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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China Attempts to Stifle NGO Statement on Tibet (Phayul)

September 15, 2008

Phayul [Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:05]
Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent

United Nations, Geneva, 10 September - Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian 
Uhomohbhi of Nigeria, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, 
this morning overruled an attempt by a Chinese delegate to interrupt a 
statement on Tibet by a German NGO. A member of Society for Threatened 
Peoples was speaking with reference to the response given by the 
Chinese authorities to three human rights experts of the Council, 
including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and 
fundamental freedoms of indigenous people on the "alleged severe 
impact of resettlement programs and forced evictions that are 
currently being implemented in Tibetan areas of the People's Republic 
of China (PRC)."

The Ninth Session of the Human Rights Council was having an 
interactive dialogue on the report submitted to the body by Prof. 
James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights 
of indigenous peoples. In an addendum to his report called "summary of 
cases transmitted to Governments and replies received", the Special 
Rapporteur detailed the 3 October 2007 communication to the Chinese 
authorities stating: "It was alleged that tens of thousands of 
Tibetans are being negatively affected by nomad settlement and 
resettlement, land confiscation and fencing policies, which are mainly 
implemented in Golok (Guoluo) and Yushu districts of Qinghai province, 
but also in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other provinces that 
have large Tibetan populations, including Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. 
It was reported that these policies have had a very adverse impact on 
the traditional lifestyles and living patterns in Tibetan areas, 
affecting directly the fabric of traditional Tibetan life and 
devastating the economy of these communities. The implementation of 
these policies contributes to the challenges that Tibetan cultural and 
religious identity face today."

To this communication which was joined by the Special Rapporteur 
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and the Special Rapporteur on 
the right to food, China responded on 21 December 2007 claiming "...a 
series of projects for the benefit of the people in the Tibetan 
Autonomous Region (TAR) have been carried out. These projects support 
and encourage the rapid development of Tibetan economy and society, 
regenerate and strengthen agricultural and pastoral lands, and improve 
living and economic conditions of farmers and pastoralists. The 
Government stressed that, at the same time, it has paid attention to 
and respected the thoughts of the Tibetan people and supported their 
traditional lives, customs, and culture. The Government noted that it 
has received widespread support and favorable comments about the 
projects from the farmers and pastoralists."

The statement by Society for Threatened Peoples delivered by Tenzin S. 
Kayta while welcoming China's response alerted the Council that the 
NGO "believe the issue of consent of the Tibetans involved is 
fundamental ... given the human rights crisis prevailing on the 
Tibetan Plateau, an independent analysis here would be impossible." 
The three-minute statement added: "However, a documentary called, 
"Dispatches-Undercover in Tibet" released this year by Channel 4 
British Television revealed that "the nomadic way of life being 
forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans are stripped of their land and 
livestock and are being resettled in concrete camps."

A representative of the Chinese delegation reasoned that the NGO 
statement was not relevant to the topic under discussion in the 
Council to which the Council President ruled that the statement was in 
order when he even read the first paragraph of the NGO statement. The 
Chinese delegate then asserted that "Tibet was a part of China and 
Tibetan people are one of 56 ethnic groups of China" while rejecting 
notion of the existence of indigenous people in present-day China. "We 
don't have indigenous people", the Chinese delegate claimed.

Society for Threatened Peoples intervention also informed the Council 
about the interview given to the British TV documentary in which a 
Tibetan evicted from his grasslands says: "Life here is incredibly 
hard. People are suffering from hunger and hardship. They have no jobs 
and they have no food...no land. The only way they can fill their 
empty stomachs is by stealing. Nobody wanted to move here. But if you 
ask questions dressed like a Chinese, they won't dare to tell you the 
truth. They will only have good things to say because we live in 
terror...Its just like living through the Cultural Revolution. 
Everybody is so depressed, they look awful, their faces have become 
pale, and their eyes are sunken. Everyone is afraid of speaking the 
truth. I could be arrested tomorrow if they knew what I've just said."

After studying China's response, the Special Rapporteur on the 
situation of indigenous peoples, observes that he "will continue to 
closely monitor the situation and called on China "to take the 
necessary measures to ensure that the development projects referred to 
do not infringe the human rights of the people affected and that any 
such adverse impacts be remedied promptly."

