed suicide on 22 March 2008
• Mr. Lobsang Jinpal, monk at Ngaba Kirti Monastery in Ngaba County, Sichuan Province, committed suicide on 27 March 2008
• Mr. Legtsok, 75-year old monk at Ngaba Gomang Monastery in Ngaba County, Sichuan Province, committed suicide on 30 March 2008
• An unnamed nun in her thirties from Cholung nunnery committed suicide on 12 April 2008
• Ms. Lobsang Tsomol, nun at Chokhor Nunnery in Sibook Township, committed suicide on 12 April 2008
• An unnamed nun from Choekhor Nunnery in Sibook Township, committed suicide on 12 April 2008
• Three unnamed monks from Dogu Monastery committed suicide in April 2008
• Mr. Thoesam, 29-year old monk at Ngaba Gomang Monastery in Ngaba County, Sichuan Province, committed suicide on 16 April 2008
• Mr. Tusong, 19-year old monk at Kirti Monastery committed suicide on 16 April 2008
• Mr. Trangma, monk at Drapa Yangden Monastery in Minyang Township, Nyagchuka County, Sichuan Province, committed suicide on 18 June 2008
• Mr. Lobsang Tsultrim, monk at Kirti Dhongri Monastery in Mehu-ru-ma Village, Ngaba Country, Sichuan Province, committed suicide on 3 July 2008
• Mr. Shedup, monk at a monastery in Tongren Country, Qinghai Province, committed suicide on 2 April 2009
• Mr. Kelsang and Mr. Damchoe, monks from Drepung Monastery, both originally from Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province, attempted to commit suicide in April 2008 by stabbing themselves in the chest, hands and wrists
• Mr. Tapey, monk at Kirti Jepa Monastery in Ngaba Country, Sichuan Province, attempted to commit suicide by self-immolation on 27 February 2009 as protest against the ban on Monlam religious festival. Reports claim that when Tapey was on fire, three gun shots were fired at him by the Chinese police
66. Concern was expressed that the sentencing of Mr. Palden Gyatso, Mr. Tsultrim, Mr. Sangpo, Mr. Jamyang Khedrub, Mr. Gendun, Mr. Shrab Sangpo, Mr. Hu-lo and Mr. Yangkyab to imprisonment may represent a direct attempt to stifle freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion or belief in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Further concern was expressed regarding the physical and psychological integrity of monks and nuns in the region, in light of the reported rise in the number of suicides.
67. The Special Rapporteurs appealed to the Government to ensure the right to freedom of religion or belief in accordance with the principles set forth in the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief and article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Furthermore, they referred to General Assembly resolution 63/181, in which the Assembly urges States “to step up their efforts to protect and promote freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, and to this end: […] (b) To ensure that no one within their jurisdiction is deprived of the right to life, liberty or security of person because of religion or belief and that no one is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or arbitrary arrest or detention on that account and to bring to justice all perpetrators of violations of these rights”.
68. The Special Rapporteurs asked the Government to provide information on the basis upon which Mr. Palden Gyatso, Mr. Tsultrim, Mr. Sangpo, Mr. Jamyang Khedrub, Mr. Gendun, Mr. Shrab Sangpo Mr. Hu-lo and Mr. Yang-kyab have been sentenced to imprisonment and how that is compatible with the international norms and standards on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion or belief. They also recalled that during the fourth session of the Universal Periodic Review in February 2009, the Government indicated that the recommendation of the Working Group to strengthen the protection of ethnic minorities’ religious, civil, socio-economic and political rights is “pertaining to measures already being implemented or which had already been implemented” (A/HRC/11/25, para. 115). In this regard, the Special Rapporteurs asked the Government to provide details regarding how such measures are strengthening the protection of the rights of persons in the Tibet Autonomous Region, in particular persons belonging to the monastic community.
(b) Response from the Government dated 26 October 2009 69. On 26 October 2009, the Government of China replied to the joint urgent appeal of 2 September 2009. Since the Special Rapporteur had not received the response’s translation from the relevant services at the time this report was finalized, she is unfortunately not in a position to summarize in English the content of the Government’s response in the present report. However, a copy of the original response letter is available online at the following address: www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/religion/docs/response261009china.pdf.
(c) Observations by the Special Rapporteur 70. The Special Rapporteur is grateful that the Government of China replied to the joint urgent appeal of 2 September 2009 and hopes to be able to make observations on the response in the next report.
9. Urgent appeal sent on 18 September 2009 jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
(Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir Addendum Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received.)