UN Committee seeks additional information from China on racial discrimination

The UN body working towards the elimination of racial discrimination worldwide has asked for additional information from the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), according to a document dated 13 June 2018.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (‘Committee’) that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (‘Convention’) conveyed a set of questions (‘List of Themes’) to the PRC after reviewing the PRC’s national report to the 96th session of the body. The PRC delegation will appear before the Committee on 10 and 13 August 2018 with the meeting being webcast live by the UN. The Committee is composed of 18 Experts as members including Ms. Li Yanduan, the current Ambassador of China to the Independent State of Samoa.

Although many of the questions are reiteration of the Committee’s previous doubts and views on the PRC’s implementation of the Convention, specific matters pertaining to the human rights situation in Tibet were raised. For instance, the Committee was seeking information on the “protection of the civil and political rights of ethnic Tibetans, Mongolians and Uighurs, especially protection from discrimination and torture, including data on investigations carried out, and respect for the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion or belief and movement, including steps that the Government is taking to guarantee freedom of movement.”

Other questions raised in the ‘List of Themes’ document were on “land expropriation measures affecting ethnic minorities and on related compensation paid”; statistics disaggregated by “ethnic group on population of detention centres, prisons and mental institutions, and on individuals who died while either incarcerated or in police custody”; “bilingual education in ethnic minority areas” and “measures taken to promote and respect local and regional languages, cultures and traditions.” The Committee also sought “specific information on poverty rates and on poverty alleviation programmes for Tibetans and Uighurs” as well as “measures taken to ensure that ethnic minorities enjoy freedom of religion on an equal footing with the rest of the population; information on the impact on religious minorities of the recently revised regulations on religious affairs.”

“We believe this latest set of legitimate and legal questions over the treatment of minority nationalities by the Chinese government raises serious concerns about the cooperation PRC was giving to the Committee since many questions have remained unanswered for decades,” said Ms. Tsering Tsomo, executive director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). “China must realise that as a state party, it has the duty to provide full information to the Committee to prove that it respects, protects and fulfils its obligations under the Convention.”

Since the PRC is not required to provide a written answer to these questions, it will be up to the Chinese delegation, normally attending the session with more than 20 people, on whether to provide information as requested by the Committee.

Several civil society groups have submitted information to the Committee on the situation faced by the Tibetan people, including the Tokyo-based Asian Solidarity Council for Freedom and Democracy. This organisation concludes in its report, “Policies for each ethnic groups of Uyghur, Mongolia and Tibet developed by the government of People’s Republic of China constitute racial discrimination that denies their ethnic languages, lifestyles and cultural traditions and force sense of value of Communist Party of China.”

TCHRD in its submission amongst others recommended that the Chinese government “hold meaningful consultation with Tibetan stakeholders including nomads and farmers on forging a new way of managing Tibetan grasslands and review of existing grassland policy that is ineffective, negative and improper.” The full text of TCHRD’s submission can be downloaded from the Committee’ session webpage.

TCHRD informed the Committee about seven Tibetan cases of death in custody, including that of Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

It has been noticed that four Chinese Government Organised NGOs (GONGOs) have submitted information to lend their support to the policies of the Chinese authorities. They are Chinese Association for the Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture (CAPDTC), China Ethnic Minorities’ Association for External Exchanges (CEMAFEE), China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), and China Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (CUAES).

The PRC last appeared before this Committee in 2009. In its ‘Concluding Observation’, the Committee had reiterated “its previous recommendation that any policies or incentives offered that may result in a substantial alteration of the demographic composition of autonomous minority areas be reviewed.” The Committee has long expressed concerns over the PRC’s population transfer of Chinese settlers into Tibet under the guise of economic development and poverty alleviation policy and programs.

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