Responding to China's position that there are no indigenous people in 
China, Prof. Anaya stated that while he understands the 
"sensitivities" that many States have on the issue on the coverage of 
the term indigenous peoples. However, he encouraged "a human rights-
based approach, one which looks to the particular issues involved and 
the human rights dimensions of those issues." He added: "I see issues 
that are common to indigenous peoples throughout the world and the 
focus that I will be advancing is one on those particular issues on 
the human rights dimensions of them as I believe my predecessor did in 
his communication on the situation of Tibetans in China."

Society for Threatened Peoples urged "to closely monitor the situation 
in Tibet, including by seeking a fact-finding mission to ascertain the 
fate Tibetans evicted from their ancestral lands."

On Monday, the Ninth Session of the Council heard a statement from the 
new High High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay who 
said: "Genocide is the ultimate form of discrimination ...We must all 
do everything in our power to prevent it. What I learned as a judge on 
the Rwanda Tribunal about the way in which one human being can abuse 
another, will haunt me forever."

Webcast Archive of the Debate: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=009#am

-         end -

Statement of Society for Threatened Peoples

General Assembly_HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL_Ninth Session_Agenda Item 
3_PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS_ _Interactive Dialogue: 
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and 
fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, S. James Anaya- Summary of 
cases transmitted to Governments and replies received (A/HRC/9/9/Add.
1)_ _Statement by Society for Threatened Peoples, delivered by Mr. 
Tenzin S. KAYTA__Thank you, Mr. President._ _We make this comment with 
regard to the 3 October 2007 joint communication to China by the 
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights of indigenous 
peoples, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and the Special 
Rapporteur on the right to food, on the "alleged severe impact of 
resettlement programs and forced evictions that are currently being 
implemented in Tibetan areas of the People's Republic of China 
(PRC)."_ _While welcoming China's response on this matter, we believe 
the issue of consent of the Tibetans involved is fundamental.  And, 
given the human rights crisis prevailing on the Tibetan Plateau, an 
independent analysis here would be impossible.  However, a documentary 
called, "Dispatches-Undercover in Tibet" released this year by Channel 
4 British Television revealed that "the nomadic way of life being 
forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans are stripped of their land and 
livestock and are being resettled in concrete camps."_ _This 
documentary hears a Tibetan who volunteered to be interviewed.  In 
this interview, the Tibetan says the following:  "Life here is 
incredibly hard. People are suffering from hunger and hardship. They 
have no jobs and they have no food...no land. The only way they can 
fill their empty stomachs is by stealing. Nobody wanted to move here. 
But if you ask questions dressed like a Chinese, they won't dare to 
tell you the truth. They will only have good things to say because we 
live in terror...Its just like living through the Cultural Revolution. 
Everybody is so depressed, they look awful, their faces have become 
pale, and their eyes are sunken. Everyone is afraid of speaking the 
truth. I could be arrested tomorrow if they knew what I've just 
said."_ _Mr. President, recently the Chinese authorities announced 
that in the next five years 73,000 Tibetan nomads will be moved in the 
Gannan (Tib: Kanlho) "Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture" ('TAP'), a region 
where Tibetans were in the forefront of the Spring Uprising on the 
Tibetan Plateau._ _Given this alarming development in the Land of 
Snows, we urge the Special Rapporteur to closely monitor the situation 
in Tibet, including by seeking a fact-finding mission to ascertain the 
fate Tibetans evicted from their ancestral lands._ _I thank you, Mr. 
President.
-----

Full text of the Communication between the Special Rapporteurs and 
China:
http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/150/81/PDF/G0815081.pdf?OpenElement


The People's Republic of China

Allegation letter regarding alleged resettlement programs implemented 
in the Tibetan areas of the People's Republic of China

396. On 3 October 2007, the Special Rapporteur joined with the Special 
Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an 
adequate standard of living and the Special Rapporteur on the right to 
food to bring to the Government's attention information received 
regarding the alleged severe impact of resettlement programs and 
forced evictions that are currently being implemented in Tibetan areas 
of the People's Republic of China (PRC). 397. It was alleged that tens 
of thousands of Tibetans are being negatively affected by nomad 
settlement and resettlement, land confiscation and fencing policies, 
which are mainly implemented in Golok (Guoluo) and Yushu districts of 
Qinghai province, but also in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and 
other provinces that have large Tibetan populations, including Gansu, 
Sichuan and Yunnan. It was reported that these policies have had a 
very adverse impact on the traditional lifestyles and living patterns 
in Tibetan areas, affecting directly the fabric of traditional Tibetan 
life and devastating the economy of these communities. The 
implementation of these policies contributes to the challenges that 
Tibetan cultural and religious identity face today.

