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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."

China: Lhasa Torch Relay Tarnishes Olympic Movement

June 22, 2008

Information Blackout Belies Return to Normality
Human Rights Watch News (HRW)
June 17, 2008

New York, June 17 -- The Chinese government and the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) risk tarnishing the Olympic movement by
holding the torch relay in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, Human Rights
Watch said today. Lhasa, where the torch is due to arrive on June 21,
has remained off-limits to foreign media and independent observers
since protests began there in mid-March.

The protests, which started with peaceful demonstrations by Buddhist
monks on March 10, became violent on March 14 after police began
arresting monks and other Tibetan protesters. Some Tibetans then
attacked Han Chinese shops and property, and police did nothing to
stop this violence. The government sealed off Lhasa and suppressed
any further unrest with a combination of mass troop deployment,
arrests and detention of several hundred and possibly thousands of
people, and extensive police surveillance of Tibetans in order to
prevent further demonstrations. On March 18, the central government
in Beijing claimed that "normalcy" had returned to Lhasa and that the
city would be reopened to foreign visitors "soon."

"The situation in Lhasa is anything but normal," said Sophie
Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "The
authorities continue to fear that Tibetans may try to stage further
protests, and Tibetans continue to fear that they can be arrested at
any time for any reason. Using Tibet for a propaganda opportunity
such as the Olympic torch relay – while sealing it to independent
investigators – is both unconscionable and reckless."

In the wake of the March protests, the Chinese government has denied
repeated demands for an independent international investigation into
the protests and their aftermath. In response to international
condemnation of the March violence, the Chinese government permitted
15 diplomats to visit Lhasa in late March, but seriously restricted
their ability to speak freely to Tibetans, visit those in detention,
or otherwise investigate aspects of the protests. In early April, a
request from Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights, to visit Tibet was declined on the grounds that it was
"inconvenient." A separate appeal, issued jointly by six United
Nations Special Rapporteurs for "full unhindered access," was
similarly declined. The International Committee of the Red Cross,
which is mandated to visit detention facilities and check on the
well-being of prisoners worldwide, has never been allowed to carry
out such work in China.

In addition, media access to Tibet has been dramatically curtailed.
In another effort to blunt international criticism, the Chinese
government has also permitted trips to Lhasa for foreign
correspondents on March 26-27, April 9-10, and June 3-5. Yet these
too were so tightly controlled that they failed to assuage concerns
about the situation in Lhasa. Monks upstaged two of the visits by
denouncing their lack of freedoms; on the most recent visit, Chinese
residents gave the correspondents accounts of police shooting
protesters in Lhasa.

Banning unrestricted access to international media and foreign
visitors has only been one aspect of the wide-ranging measures
deployed by the government to enforce an information blackout on
Tibetan areas. Other measures identified by Human Rights Watch
include the suppression of information from Tibetans about the recent
events in Tibetan areas. Methods have entailed:

* Using state security laws to prohibit reports of human rights
violations as "damaging to national security";
* Systematically threatening to arrest residents passing information
about the situation in their locality to relatives, friends, and/or
foreign journalists; and
* Arbitrarily arresting and detaining people, and releasing them
conditionally on the basis of arbitrary fines and pledges not to
speak about recent events.

In addition, Human Rights Watch has documented increasing
restrictions on Tibetans' movements through the:

* Re-imposition of regulations stipulating that Tibetans must have a
permit to travel out of the area in which they are registered to
live, and using checkpoints to enforce the regulations;
* Banning of all foreign visitors to Tibetan areas, including tourism groups;
* Deployment of border troops to prevent Tibetans from fleeing to Nepal; and
* Deployment of armed police to prevent access to monasteries where
protests have taken place.

Restrictions on telecommunications have also been imposed through
methods such as:

* Systematically monitoring calls made by those inside Tibet, often
at the telephone-exchange level, of international and domestic
telecommunications, in order to prevent information being relayed;
* Active blocking and censoring of internet and email discussions of Tibet;
* Increased jamming of foreign radio broadcasts in Tibetan; and
* Confiscation of mobile phones, cameras, fax machines, satellite TV
receivers, and computers from monasteries by the police.

The Chinese authorities have also put under house arrest the
prominent Beijing-based Tibetan writer Woeser and prevented Chinese
lawyers from representing Tibetan protesters in legal proceedings.

Human Rights Watch said that it is legitimate for any government to
act to restore public order and prosecute persons who engage in
violence. However, numerous, credible reports received by Human
Rights Watch about the scale and intensity of the repression in Tibet
suggest that authorities have used the March protests as an
opportunity to launch an indiscriminate crackdown on Tibetans'
rights. The authorities have deployed large numbers of security
forces, systematically conflated violent protesters and peaceful
demonstrators, and further intensified religious repression in
Buddhist monasteries.

"What emerges is a picture of a crackdown on anything perceived as
dissent and a largely successful attempt to suppress the flow of
information to the outside world about events in Tibet," said Richardson.

Despite these restrictions and the heightened tension in Lhasa, the
Chinese government intends to have the Olympic torch pass through on
June 21. The authorities have promised to "severely punish" and "give
no indulgence" to Tibetans who would try to "sabotage" the torch
relay. On June 1, armed police were redeployed in Lhasa, and several
thousand additional troops are being deployed this week. On June 3,
the government acknowledged the possibility of further unspecified
"incidents" in Lhasa, and on June 16 abruptly postponed the date of
the arrival of the torch, but refused to present a reason or to
detail the timing of the route.

The IOC, which has remained silent publicly about the contentious
aspects of the torch's route, has gone so far as to circulate an
internal memo to its members suggesting what they should say in the
event of casualties during the Lhasa ceremonies, which is described
in the document as a "particularly bold segment" of the torch relay.

"That the IOC is privately preparing for such an outcome indicates
just how provocative the Lhasa torch relay could be," said
Richardson. "It is irresponsible for the Chinese government to
deliberately send a torch into a powder keg, and the IOC and Olympic
sponsors should ask Beijing to cancel this part of the relay."

Human Rights Watch reiterated its March call that the torch relay
should only proceed if an international independent investigation is
also permitted access to Tibet, the ban on international media is
lifted, and China pledges to respect the right to protest peacefully
as guaranteed in international law.

Human Rights Watch has also urged top Olympic sponsors, particularly
those who are sponsors of the Olympic torch relay -- Coca-Cola,
Lenovo, and Samsung -- to use their leverage to help re-open Tibet to
journalists and international investigators. To date, no corporate
sponsor of the torch relay has responded to this appeal.

"If Tibet is open to the torch, it must also be open to an
international investigation, the media, and anyone who wishes to know
what actually happened in March," said Richardson. "Using a
propaganda-heavy event to conceal the truth about the crackdown in
Tibet shows just how little regard the Chinese government has for the
Olympic movement."

The situation in Lhasa is anything but normal. The authorities
continue to fear that Tibetans may try to stage further protests, and
Tibetans continue to fear that they can be arrested at any time for
any reason. Using Tibet for a propaganda opportunity such as the
Olympic torch relay – while sealing it to independent investigators -
is both unconscionable and reckless. "

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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