Dharamshala: Three independent UN experts demanded the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to provide credible information about nine Tibetan environmental human rights defenders who were detained and sentenced to lengthy prison terms and called for their immediate release if China is serious about combating climate change.
In a statement released on 10 August 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Ms. Mary Lawlor; Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule and Special Rapporteur on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment Mr. David Boyd jointly voiced concern over the PRC’s lack of information provided over the detention and sentencing of Tibetans which they believed is a deliberate attempt to make the world forget about these human rights defenders. In addition, the experts expressed concern regarding the fact that the families of these activists have been kept in the dark regarding their fate.
Asserting strongly against China’s impartial judicial practice, which is often characterized by shady trials behind closed doors on vague and discriminatory charges. The UN experts stated that Chinese authorities have not provided a clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding those Tibetans’ detention, trial, or sentencing. However, in cases where they have “sufficient” information, these Tibetan environmental activists have been imprisoned and sentenced to serve seven to 11 years in prison. Experts are not convinced that the human rights defenders have been provided with legal counsel during their detention or that “they have access to medical care while in prison”.
The nine imprisoned environmental human rights defenders–Anya Sengdra, Dorjee Daktal, Kelsang Choklang, Dhongye, Rinchen Namdol, Tsultrim Gonpo, Jangchup Ngodup, Sogru Abhu, and Namesy–were arrested after protesting illegal mining activities at sacred mountains and exposing hunting of endangered species in the Tibetan areas of Amdo and Kham provinces now incorporated into China’s Qinghai and Sichuan Province and the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region.
With lack of information provided on the length of the sentences, the whereabouts, and the well being of six of the human rights defenders, the experts have requested that the PRC government “provide details as to why and where they are being held, their health conditions, and allow their families to visit them” in their statement.
China’s commitment to tackle the impacts of climate change has been called into question, as has the irony of punishing human rights activists in its fight against climate change and environmental degradation, as the experts emphasized. They urged “all nine Tibetan activists” unlawfully imprisoned for advocating for the protection of Tibet’s natural environment “to be released immediately”.
Kalon Norzin Dolma of the Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration, welcomed the joint statement and thanked the experts for the investigation into China’s unlawful silencing of Tibetan human rights defenders over the past decade. Kalon also urged China to release all Tibetan political prisoners who are incarcerated solely for exercising their basic rights to protect Tibetan culture, language and environment from being exterminated by the Chinese authorities.
–Filed by UN, EU, and the Human Rights Desk, Tibet Advocacy Section, Department of Information and International Relations