DHARAMSHALA: Dhardon Sharling, a member of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, attended the 6th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in Geneva on 25 February. The summit, held on the eve of the UN Human Rights Council’s annual session in March, shone spotlight on urgent human rights situations that require global attention. It brought together hundreds of courageous dissidents and human rights victims, activists, and students leaders. Human rights heroes and former political prisoners from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Egypt, Tibet and other countries testified about their about their personal struggles for human rights, democracy and freedom. The summit is sponsored by UN Watch, a coalition of 20 human rights NGOs from around the world including Tibetan Women’s Organisation of Switzerland.
In an interview with Tibet.Net, Dhardon Sharling spoke about some of the pressing challenges facing Tibet and Tibetans under the Chinese rule that she raised at the summit.
Q. The Geneva Summit was significant in view of the upcoming UN Human Rights Council’s annual session in March. What are the pressing problems facing Tibetans inside Tibet that you raised at the summit?
A: As one of the key speakers at the summit, I spoke on the topic ‘Women’s Rights, Human Dignity and Equality’. I laid emphasis on the Chinese government’s policies, including massive influx of Chinese migrants into Tibetan areas, which threaten the existence of Tibetan identity and cultural heritage. Concerning the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet, harrowing testimonies of the Chinese government’s repression of both men and women in Tibet was highlighted. Furthermore, the status of women in Tibet mirrors China’s lack of commitment to internationally-recognised standards and UN conventions of women’s human rights: such as the reproductive rights, right to education, right to be free from discrimination, coercion and violence.
I put forward recommendations to the international community to strengthen public engagement with China on the issue of Tibet and ensure so that they will address the legitimate grievances of Tibetans. First, the UN member states, should ensure that China is adhere its commitment on becoming a member of the Human Rights Council. Secondly, use follow-up mechanisms during the upcoming 25th UNHRC to follow up on Tibet related recommendations from the last Universal Periodic Review during which China was reviewed. A specific request was made to press China to facilitate UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s visit to Tibet before the end of her second term in September this year.
Q. There is no let-up in repression inside Tibet despite repeated appeals by the international community. Has the Geneva Summit devised any actions plan to end China’s human rights violations in Tibet?
A. The Summit is an annual civil society forum that works to place urgent situations on the UN agenda, is a gathering of hundreds of dissidents, activists, diplomats and journalists from around the world. Though there isn’t any Tibet – specific action plan but the Summit pledged to step up the pressure on ‘dictators’ like China sitting in the UN Human Rights Council. It was encouraging to see almost one-third of the session speakers mention the dire situation inside Tibet and the need to ensure China’s accountability for its actions in Tibet.
Q. Are there any participants from mainland China. How do they respond to the human rights situation in Tibet in view of the tragic self-immolation protests by Tibetans?
A. Unfortunately unlike the representatives from Syria, Cuba, Vietnam and there weren’t any speakers from mainland China with the exception of Chinese democracy activists Dr Yang Jianli and escaped Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. But both of them now live in the US.
But we could assume that there were many registered as participants and our key target –the Chinese diplomats at UN were paying heed to this gathering. The summit as a whole expressed concern over the self-immolations inside Tibet and China’s response to it—which is the criminalisation of self-immolations and sentencing of the family members of self-immolators either to death of life imprisonment.
What was important is that this summit was taking place a week ahead of the crucial 25th Human Rights Council where China will respond to the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.
The highlight of the summit was the conferring of the 2014 Geneva Summit Courage Award Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist.
Q. China has been made a member UN Human Rights Council last year despite its egregious human rights record. How do the summit respond to that trend?
A. On the day of the summit, the organiser UN Watch, which is a coalition of 20 human rights NGOs from around the world launched a campaign titled ‘Dictator-Free Human Rights Council.’ The participants and the speakers pledged to make this campaign achieve its goal of taking China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Cuba off the HRC.