398. The reports received indicated that in many rural areas, 
inhabitants are evicted from their homes and forced to move into newly 
built, Chinese-style dwellings as a result of infrastructure projects, 
mining activities and hydropower projects. The government policies 
reportedly also include the forced resettlement of herders, who have 
been required to slaughter most of their livestock and move into newly 
built housing colonies or near towns, abandoning their traditional 
livelihoods and way of life. In addition, it was reported that both 
farmers and herders are told to take grassland and farmland in 
particular out of production in return for a guaranteed 10-year grain 
subsidy.

399. The allegations received claim that displacement and forced 
resettlement resulted in
hardship and lower standard of living for many herders and their 
families. According to these allegations, in certain areas with a 
usual holding of up to a hundred or more yaks, sheep and goats per 
household member, a limit of five livestock per household member has 
now been enforced and the exceeding stock has to be slaughtered or 
allowed to die. In addition, it was reported that for one yak over the 
limit allowed, herders have to pay a fine of about 1,000 yuan (USD 130).

400. An estimated 2.25 million herders live with their herds in the 
Northern and Eastern regions of the Plateau. Although they have 
reportedly a unique way of life, adapted to a harsh and challenging 
environment and reflected in their beliefs, attitudes and habits, from 
the official point of view, it was reported that subsistence herders 
are seen as destitute and any measures taken to provide them with 
better access to cash economy, road network or urban housing is seen 
as an improvement. According to the information received, a number of 
public policies have affected herders' ability to maintain their 
livelihoods and usual access to food over the past 50 years.

401. Reportedly, since the most recent launch in 2003 of the 
"ecological migration policies," the provincial government of Qinghai 
resettled 28,000 people and constructed 14 "migrant urban districts." 
Moreover, in 2005, Du Ping, director of the Western Development Office 
under the State Council, China's cabinet, stated that 700,000 people 
in western China had been resettled since 2000 because it was "the 
most effective way to restore land to a healthy state."

402. The current government policies were reportedly geared to 
introduce the affected
populations into the urban economy for their benefit, but allegedly 
often resulted in greater impoverishment, dislocation and 
marginalization in the new communities. Housing opportunities and cash 
or food handouts are often offered in return for compliance with the 
policies, but allegedly the proposed compensations are not honored in 
a timely way and may create dependency.

403. The Special Rapporteurs emphasized that although in certain areas 
the environmental arguments for relocation may be compelling, 
authorities remain obligated to respect herders' right to an adequate 
standard of living, including adequate food, housing access to 
essential services and economic opportunities, as well as culturally 
adequate conditions in the new location. Although national legislation 
requires that those who are to be moved out from their land or to have 
their property confiscated must be consulted and eventually 
compensated for their losses and Articles 41 and 111 of China's 
Constitution guarantee the right to consultation as does the 1989 
Administrative Procedure Law, it was alleged that when relocation 
decisions are made, there is a lack of due process, including 
transparency, consultation in advance of planned relocations, and the 
right to challenge proposed relocations before an independent arbiter.

Response of Government

404. In a letter dated 21 December 2007, the People's Republic of 
China stated that, in recent years, a series of projects for the 
benefit of the people in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) have been 
carried out. These projects support and encourage the rapid 
development of Tibetan economy and society, regenerate and strengthen 
agricultural and pastoral lands, and improve living and economic 
conditions of farmers and pastoralists. The Government stressed that, 
at the same time, it has paid attention to and respected the thoughts 
of the Tibetan people and supported their traditional lives, customs, 
and culture. The Government noted that it has received widespread 
support and favorable comments about the projects from the farmers and 
pastoralists.

