The wider Tibet movement is currently being asked, via a petition issued through the site AVAAZ, to pressure the offices of the United Nations not to grant China a permanent seat on the UN Human Rights Council, a prospect as obscenely bizarre as imagining Jack-The-Ripper becoming a member of Amnesty International. How likely is it that the UN would be willing to listen to such an appeal? Remember the same upholders of human rights and freedoms of people have been utterly silent on China’s forced sterilization of women, a gross abuse of human rights that surely should concern the UN. Appointing also a Chinese representative as co-Chair of the UN Committee on Torture! Despite the hypocrisy and disturbing shortcomings of the UN Tibetans have for many years beaten a path to Geneva and New York City to demand action. The response is usually one of hand-wringing and platitudes, no doubt a reply that will greet those who are currently petitioning on the cause of Tibet, yet there was one occasion when the UN was forced into making a more substantial and clear statement of intent.
On March 23, 2012 three Tibetans, Shingza Rinpoche, Dorjee Gyalpo and Yeshi Tenzing ended their hunger-strike which had been located at Ralph Bunche Park across the street from the United Nations Headquarters in New York. They had appealed that the United Nations immediately send a fact finding delegation; to pressure China to allow international media in Tibet; stop undeclared martial law and so called “patriotic re-education” campaign in Tibet and release of all Tibetan political prisoners. Demands far removed from the current AVAAZ petition the softly-softly wording of which hopes for a mature and civilized China taking its rightful place on the Human Rights Council. Dream on!
Shingza Rinpoche holding to account the assurances of the UN to appoint an investigation into the situation inside Tibet and arrange a meeting with China’s government to discuss the plight of Tibetans.
That protest, organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress, brought genuine pressure and international attention to the plight of Tibet, so much so that a UN response was inevitable and one which had the appearance of going beyond a gesture of sympathy. On March 12th (the 20th day of hunger strike), Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary General (ASG) for Human Rights visited the hunger strikers expressing deep concern for their health. On the same day, he formally met in his office with Tsewang Rigzin, then President of Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) where he was presented in detail the dire situation in occupied Tibet. The ASG made assurances that he would inform the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay about the meeting.
March 14th, 2013 answering a question during the daily press briefing, Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Well, what I can tell is the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, met a representative of Tibetan Youth Congress on Monday 12 March. He said he would convey the group’s concerns to the relevant Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, in line with established procedure in handling human rights matters. The ASG also met on Monday with the Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN. Mr Simonovic has briefed the Executive Office of the Secretary-General on these meetings. The Secretary-General affirms the right of all people to peaceful protest. He is, however, very concerned about the health of the hunger striking protestors”.
March 23, 2012 Mr. Parfait Onanga (representative of UN Secretary General) and Mr. Richard Bennett, (representative of UN Human Rights Council) accompanied by their assistants visited the hunger strikers and handed them a letter on behalf of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and signed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay. The letter acknowledged the petition submitted by Tibetan Youth Congress at the beginning of the hunger strike campaign and also the meetings between Mr. Ivan Simonovic, UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights and the hunger strikers.
From what we know it stated:
“On behalf of the Secretary General, I wish to bring to your attention that the Human Rights Mechanisms of the UN are actively engaged on your concerns”. Adding that a number of UN Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council have sent several of joint urgent appeals to the Government of China, expressing concern over specific cases in Tibet involving violations relating to their mandates.
Ms Navi Pillay (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) Ms Pillay said, “Some Special Procedures Mandate Holders have also sent requests to visit China, and these are pending a response from the Government”. She added that she wrote to the Government of China to express not only her concern over the situation but will continue to engage with them and urged the hunger strikers to conclude the hunger strike.
On the basis of the high-level assurances submitted by the United Nations the hunger-strike was called off, over eighteen months later and the promises made by the office of Ban Ki-moon and his colleague Navi Pillay seem hollow. The assurances of investigation and demands made to China without any viewable result, nor were Tibetans and supporters furnished with details of those claimed actions. A general silence followed, time passed and another petition is directed at the United Nations, important though such efforts are, along with active lobbying of that organization expectations need to be grounded in the reality that the UN is a failed and corrupted body, serving the political and economic interests of its members.
Meanwhile the action by AVAAZ though valuable in terms of shining light on Tibet is naive beyond any measurable scale, in that it’s based upon the belief that China’s blood-soaked tyranny can be encouraged to moderate what is described as a “hard line policy”. A phrase that itself falls very short of the genocidal assault waged for over six decades against Tibet and its people, but hey we need to appeal to a fluffy majority who subscribe to the existence of the tooth-fairy so the wording needs to be positive, hopeful and promising change.
“So if enough of us shine a light on what’s going on in Tibet — squashing an ancient religion, banning journalists, dawn arrests —we can get China to back away from its hard-line policy to be sure of getting the 97 votes it needs.”
What’s actually going on in occupied Tibet is: ethnic ‘cleansing’, forced labor, systemic torture, forced sterilizations, censorship, environmental terrorism, cultural genocide and the violent oppression of a people’s desire for independence. Yet the good folks at AVAAZ however choose to omit such realities for fear perhaps of alienating potential signatories, who presumably the petition’s authors regard as dissuaded by anything other than affirmations drawn from a new-age well? If so then we wonder what the genuine objective of this petition is, to support Tibet’s people and their just cause for independence, or attract huge numbers to their name? Whatever the case their latest petition distorts the situation faced by Tibetans and is a delusional manifesto that misleads people into thinking China’s regime is capable of reason and respecting human rights sufficiently to change its behavior towards Tibetans.