|China Attempts to Stifle NGO Statement on Tibet (Phayul) September 15, 2008 http://www.tibet.ca/en/newsroom/wtn/4063 Phayul [Thursday, September 11, 2008]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 astatement on Tibet by a German NGO. A member of Society for ThreatenedPeoples was speaking with reference to the response given by theChinese authorities to three human rights experts of the Council,including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights andfundamental freedoms of indigenous people on the “alleged severeimpact of resettlement programs and forced evictions that arecurrently being implemented in Tibetan areas of the People’s Republicof China (PRC).|
“The Ninth Session of the Human Rights Council was having aninteractive dialogue on the report submitted to the body by Prof.James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rightsof indigenous peoples. In an addendum to his report called “summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received”, the SpecialRapporteur detailed the 3 October 2007 communication to the Chineseauthorities stating: “It was alleged that tens of thousands of Tibetans are being negatively affected by nomad settlement andresettlement, land confiscation and fencing policies, which are mainlyimplemented in Golok (Guoluo) and Yushu districts of Qinghai province,but also in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other provinces thathave large Tibetan populations, including Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan.
It was reported that these policies have had a very adverse impact onthe 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 ofthese policies contributes to the challenges that Tibetan cultural and religious identity face today.”To this communication which was joined by the Special RapporteurSpecial Rapporteur on adequate housing and the Special Rapporteur onthe right to food, China responded on 21 December 2007 claiming “…a series of projects for the benefit of the people in the TibetanAutonomous Region (TAR) have been carried out.
These projects supportand encourage the rapid development of Tibetan economy and society,regenerate and strengthen agricultural and pastoral lands, and improveliving and economic conditions of farmers and pastoralists. TheGovernment stressed that, at the same time, it has paid attention toand 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 isfundamental … 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 4British Television revealed that “the nomadic way of life being forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans are stripped of their land andlivestock and are being resettled in concrete camps.”
A representative of the Chinese delegation reasoned that the NGOstatement was not relevant to the topic under discussion in the Council to which the Council President ruled that the statement was inorder when he even read the first paragraph of the NGO statement. TheChinese delegate then asserted that “Tibet was a part of China andTibetan people are one of 56 ethnic groups of China” while rejectingnotion 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 aTibetan evicted from his grasslands says: “Life here is incredibly hard.
People are suffering from hunger and hardship. They have no jobsand 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 thetruth. 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 toclosely monitor the situation and called on China “to take the necessary measures to ensure that the development projects referred todo 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 alldo everything in our power to prevent it.
What I learned as a judge onthe Rwanda Tribunal about the way in which one human being can abuseanother, 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 COUNCILNinth Session Agenda Item 3 PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS Interactive Dialogue: Report of the Special Rapporteur on thesituation 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 issueof 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 totell 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 regionwhere 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 situationin Tibet, including by seeking a fact-finding mission to ascertain thefate 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?OpenElementThe People’s Republic of ChinaAllegation letter regarding alleged resettlement programs implementedin the Tibetan areas of the People’s Republic of China.
396. On 3 October 2007, the Special Rapporteur joined with the SpecialRapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to anadequate standard of living and the Special Rapporteur on the right tofood to bring to the Government’s attention information receivedregarding the alleged severe impact of resettlement programs andforced evictions that are currently being implemented in Tibetan areasof the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
397. It was alleged that tensof 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 pattern sin 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 thatTibetan 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 newlybuilt, Chinese-style dwellings as a result of infrastructure projects,mining activities and hydropower projects. The government policiesreportedly also include the forced resettlement of herders, who havebeen required to slaughter most of their livestock and move into newlybuilt housing colonies or near towns, abandoning their traditional livelihoods and way of life. In addition, it was reported that bothfarmers and herders are told to take grassland and farmland in particular out of production in return for a guaranteed 10-year grainsubsidy.