405. Regarding the projects for settlements of the farmers and 
pastoralists, the Government noted that because of economic 
constraints and the harsh environment, the dwellings of the farmers 
and pastoralists are simple and crude. The rooms are small and dark, 
people live together with farm animals, and the structures are old and 
dangerous. The Government stated that improving the conditions of 
their houses and the quality of their lives is the urgent wish of the 
farmers and pastoralists. In 2003, the TAR began transforming the 
housing of farmers, settling wandering pastoralists, and relocating 
the poor. The Government noted that it has worked hard over the past 
five years, resulting in the whole area of farmers and herders to have 
safer and better housing. Of these projects, 80% have been on-site 
transformations and 20% involved settling nomadic herdsman.

406. The Government stressed that all decisions at all stages of the 
projects are made together with the farmers and pastoralists, 
including whether or not new housing is built, whether or not they are 
resettled, and the kinds of housing that is built.

407. In order to bring about widespread enthusiasm of the farmers and 
pastoralists for the
projects, the TAR has provided a subsidy of 10,000 to 25,000 Yuan 
(RMB) for every household. In the past two years the housing subsidies 
totaled 13.16 million Yuan and 107,000 safe, usable, spacious, and 
bright new houses for over 550,000 farmers have been constructed.

408. Regarding the projects to covert farmland to forest, return the 
pastures to grasslands, and the establishment and preservation of the 
environment, according to the Government, since 2003, the TAR has been 
implementing projects to convert farmland to forest within the Yangzi 
(Yangtze) basin. By June 2007, already 242,900 square mu (1 mu = 1/6 
acre) had been converted to forest. In 2004, the TAR initiated 
projects to return pastures to grasslands. Today, already 2,630,000 mu 
of land have been converted, at a cost of 7.3 million Yuan. This has 
greatly improved the environmental conditions in the TAR.

409. Regarding the development of water and electricity, the 
Government stated that the natural resource of waterpower in the TAR 
is extremely abundant. Developing water and electricity is one of the 
important benefits that the Government is bringing directly the 
Tibetan society and people.

410. With respect to the situation in Qinghai Province, the Government 
stated regarding the projects concerning returning pastures to 
grasslands and returning farmland to forests that the elevation of the 
Qinghai and Tibetan plateau is roughly 4000 meters above sea level. 
The area is extremely cold and there are many natural problems. The 
conditions where the Qinghai and Tibetan people live are hard. In the 
past forty years, because of global warming and effects harmful human 
activity, the Three Rivers plateau area has had a severe depletion of 
grasslands, a loss of water and soil, changes in the conditions of 
water, and problems of habitats of all kinds of animals.

411. Currently the Three Rivers Plateau has a population of 700,000 
and there are an estimated 22,000,000 sheep. In order to effectively 
protect the ecology of the Three Rivers plateau area and to improve 
the lives of the people, in 2002 China began projects to restore the 
grasslands and the natural environment. The Government emphasized that 
although many people were relocated to save the grasslands, no one was 
forced. The resettlement process always involved careful consideration 
of the individuals affected.

412. The Government invested money to establish water, electricity, 
roads, education, medicine, radio, and other needs to the people that 
were relocated into cities and towns. The Government encouraged the 
relocated herdsman to start their own businesses. The Government also 
invested money to help the lives and the production activities of the 
herdsman that stayed on the grasslands.

413. With respect to the establishment of medium and large-scale 
projects in water and
electricity, and establishing the water-conservancy project, the 
Government informed that, since the 1980s, many water and electricity 
projects have been established along the Yellow River areas in 
Qinghai, with many beneficial results for preventing floods, 
developing electricity, and irrigation. Today, there are nine 
hydroelectric projects underway or being developed in Qinghai 
province. This has resulted in the resettlement of some herdsmen. In 
order to protect the rights and interests of the moved people and 
ensure the smooth implementation of the projects, Qinghai province has 
implemented a series of beneficial policies for the relocated 
herdsmen, including providing them with compensation, subsidies and 
ongoing support, allowing the lives of the relocated herdsmen to 
exceed their original level.

414. The Government concluded by saying that the Tibetans are one of 
the 55 minorities living in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai, and Tibet.

Observations

415. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of the People's 
Republic of China for the detailed response to the questions and 
concerns raised by the Special Rapporteurs. He will continue to 
closely monitor the situation and calls on the Government to take the 
necessary measures to ensure that the development projects referred to 
do not infringe the human rights of the people affected and that any 
such adverse impacts be remedied promptly.

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