The diplomatic shadow-play that is the US-China human rights dialogue resumes today in Washington and according to the State Department, will feature discussions on: dissidents, religious rights, rule of law and Internet freedom. We can also expect some limited encouragement of China on talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, although that prospect will not warm-the-hearts of Tibetans inside Tibet, whose goals are a free and independent nation, not a form of autonomy as dictated by communist China. There may, if political fortitude and integrity permit, be some representation on prominent Tibetan political prisoners, yet despite the positives which may emerge, usually involving a staged prisoner release by China, major human rights violations will be excluded from the agenda.
Herein lies the limitations of the dialogue, which many regard as a cosmetic exercise, in that consistently fails to address fundamental issues of oppression and injustice that deny people in China, Tibet and East Turkestan human rights. For example the occupation of those territories, and the violent denial of Tibetan and Uyghur national self-determination, are not considered by the State Department to be a violation of human rights. Would that core issue be successfully addressed then all other abuses which spring from China’s illegal occupation of those lands could effectively cease, however the ineffectual and cynical human rights choreography between the US and China, callously avoids that fundamental injustice, and simply postures at the edge.
Nether side, for their own national interest and political and economic advantage, wish to acknowledge that the right most demanded by Tibetans and Uyghurs is national and cultural freedom. Instead the focus is upon individual rights, which under UN and international law are considered the jurisdiction of the state, which in the case of Tibet and East Turkestan (though illegally occupied) is regarded as resting with the communist Chinese government. Within this context by negotiating with China on human rights, as they impact upon Tibetans, the United States affirms Tibetans as an ethnic minority (not as it rightfully should, a people). It also assumes that those limited rights, which do not include self-determination; “Self-determination is not a right of minorities. They must look instead to human rights: those of which are not the rights of ‘peoples’ “ (Minorities And Human Rights Law-MRG 1987) are extended to so-called minorities within China.
The decades-old litany of abuse and oppression within China, and occupied territories such as Tibet and East Turkestan, makes a mockery of UN statutes on such ‘rights’. It also exposes the singular failure of the US State Department’s policy on human rights within China, not only has it failed to moderate the grim excesses of China’s regime, it betrays the truth that Tibetans do qualify as a people, and possess within international law the right to self-determination.
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