399. The allegations received claim that displacement and forcedresettlement resulted in hardship and lower standard of living formany herders and their families. According to these allegations, incertain 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 hasnow been enforced and the exceeding stock has to be slaughtered or allowed to die. In addition, it was reported that forone yak over the limit allowed, herders have to pay a fine of about1,000 yuan (USD 130).
400. An estimated 2.25 million herders live with their herds in theNorthern and Eastern regions of the Plateau. Although they havereportedly a unique way of life, adapted to a harsh and challengingenvironment and reflected in their beliefs, attitudes and habits, fromthe official point of view, it was reported that subsistence herdersare seen as destitute and any measures taken to provide them withbetter access to cash economy, road network or urban housing is seenas an improvement. According to the information received, a number ofpublic policies have affected herders’ ability to maintain theirlivelihoods 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 Qinghairesettled 28,000 people and constructed 14 “migrant urban districts.”Moreover, in 2005, Du Ping, director of the Western Development Officeunder the State Council, China’s cabinet, stated that 700,000 peoplein western China had been resettled since 2000 because it was “themost 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 thoughtsof the Tibetan people and supported their traditional lives, customs,and culture. The Government noted that it has received widespreadsupport 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 oftheir houses and the quality of their lives is the urgent wish of the farmers and pastoralists. In 2003, the TAR began transforming thehousing of farmers, settling wandering pastoralists, and relocatingthe 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 andpastoralists for the projects, the TAR has provided a subsidy of10,000 to 25,000 Yuan (RMB) for every household. In the past two yearsthe housing subsidies totaled 13.16 million Yuan and 107,000 safe,usable, spacious, and bright new houses for over 550,000 farmers havebeen constructed.
408. Regarding the projects to covert farmland to forest, return thepastures to grasslands, and the establishment and preservation of theenvironment, according to the Government, since 2003, the TAR has beenimplementing projects to convert farmland to forest within the Yangzi(Yangtze) basin. By June 2007, already 242,900 square mu (1 mu = 1/6acre) had been converted to forest. In 2004, the TAR initiatedprojects to return pastures to grasslands. Today, already 2,630,000 muof 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, theGovernment stated that the natural resource of water power in the TAR is extremely abundant. Developing water and electricity is one of theimportant benefits that the Government is bringing directly the Tibetan society and people.
410. With respect to the situation in Qinghai Province, the Governmentstated regarding the projects concerning returning pastures tograsslands and returning farmland to forests that the elevation of theQinghai and Tibetan plateau is roughly 4000 meters above sea level.The area is extremely cold and there are many natural problems. Theconditions where the Qinghai and Tibetan people live are hard. In thepast forty years, because of global warming and effects harmful humanactivity, 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 700,000and there are an estimated 22,000,000 sheep. In order to effectivelyprotect the ecology of the Three Rivers plateau area and to improvethe lives of the people, in 2002 China began projects to restore thegrasslands and the natural environment. The Government emphasized thatalthough many people were relocated to save the grasslands, no one wasforced. The resettlement process always involved careful considerationof the individuals affected.
412. The Government invested money to establish water, electricity,roads, education, medicine, radio, and other needs to the people thatwere relocated into cities and towns. The Government encouraged therelocated herdsman to start their own businesses. The Government alsoinvested money to help the lives and the production activities of theherdsman that stayed on the grasslands.
413. With respect to the establishment of medium and large-scaleprojects in water and electricity, and establishing thewater-conservancy project, the Government informed that, since the1980s, many water and electricity projects have been established alongthe 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. Inorder to protect the rights and interests of the moved people andensure the smooth implementation of the projects, Qinghai province hasimplemented a series of beneficial policies for the relocatedherdsmen, including providing them with compensation, subsidies andongoing support, allowing the lives of the relocated herdsmen toexceed their original level.
414. The Government concluded by saying that the Tibetans are one ofthe 55 minorities living in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai, and Tibet.Observations.
415. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of the People’sRepublic of China for the detailed response to the questions andconcerns 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 todo not infringe the human rights of the people affected and that anysuch adverse impacts be remedied promptly.