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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."

AAA Human Rights Committee Statement on Tibet

July 22, 2008

AAA Human Rights Task Group on China and Tibet
American Anthropological Association Committee for Human Rights
Statement Regarding the Spring 2008 Protests in Tibet
Approved by June 20, 2008

The AAA Human Rights Task Group on China and Tibet issued the
following letter regarding the spring 2008 Tibetan protests. The
statement, sent to the government of the People's Republic of China,
details major concerns about how the Chinese government has reacted
to the protests, and urges the Chinese government to address some of
the underlying cultural, economic, political, and religious issues
that fueled the violence.

To the Government of the People's Republic of China:

On behalf of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), at
present the largest professional organization of anthropologists in
the world and composing 11,000 members, the Task Force on China and
Tibet of the AAA's Committee for Human Rights would like to express
its' deep concern about the ongoing set of factors motivating recent
protests by the people of Tibet. This is based upon our discipline's
long professional attention to the costs of political and economic
development for the collective social and cultural well-being of the
world's peoples. Given that the Peoples' Republic of China is a
signator to the 1966 Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, and given that the AAA's own Declaration on Anthropology and
Human Rights emphasizes "the equal opportunity of all cultures,
societies, and persons to realize this capacity in their cultural
identities and social lives," we wish to draw your attention to the
following concerns with respect to Tibet.

Point 1:  The recent earthquake in Sichuan Province was not simply a
Chinese tragedy, but also a Tibetan tragedy; the epicenter was just
east of the large Tibetan area of Sichuan.  The earthquake is tragic
in many ways. Many people lost their lives, including the devastating
deaths of many schoolchildren; homes and businesses were destroyed;
and many communities were cut off from basic human necessities and
life saving operations.  In addition, however, the earthquake also
perpetuated an information blackout in ethnic Tibetan communities
which, just before the earthquake hit, were sites of continued
clashes between Tibetans and government forces.  In the wake of the
earthquake, we no longer have clear information channels to these
communities, and thus no longer know the degree of the continuing
protests or repression in these areas.  In the aftermath of the
earthquake and its many tragedies, there is still a need to
peacefully resolve the issues behind the current protests in Tibet,
and thus these Tibetan protests must not be forgotten.

Point 2: The causes of protests across Tibetan regions of China are
multifaceted.  They are rooted in the troubled social and political
history of China and Tibet, as well as more contemporary global and
regional processes of "development."  These causes include, but are
not limited to the economic marginalization of Tibetans in the
People's Republic of China (PRC), the rising costs of living, and
rising levels of unemployment among Tibetans in urban areas. This
reality persists despite Chinese government claims of increasing
material prosperity in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). In terms of
religion, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interference into religious
practice and policy as well as continued, unrelenting public critique
of the Dalai Lama has fueled rather than quelled Han-Tibetan ethnic
tensions. In addition, limited opportunities for education in Tibetan
language and inadequate opportunities for socio-economic advancement
for Tibetans within contemporary Tibetan communities—and not just in
mixed or Han-dominant communities—continue an historical legacy of
"Han Chauvinism" toward Tibetans, one of the People's Republic of
China's 55 minority nationalities (minzu). Finally, many Tibetans
harbor resentment about the Chinese "peaceful liberation" of Tibet in
the 1950s, as well as abiding experiences of frustration, despair,
anger, and hopelessness, have fueled these historic moments of civil
unrest. Many Tibetans involved in the 2008 protests across Tibetan
terrain have expressed that they have "nothing left to lose."

Point 3: The recent wave of protests in ethnically Tibetan areas,
begun in Lhasa on March 14, are the largest protests that have
occurred seen since the Tibetan Uprising of March 1959. However,
unlike that historic uprising, these current protests cut across all
segments of society (monks and nuns, laypeople, men and women,
nomads, peasants, workers) and across all ethnically Tibetan regions
of the PRC. Counter to official Chinese media representation, this
civil unrest was not simply the work of "bad elements" in Lhasa, be
they monks or laypeople.  Indeed most of the protests have occurred
outside the TAR, in Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai Province. This (1)
reinforces the reality that there is truth to historical claims about
the geographic boundaries of "Tibet" in both cultural and political
terms, and (2) signals that Tibetan dissatisfaction with the Chinese
government is more widespread and serious than has been acknowledged.

Given the above points, we, the AAA Committee for Human Rights,
requests the following:

Request 1: We ask that the Chinese government end the use of force
against Tibetans in China.  In conjunction with this, we ask that the
Chinese government end its continuing suppression of Tibetan opinion
and release those Tibetans imprisoned for peacefully exercising their
international rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

Request 2: We ask that the Chinese government acknowledge the level
of discord in Tibet and begin work to ameliorate these
conditions.  Among other things, this should involve providing
resources and opportunities for Tibetans to participate in
decision-making processes aimed at addressing the issues underlying
these recent protests.

Request 3: We ask that the Chinese government continue serious talks
with representatives of the Dalai Lama, and that the government treat
him with the courtesy and respect due to a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
and recognized global leader.

Finally, we join with the many Chinese intellectuals who in their
petition to the government concluded by expressing their hope that
the Chinese and Tibetan people will do away with misunderstandings
between them, and we call on the Chinese government to take the lead
in fostering such peaceful relations.
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