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International Human Rights Day: Canada must reassert support for human rights in Tibet

December 10, 2015

December 10: International Human Rights Day

Canada must reassert its support for human rights in Tibet

December 10, 2015 - In an open letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to mark International Human Rights Day, Tibet groups from across Canada have appealed for renewed action in support of human rights in Tibet [1].

The letter highlights continued harsh measures used by Chinese authorities to limit dissent and maintain political control in Tibet.  It points in particular to the July 2015 death in custody of respected community leader, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, whose case had been taken up by the Government of Canada [2].

 “China continues to deny Tibetans their right to religious freedom, to free expression, and to be free from torture” said Carole Samdup, Executive Director of the Canada Tibet Committee. “Canada must stand firmly against such violations and put the defence of human rights in Tibet at the centre of its relationship with China”.

In its response to an election questionnaire sent by the Canada Tibet Committee last August, the Liberal Party of Canada highlighted its traditional support of human rights in China and Tibet and it committed to continuing that support once elected [3].

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[1] Full letter printed below.

[2] Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in prison in July 2015:

[3] The Liberal Party response to the CTC election questionnaire can be found at:


December 7, 2015

Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister of Canada

Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A2


International Human Rights Day / Tibet

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

We write today as the heads of Tibet community associations and non-governmental organizations from across Canada.

On December 10, the world will mark the 65th anniversary of International Human Rights Day, proclaimed by the United Nations as an annual reminder that basic rights and freedoms are the common concern of all Governments and all peoples. The date also marks the 26th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize award to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is a honourary citizen of Canada.

Sadly, both human rights and peace remain elusive goals for the Tibetan people.  The past year has witnessed an escalation of human rights violations in Tibet including new limitations on religious freedom, a crackdown on free expression, and the systemic use of torture.  Such violations are exemplified by the death in custody of revered community and religious leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

Rinpoche was a social worker who established medical and educational institutions for Tibetan nomads in eastern Tibet. He was also an advocate of environmental conservation on the Tibetan plateau. Arrested on April 7, 2002 he was held incommunicado for eight months until the time of his trial. He was denied access to a lawyer and to date no court documents have been released.  Appeals from the international community, including Canada, failed to secure Rinpoche's release on medical parole and he died in prison on July 15, 2015. His body showed evidence of torture but no investigation into the circumstance of his death has taken place.

Prime Minister, it is easy to stand up for human rights when there is no price to pay for speaking out. The challenge is whether or not Canada will stand up for human rights when economic benefits may be at risk for doing so.  Today, as Canadians mark International Human Rights Day, we urge you to reaffirm Canada’s unwavering commitment to the values that form our very identity as a people. 

Canada has a longstanding tradition of defending human rights in Tibet and around the world. We believe that this country can play a unique role in securing a lasting solution to the current conflict in Tibet and ending the human rights violations that drive that conflict.

Prime Minister, the Tibetan people rely on countries such as Canada to advocate on their behalf. As we celebrate International Human Rights Day, let us not forget them.


Carole Samdup, Executive Director, Canada Tibet Committee

Tenzing Gyurme, President, Tibetan Cultural Society of British Columbia

 Sonam Lankar, President, Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario

Nyima Latristang, President, Tibetan Cultural Association of Quebec

Pemma Mentuh, President, Tibetan Women’s Association of Ontario

Kelsang Nardechen, President, Tibetan Association of Alberta

Kunga Tsering, President, Canadian Friends of Tibet

 Jurme Wangda, President, Ottawa Tibetan Community Association

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