By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 10 December 2019
The Tibetan rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) called on the UN member-states to defend human rights by protecting civil society expression on world Human Rights Day.
Speaking during a press conference on Monday to mark the 71st anniversary of World Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Director of TCHRD Tsering Tsomo said, “Civil society voices are under attack in many places around the world. Tibetan voices in Tibet are suppressed by China.”
“A free, diverse, and pluralistic civil society is indispensable for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Tsomo said.
She said that in recent years, China under the leadership of President Xi Jinping has sought to influence critical human rights institutions by isolating civil society organisations (CSO) from human rights mechanisms. Paving the way for other governments to block essential voices, the PRC is ushering in a new era wherein civil society is silenced, and the human rights system is corrupted.
China argues that human rights are a domestic issue and that international criticism challenges state sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“Regardless, when a UN member state fails to adhere to its commitments under international law, the global community is responsible for protecting the rights and freedoms of all persons affected,” Tsomo said.
In their effort to highlight China’s human rights violations in Tibet, Tsomo and her colleague Tenzin Dawa had earlier this month made submissions to the embassies of 135 UN member-states based in New Delhi. A copy of the letter was also sent to the Minister of External Affairs of the Indian government.
China is blamed for preventing members of civil society from leaving the country through surveillance, passport confiscation, detention, torture, and family-targeting threats.
Tsomo said that these prevent activists from participating in the UN human rights system or coordinating with international CSOs, making it harder for the international community to understand the grievances and aspirations of people living in the PRC.
She pointed out that UN human rights mechanisms are crippled when member states block domestic voices from reaching international platforms.
“Even on UN premises, European, US, and Chinese human rights activists have been harassed by members of the Chinese delegation, state media, and government-sponsored ‘NGOs’,” she said.
Writing that unless confronted immediately, a growing number of states will threaten to undermine human rights by muzzling civil society organisations, TCHRD have suggested “We can prevent states with the most reprehensible human rights records from setting standards for all of us.”
The letter urged the governments to pressure the PRC to end its crackdown on civil society, defend human rights principles, and improve protection of NGOs and activists.