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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid ra'adAl Hussein, highlights Tibetan human rights defenders

September 11, 2017

[Note - This is an excerpt only. The High Commissioner highlights several countries in his statement which can be read in full at: ] 

UN Human Rights Council, September11, 2017- As I enter the final year of my current mandate – a year which I will discharge with vigour and determination – I wish to begin with a few short reflections drawn from the past three years.

Terrorists may attack us, but the intellectual authors of those crimes will then often sit back and watch as governments peel away at human rights protections; watch, as our societies gradually unravel, with many setting course toward authoritarianism and oppression – staging for us, not a century of achievement and pride, but a century that is small, bitter and deprived, for the vast majority of humans.

The second of my reflections focuses on States' consistency – or lack of consistency – when it comes to human rights commitments: the so-called internal-external gap. Does it not disturb governments to defend the rights of humans elsewhere – in order to project themselves as global players – while at home they openly deny the rights of their own people? Do they not recognize the hypocrisy?

Third, does it not occur to the many Governments who engage in intimidation and bullying, and commit reprisals against human rights defenders and NGOs which work with the UN human rights mechanisms – do they not realise that this only confirms to us, and to the world, how much oppression and injustice they exercise in their own countries? This is not a shared future; it is the theft of their peoples' inalienable rights.

China is currently drafting its first national law regarding detention centres, with the aim of improving standards of treatment, oversight and accountability. I welcome this and encourage the Government to ensure that the law grants access to independent legal counsel and family members, as well as addressing the ill-treatment in detention and deaths in custody noted by the Committee Against Torture in 2015. The recent death in custody of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo shocked many around the world, as did the deaths, also in custody, of Cao Shunli in 2014 and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in 2015. Many more are in various forms of deprivation of liberty on questionable grounds, without any independent oversight mechanism, including Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, Li Ming-che, Tashi Wangchuk and Liu Xia. I am particularly concerned about action taken against defence lawyers. I commend China's emphasis on the contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights, and suggest it should include a greater focus on vulnerable groups, in particular among the Tibetan, Uyghur and other marginalised populations.

Mr President,

In the first three years of my current term, the world has grown darker and dangerous. My vision for the work of my Office has become more determined, drawing even more deeply on the lessons which come to us from our forbears: human rights principles are the only way to avoid global war and profound misery and deprivation.

In continuing to lead this Office I am inspired by movements of people standing up in many countries in defiance of the indefensible. They seek, not power or personal profit; what they seek is justice.

Thank you.

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